People who got IUDs after Trump’s election due to concerns about access to birth control are reflecting on their choices
“I suddenly realized that I had made the appointment at exactly the right time,” said Agodon, 53.
In the months following the 2016 election, many made the same decision as Agodon. A study estimated that in the 30 days after the election, IUD insurance claims increased more than 21 percent among women with commercial insurance in the United States. (That’s around 21,000 more IUD insertions than usual this month, according to the New York Times.) Cecile Richards, then President of Planned Parenthood, said in January 2017 that in the weeks since Trump won, the organization had seen a 900 percent increase in demand for the devices — which are more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy and can remain undisturbed in the womb for several years.
Agodon had irregular menstrual periods and low progesterone, and when switching to an IUS for birth control emerged as a possible solution, she knew she had to act quickly. She chatted somberly with the assistants assigned to her room as they prepared her for the procedure. “We talked about, you know… ‘Are women going to have fewer opportunities for reproductive health?'” Agodon said. “We were just scared, for so many different reasons.”
Agodon, a poet and professor at Pacific Lutheran University, later published an article entitled “Getting an IUP on the Day of 45’s Inauguration.” “My body is a flag on the table,” it begins. A few lines later: “What you see from above are three women / in a room, two fully clothed, one in a paper / dress on a table. The one in a paper/dress is a flag, her feet in metal stirrups. / What she doesn’t know is tomorrow.”
So, how do people who made the journey to get long-acting birth control five years ago feel about that choice now?
For some it is a complicated question.
In early 2017, spiraling in was a trending thing and a practical response to political uncertainty. The new government had both the ACA, which had made contraception cheaper and more accessible, and Roe v. calf, which protects abortion rights, in the crosshairs. The Food and Drug Administration had approved the Mirena IUD for up to 5 years of pregnancy prevention and relief of heavy periods. It was unclear if by 2022 the devices would become luxuries that many people could no longer afford — or if future IUD seekers would need to make an appointment to get them. (The Mirena has since been approved for up to seven years.)
Ashley Luciano, an IT specialist for a law firm who now lives in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, was 22 when Trump was elected. She finished college, lived at home and worked at H&M. In her early teens, Luciano had debilitating problems with her periods. “I was in really bad pain,” Luciano said. “Constant nausea. Vomit. To the point I missed school.” A doctor prescribed the birth control pill to Luciano when she was 15. “My quality of life has improved drastically,” she said.
After the 2016 election, Luciano began reading news reports about how Trump’s plans could affect birth control access. “I was kind of panicking,” she said. “Despite the fact that I live in New York City, which is very progressive … I still wasn’t sure what would happen, like at the federal level, to make it really difficult to get birth control pills, something I refill.” every month, you know – that uncertainty scared me.” In December of this year, she was fitted with the Mirena device.
Palmira Muñiz, a writer and producer at a podcast studio now based in South Central Los Angeles, was 24 at the time, working part-time and living with her father in Anaheim. At the time, Muñiz had a boyfriend and didn’t aspire to ever having children.
Muñiz, whose family is from Puerto Rico, knew how easy it was to violate reproductive rights. For decades in the 20th century, female sterilization was common in Puerto Rico. Many scholars to quarrel that poor women there were pressured and even forced to undergo what was often referred to simply as “la operación”.
So Muñiz had no problem believing that those in power were ignoring the best interests of half the population, or that governments could take away a person’s ability to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. “Things like ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ are scary because they don’t happen to white people. But these things happen to black people and brown people,” Muñiz said. The day after the 2016 election, Muñiz called Planned Parenthood and made an appointment to get a Mirena IUD.
Agodon recalls an argument that winter between her husband, her, and their non-binary child, then a teenager, about what the new government might do about access to reproductive health care. “I remember my husband being just adamant,” she recalled. “He said, ‘You don’t have to worry. That will never happen.’”
The expanded access to birth control that the ACA created remains largely intact (despite Trump’s efforts to replace the ACA with a health plan that would have threatened contraceptive access by defunding Planned Parenthood). And while the Supreme Court Trump built may yet topple over roe (thereby potentially hampering access to contraception), the 1973 decision has outlasted his tenure.
Looking back, IUD owners wished they knew more about what they signed up for. Luciano spent an hour curled up in a tortured ball on the exam table after the IUD was inserted, and even vomited: “I basically went into shock from the pain,” she said. “I wish I had been better prepared.”
Muñiz also recalled nearly fainting from the searing pain associated with what they had been assured would be a simple, slightly uncomfortable procedure. “I had to be the one to tell my friends,” they said.
None of the IUD owners interviewed however, for this report, they said they regretted getting the IUD.
“I don’t think it was an overreaction considering we saw how unpredictable Trump could be before and during his presidency,” Luciano said. “Many people have a strong feeling that it’s better to be safe than sorry, myself included.”
Muñiz playfully gave the entire five-year experience a C grade–plus — maybe even a B-minus, when I think about it, “because it did the job.” (However, Muñiz plans to switch to a Nexplanon, a contraceptive arm implant with a slightly shorter lifespan when her IUD expires. )
Luciano is now less concerned about her access to contraception than she was in 2017. She likes the Mirena IUD so much that she plans to get another one. Given her memories of the last time, she has postponed the date for it.
Agodon is approaching menopause, and she acknowledged that birth control is becoming less important to her. But she worries about younger people and their access to reproductive health care through institutions like Planned Parenthood. She said she’s encouraged by recent efforts in states like New Jersey to proactively protect abortion rights, “but there’s another part of me that’s really worried about the future.”
Muñiz is worried too. “I think I’m more scared now than before,” Muñiz said. Access to contraception seems safer today than it was five years ago. But abortion rights in the United States “is so fragile,” they said, “and I see its fragility even more clearly now.”
“People say, ‘Oh, nothing happened,'” Muñiz said. “But I’m like, ‘Nothing happened still.’ ”