As a Donald Trump presidency becomes a reality, women hurry to secure long-acting birth control

My body, my choice

As a Donald Trump presidency becomes a reality, women hurry to secure long-acting birth control

The night of the presidential election, Jillian James and 20 of her sorority sisters were watching TV as the results trickled in. What started out as a joyful party became somber as Florida and other states turned red.

When news anchors finally said that Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton, would become the 45th president of the United States, the sisters sat in shock. How could people ignore his sexist remarks or his comments about grabbing women by their genitals or the fact that several women had accused him of sexual assault?

"I looked around at this room full of my best friends, and one girl says, 'I'm so angry. I feel like I don't have control over my body now,'" James says. "A lot of girls I talked to after the election were kind of scared and genuinely worried about their health and safety."

After researching Trump's stances on the Affordable Care Act, birth control and abortion, James immediately made an appointment with the University of Central Florida's Women's Care clinic on campus. She wants to get an intrauterine device, also known as an IUD, a long-acting reversible birth control method that would outlast a Trump presidency.

"Obamacare is not perfect, but it does make birth control a lot more accessible," she says. "We could potentially go back to having a harder time accessing it, especially for lower-income women. I feel like we're going to revert backwards."

James is not alone. Since Nov. 8, in news reports and on social media, women are clamoring to get IUDs and other forms of long-acting birth control before Trump's presidency begins in January. (There's no real way to quantify exactly how many women, but the day after the election, Google searches involving IUD spiked – "Trump IUD" went up by 1,350 percent, for instance.) The president-elect hasn't called for a birth control ban, but throughout his campaign, Trump has repeatedly iterated his dislike for ACA and promised to repeal it – and that would have a huge effect on reproductive health care.

Under the law, insurance companies must provide several preventative health services for free, including contraceptive methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Aside from IUDs, that includes birth control pills, vaginal rings, sterilization and emergency contraception like Plan B. Insurers must cover these services without charging a copayment or coinsurance when provided by an in-network provider.

The New York Times reports 47 million women got access to preventative health services under the ACA. In 2013 alone, the ACA's birth control benefit saved women $1.4 billion just on birth control pills, according to a study published in Health Affairs. Without insurance, getting an IUD can cost as much as $1,000; even with insurance, pre-ACA, a vaginal ring could cost $75 or $100 per month.

Since winning the presidency, Trump has dialed back on his ACA-related campaign promises, saying after the election that he might be willing to leave some parts of Obamacare in place. The businessman-turned-politician has expressed various positions on women's reproductive issues throughout his campaign. Back in September, Trump said women shouldn't need a prescription to access birth control. But Trump also told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that he's "pro-life" and women should have to face some form of punishment for abortions if they were outlawed. And he's called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Meanwhile, the vice president-elect, Mike Pence, signed several anti-abortion bills into law during his tenure as Indiana's governor, including a provision that mandates burials or cremations for aborted fetuses.

Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, an affiliate that covers 22 counties in the state, has seen at least three times more IUD requests than usual since the election, says organization spokeswoman Anna Eskamani. Eskamani adds she's not surprised women are now asking urgent questions about birth control, given Trump's anti-Planned Parenthood positions.

"We've received a lot of questions about what the future of Planned Parenthood looks like under a Donald Trump presidency," she says. "We're letting patients know what steps they can take to ensure they're going to be healthy. Our doors are always going to stay open. We've received love from a lot of people, and as of last Friday, about $4 million in donations. People are looking out for us."

But it's too early to tell right now how Trump would approach coverage of birth control, says Janel George, director of federal reproductive rights and health with the National Women's Law Center. The new president could alter the ACA through an administrative change, legislative action or an entire repeal. George says she's also concerned about Trump's recent comments during a 60 Minutes interview that if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion would be decided by states, and some women would have to travel to other states to get abortions.

"Legal access to abortion is recognized as an important right," she says. "Folks have said birth control has enabled them to pursue college and career goals, and have the autonomy to make decisions about whether to have children."

Ama McKinley, a writer based in Orlando, recently read a piece about her IUD at Literary Death Match, describing the day she had it installed as "one of the happiest days of my life."

"Birth control is making a decision about what is allowed in your life," she says. "It's the ability to plan, to not be surprised. You don't have to look at that responsibility until you're ready."

McKinley says since the election, she's finding it hard to reconcile the America she's experienced in the past eight years as a black woman to the one she woke up to on Nov. 9.

"Trump's campaign was against people like me," she says. "The last few years we saw a rainbow of people. This was supposed to be a different America, but I guess the people who usually had the voice didn't like that theirs wasn't the loudest anymore. The election showed me powerful women are an oxymoron to a lot of people."

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