Worries about access fuel women’s rush to get contraception

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we have a story about possible changes as a result of the election.

Some American women say they fear they could lose their access to birth control once President-elect Trump takes office. Trump has pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which includes free contraceptives.

He hasn’t said what would replace it, and that’s why the women in this story are taking action.

Correspondent Lisa Desjardins has the story.

LISA DESJARDINS: Morning in Baltimore, oven-baked biscuits and a warm moment for Victoria Cross and fiance Cameron Okeke.

Today, Victoria’s getting an IUD, or intrauterine device, a form of birth control that works for several years. The young couple isn’t shy about their family planning. They can’t be. Twenty-three-year-old Victoria is at high risk for miscarriages due to a genetic tissue disorder.

She’s used monthly birth control pills for years, but something changed election night.

VICTORIA CROSS: Yes, thought immediately about abortion access, immediately about birth control access and how expensive birth control was when. So I pretty immediately called my gynecologist and: I want to talk to you. Help.

LISA DESJARDINS: Dr. Stacey Leigh Rubin of Johns Hopkins, Victoria’s gynecologist, says many patients and non-patients have reached out.

DR. STACEY LEIGH RUBIN, Johns Hopkins: Distant acquaintances and old classmates contacting me on Facebook with concerns and questions about what IUDs are and how they can get them.

LISA DESJARDINS: It’s a real surge in interest.

DR. STACEY LEIGH RUBIN: It is a real surge in interest.

LISA DESJARDINS: An IUD is usually plastic and inserted in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are considered among the most effective birth control methods, but they’re not cheap, running up to $1,000.

DR. STACEY LEIGH RUBIN: So, what questions do you have about these different methods and what do you think you’re leaning towards?

LISA DESJARDINS: Right now, for Victoria and other women, IUDs and all birth control is free, because the Obama administration considers it a preventative procedure, a category that the Affordable Care Act says must be cost-free to the patient.

Enter a new White House.

DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: Repealing Obamacare is one of the single most important reasons we must win on November 8.

LISA DESJARDINS: President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. He notably has not said exactly how he will handle the contraceptive benefit. But others close to him have talked about it.

MIKE PENCE (R), Vice President-Elect: I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.


LISA DESJARDINS: Vice President-elect Mike Pence, speaking on a radio show in October, highlighted religious groups opposed to contraception, and their religious freedom.

MIKE PENCE: Our administration is going to err on the side of freedom. We are going to err on the side of protecting the liberties of our people.

LISA DESJARDINS: A key voice will be Mr. Trump’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, orthopedic surgeon and Georgia Representative Tom Price. He’s echoed concern for religious values and, in 2012, questioned if contraceptive costs were an issue for women.

REP. TOM PRICE (R-Ga.): Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one. The fact of the matter is, this is a trampling on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country.

LISA DESJARDINS: Price’s old comment struck an already watchful Internet. Immediately after the election, Google searches for IUD spiked and Twitter saw phrases like “get an IUD” jump in popularity.

What are the wallet implications? A University of Pennsylvania study found that the Obama contraception policy saved IUD and birth control pill users an average of roughly $250 a year.

DR. STACEY LEIGH RUBIN: No-cost birth control has been a game-changer for women. And the idea of going back to high out-of-pocket costs for contraception is distressing.

LISA DESJARDINS: But will Trump change those costs? Someone with insight is Marjorie Dannenfelser. She led what Trump called his Pro-Life Coalition, and runs the anti- abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List.

Dannenfelser says neither she nor Trump want to weigh in on the morality of contraception, but when it comes to the no-cost mandate:

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER, President, Susan B. Anthony List: He and I also agree that religious and any individual deserves the right to a conscience, and they shouldn’t be forced to pay for things that they find are undermining of that conscience. So, yes, I believe that he will undo that mandate, and he will be right to do so.

LISA DESJARDINS: That leads to another question about the president-elect: How quickly could a President Trump change contraception coverage, and therefore out-of-pocket cost? Relatively quickly.

You see, the contraception mandate is not a law. It’s a rule put in place by HHS. And HHS, under a Trump White House, could change that rule without input from Congress.

Women like Victoria are making decisions now, as she and her friends remain uncertain.

VICTORIA CROSS: We talked a lot about our own reproductive health and where do we go from here and how do we prepare for this new administration, where our access may go away?

LISA DESJARDINS: Victoria’s new birth control will last up to five years. That’s one year longer than the four years of Donald Trump’s first term.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins in Baltimore.

The post Worries about access fuel women’s rush to get contraception appeared first on PBS NewsHour.