DOWNTOWN — Women have flooded Planned Parenthood looking for contraception that will last years — long enough to get through Donald Trump’s term as president — since the election.
Within 48 hours of Trump winning the election, Jessica Murnane, 36, was on the phone with Planned Parenthood in Chicago, hoping to meet with a doctor so she could get an intrauterine device. IUDs are a form of birth control that typically last at least three years.
But Murnane couldn’t even get through: The Planned Parenthood phone lines were “chock-full busy,” she said.
Murnane then went online to make an appointment and met with Planned Parenthood in Chicago the next day. A week later she had a new IUD — one that should get her through at least three years.
“For me, personally, an IUD is the birth control that I prefer, and also I am unsure of in the coming months and years what’s going to happen to my health care coverage, and I didn’t want to take any chances,” Murnane said. “I’m petrified of Pence, of Mike Pence. … I’m afraid of both of them in different ways, both Trump and Pence.”
Planned Parenthood Illinois saw online appointments for IUDs increase 460 percent from Nov. 9, the day after the election, to Nov. 29 over the same period last year, said spokeswoman Julie Lynn. The organization’s president, Cecile Richards, said at a Monday lecture at the University of Chicago that online appointments for IUDs increased 900 percent on a national scale just in the three days that followed the election.
There have been so many women making appointments for IUDs, Lynn said, that Planned Parenthood Illinois has twice had to increase the number of appointments offered on its clinics' schedules for IUDs to accommodate demand.
That surge in interest comes as Republican lawmakers, who will now control Congress and the presidency, push for an end to the Affordable Care Act that provides women with free birth control, cuts to Planned Parenthood funding and limited access to abortion services.
“Our patients are just being smart like the rest of us,” Lynn said. “No one really knows what is to come.
“Some patients have even said things like they want to 'get an IUD that lasts longer than a presidential term.'”
Trump, who has said women should be able to get birth control without a prescription, has gone back and forth over his support for the Affordable Care Act, but earlier this week he picked an opponent of the act to lead the nation’s Health and Human Services Department. That pick, Tom Price, has also spoken out against women having access to free birth control through the act.
But Murnane is more familiar with Pence, who already was governor when she moved from Chicago to Indiana three years ago.
Pence has tried to defund Planned Parenthood and has been a vocal opponent of abortion, pushing for state and federal regulations that would make it harder for women to access abortion services.
“I lived through watching him just gut access and affordability to abortion,” Murnane said. “Now he has a whole nation to play in.”
For Murnane, an IUD means she can be in control of family planning — she and her partner have long known they do not want to have children — and it comes with health benefits, potentially helping regulate heavy periods and bad headaches.
Having an IUD also means Murnane feels more secure about her birth control options as the nation prepares for the Trump-Pence administration’s proposed changes to health care and reproductive care options.
At the U. of C. lecture, a senior history major told Richards she and her friends had been among those talking about getting IUDs that could give them long-term reproductive control if short-term options, like the pill, are limited. The student, 21, declined to give her name, concerned she would be harassed.
“I think there’s a genuine fear that access to reproductive health and access to forms of birth control are going to be severely limited, and/or prices are going to be escalating,” said the student after the lecture had ended. Later, she added, “Most of the women I know are worried about this. It’s not a single-woman issue.”
The majority of the people she knows use the pill as birth control, the student said. Women have to get a prescription from a doctor to use the pill, and that prescription must be regularly refilled at a pharmacy.
“Access to [the pill] may be limited in the upcoming four years,” the student said. “So, it is a question of whether you need to take anticipatory action now and get an IUD so that it is not something where … all of the sudden … your access to your traditional method of birth control is suddenly no longer available, and your access at that time may also not be available to more long-term forms of birth control.”
Murnane and the student weren’t worried about their birth control options until Nov. 8, when Trump and Pence won the election, both said.
Murnane knew she would need to get a new IUD to replace an older one, but the election results sped up her appointment. She grew up going to Planned Parenthood, and because she still works in Chicago and supports the organization she opted to return to the clinic on the Near North Side for her new IUD.
Murnane has also been talking with friends about their birth control options, and she's concerned for people who get their health care from the ACA’s exchange.
“The nurse at my appointment said they have been overwhelmed with appointments of people coming in for IUDs,” Murnane said. “The conversations that I’ve been having [with women], usually they start with anger. It is a place of fear. It is a place of, ‘What’s going to happen to the health care options in this country?’ And we’ve seen evidence out of the newly elected leadership that says they either don’t take our health care seriously, or have different opinions on what should be acceptable."
“There’s definitely some fear on what the landscape is going to be if the new administration chooses to focus on that.”
As for the U. of C. student, she and her friends are still considering what to do.
“I think before this election, there was a sense of choice and the idea that you could choose a birth control method that worked best for you. And I think that now that access to birth control may be limited and/or removed, that freedom is no longer there,” the student said. “And so I think it’s become more of a pressing issue than it had been previously.”
Birth control options from Planned Parenthood:
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