Why women are making gynecologist appointments post-election

Get your feet in the gynecologist's stirrups — now. "You have 70 days." That's the message women are sending each other online after Tuesday's presidential election.

Here's why: Under Obamacare, women have access to 18 FDA-approved types of birth control at no out-of-pocket cost. It is unclear if the availability and cost of birth control will change after the new administration settles into the White House. But women are taking to social media to voice their fear that under a Trump presidency, birth control costs will go up and access to services like Planned Parenthood will be limited. Planned Parenthood serves 2.5 million people annually, offering birth control and services including STD testing, cancer screenings, counseling, pap smears and abortions.

The fear stems from the Republican party's push to repeal Obamacare and Trump campaign's alignment with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who as governor of Indiana championed a bill to block federal funds from Planned Parenthood, and later fought to pass a law restricting abortions in what was considered an already restrictive state.

During his campaign, Trump said he would not fund Planned Parenthood while he's president, "as long as you have the abortion going on." In a letter to pro-life leaders, Trump wrote that he would take several steps to restrict abortions and funding to organizations that provide abortion services. He also wrote that he was committed to nominating pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, Ginny Ehrlich, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy says there is widespread support nationwide for birth control. A recent study by the organization shows 81% agree that those who oppose abortion should strongly support birth control — 74% of Republicans and 86% of Democrats.

"The vast majority of the public across political parties, across demographic groups and across religious identities support birth control access for women," Ehrlich says. "There is a public will around this issue and it's not a wedge issue."

But cost and coverage matter. Ehrlich says more than 20 million women across the country have access to publicly-funded contraception. "Coverage matters. It matters a lot," Ehrlich says. "It's no secret that we've seen unprecedented declines in teen pregnancy and birth rates, and in unplanned birth rates across all age groups and coverage is a big part of that."

In fear of what might come after Jan. 20 — Inauguration Day — women are encouraging each other to learn more about one birth control method in particular: an intrauterine device or IUD.

It's a T-shaped piece of plastic or copper that is placed in a women's uterus to prevent pregnancy and can last between three and 12 years — which in most cases, women are noting, would outlast a four-year presidential term. Once an IUD is implanted, there is no additional cost or maintenance, except for removal or complications.

The IUD consultation, device and insertion can cost up to $1,000 without insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, many women were able to get an IUD heavily subsidized or free. The birth control pill can cost an uninsured woman up to $50 a month, according to Planned Parenthood.

"It's a significant cost every month that, if not covered, adds up — especially for women that are living on a fixed income," Ehrlich says.

But women likely can't just go to the doctor and ask for a presidential term's worth of birth control. "It depends on what state you live in," Ehrlich says. "There are some states that allow women to get a year of pills, in other states it's discretionary."

Ehrlich says there is not a one-size-fits-all method for birth control, and to be safe, women need access to information and all of their options. "If we think about this as a basic health care issue for women, we have to ensure that women really have full access to the full range of methods available."

If you want a birth control method that will last you four years, an IUD is your best bet, she says.

For Ehrlich, the post-election frenzy around birth control is not all negative. "The silver lining here is that everybody loves birth control," she says. "The fact that women are focusing on this issue the day after the election — it shows that this matters."


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