On November 9, Google searches for "should I get an IUD?" went up by 800 percent. In the weeks following, women rushed to their doctor's office. One month after Donald Trump won the 2016 election, Planned Parenthood received 82,000 donations from "Mike Pence". And now over two months after Election Day, Planned Parenthood says demand for the IUD is up by 900 percent. To say that American women are scared, frustrated, and anxious about the fate of their reproductive rights, the cost of contraception, and their healthcare coverage under a Trump presidency — and an imminent Affordable Care Act repeal — is an understatement.
The Affordable Care Act provides access to preventative services to 47 million women, including free access to contraception like IUDs, which can cost up to $1,000 without ACA. The act has provided insurance coverage to 20 million people who were previously uninsured.
Currently, the repeal is moving forward, but is not yet finalized. On Jan. 12, the U.S. Senate voted 51 to 48 to start working on repealing Obamacare — and next the House will vote. But if it's repealed without an alternative healthcare law in place, then millions of people could likely lose the coverage they gained under the ACA.
So many aspects of this are so frightening and horrifying potentially detrimental to women.
“If the ACA is repealed, millions of women will lose access to affordable birth control, which would be a huge step backwards for women’s health," Britt Wahlin, Vice President for Development and Public Affairs of Ibis Reproductive Health, tells Bustle. "We must be talking about expanding access to contraception, not restricting it. The ACA helps people pay for insurance who wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise and has other important protections for women, young people, and LGBT communities. We urge all policymakers to think about the dire consequences eliminating the ACA will have for women’s health care.”
Since Trump won the election a lot of women have been seeking advice from our healthcare professionals — many who have been vocal over social media about what's at stake. Dr. Lauren Streicher M.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and author of The Essential Guide to Hysterectomy, says she's even gotten backlash on Twitter for discussing it. "I don't want to talk about politics, but when we have politicians controlling the medical decisions that I can offer to my patients, well then I think it's not only OK for doctors to talk about politics but I think they have an obligation in order to protect the health of their patients."
So what can we expect once Obamacare is repealed? It's still unclear, but gynecologists who've seen the benefits (and problems) from Obamacare firsthand, and are seeing female patients worried about their healthcare on a daily basis, have a lot to say about what could be next — and what we can do.
1. Dr. Sheila Loanzon, Author Of Yes, I Have Herpes: A Gynecologist’s Perspective In and Out of the Stirrups
2. Dr. Lauren Streicher M.D., Associate Clinical Professor Of Obstetrics And Gynecology Feinberg School Of Medicine At Northwestern University And Author Of The Essential Guide to Hysterectomy
3. Dr. Michael L Krychman, Sexual Medicine Gynecologist, Executive Director Of The Southern California Center For Sexual Health And Survivorship
4. Dr. Alyssa Dweck M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor Dept. Ob/Gyn, Mount Sinai School Of Medicine
5. Dr. Diane Horvath-Cosper, Reproductive Health Advocacy Fellow At Physicians For Reproductive Health
6. Dr. Colleen McNicholas, Director of the Ryan Program at Washington University In St Louis And Fellow With Physicians for Reproductive Health
7. Dr. Prudence Hall, M.D, Founder And Medical Director Of The Hall Center
So What Do We Do?
First, we can take care of ourselves as much as possible, which includes being a mindful of our lifestyle choices. "ACA is great for preventative health," Dr. Loanzon says. "Even without it, it is still important for you to take great care of yourself. Eat well, exercise regularly, be mindful of your choices in terms of high-risk behaviors in sexual activity, smoking, and illicit drugs. By taking these steps, you can prevent health issues from arising positioning yourself for great health moving forward."
Dr. Horvath-Cosper recommends getting screened now, too. "It’s hard to know exactly what will happen going forward, but I’d recommend being proactive about getting routine health care like cervical cancer screenings, STI testing, and breast exams sooner rather than later," she says. "I think we’re trying not to be alarmist, but the fact is that just a few short years ago, preventive services weren’t as well-covered, people could be denied care based on preexisting conditions, and women could be charged more for premiums simply because they were women. OB/GYNs and other women’s health care providers are acutely aware of the gains made under the ACA, and of what our patients stand to lose if it is repealed.”
As for the fate of your birth control? Also unclear, but Dr. Streicher says it's an excellent time to get an IUD. "For women of reproductive age, getting an IUD now is really an excellent idea because they will have coverage for 3-10 years depending on which IUD they choose," she says.
As many OB/GYNs shared above, the repeal of ACA will be damaging for women, but as Trump steps into office, it's more important than ever not to give up. "Be hopeful," Dr. McNicholas says. "There are armies of advocates, physicians, nurses, social workers, administrators, and lawyers committed to ensuring that women and men have access to the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare. We are determined to continue to provide that care in a way tat allows them to exercise their autonomy and rights as they navigate what is best for them. Be informed. Understand what is happening in your state. Continue to demand that you are treated with respect and dignity."
Inspired to do something ASAP? Dr. Streicher has an excellent suggestion: take a minute and donate $10 to Planned Parenthood.