By Reihana Mohideen
We are told that women may soon bid farewell to existing methods of birth control and welcome a new type of contraception in the form of microchip implants. An MIT start-up backed by the Bill Gates Foundation plans to start pre-clinical testing for the birth control chip this year and pave the way for a possible market debut in 2018.
The fingernail-size microchip implant -- measuring 20 x 20 x 7 millimetres -- holds enough 30-microgram daily doses of levonorgestrel—a hormone already used in several contraceptives—to last for 16 years. Women who receive the implant under the skin of their buttocks, upper arm or abdomen would also get a remote (wireless) control that allows them to halt or restart the implant whenever they like. The technology includes secure encryption to prevent outsiders from blocking or reprogramming the implants wirelessly. As an added precaution, the remote control can only communicate with the microchip implant across a distance equivalent to skin contact.
Can this new application for microchips potentially revolutionise the level of control women have over their reproductive functions? Or is this another example of intervention and control over women’s bodies, by what has been considered by many feminists to be a “patriarchal”, that is a white male-dominated scientific establishment?