The nation’s women are closing up reproductive shop. Uteruses: blocked. Cervical mucus: thickened. No sperm shall meet egg. It’s a dangerous time to have a childbearing body.
Faced with the very real possibility that Republicans would try to repeal Affordable Care Act, and now that they might try again, a new cohort of women are choosing long-acting reversible contraception, often referred to by the acronym LARC. They fear rising copays and lack of access to abortion. LARCs include intrauterine devices and arm implants, and prevent pregnancy for three to twelve years—or, as many women note, about one to three presidential terms.
Long-acting birth control methods have become steadily more popular in the United States in the last decade as the horrors of earlier versions like the Dalkon Shield recede from collective memory. LARCs have been popular in other parts of the world for longer. According to a study from the Guttmacher Institute, IUD and implant use grew from 2 percent in 2002 to nearly 12 percent in 2012. However, the last few months have seen a jaw-dropping upward spike. Shortly after the election, Planned Parenthood reported a 900 percent increase in birth control appointments scheduled. Many women get IUDs and implants at private doctors offices, and a study from athenahealth reports that those providers saw a nearly 19 percent increase in visits related to IUDs. Planned Parenthood’s numbers have dropped but remain higher than average.
“So many people are coming in for LARCs!” says Molly Knox, who works at a reproductive health clinic in Portland, Oregon. A large part of her job is birth control options counseling, and she says the she has noticed an increase in interest in long-acting methods since the election.
I spoke with nearly a dozen women from around the country who have gotten long-acting birth control since the election, and they’re preparing for the worst.
Amy Brantley is a twenty-one-year-old dispatcher in the Fayette County, Kentucky sheriff’s office. She got a hormonal Kyleena IUD in December. Before the election she didn’t think of IUDs as a serious option—she had heard that they cause weight gain and that the insertion procedure is painful—but as the copay steadily increased for her oral contraceptive she reconsidered. The month she decided to get her IUD she was charged $160 for birth control pills that her insurance used to cover in full. Getting the IUD was not just a political decision; it was an economic decision. As Amy says, “It’s really nice to not pay a monthly fee.”