WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s election meant different things to different Americans. To Phoenix resident Cassidy Trowbridge, it meant she needed to make an appointment at her local family planning clinic to get a long-term contraceptive device.
Trowbridge had considered getting an IUD for a few months before the election, but once Trump won, “I knew I needed to take action.”
“I was graduating, I was a college student, and I still don’t have any insurance because I worked part-time as a student, so I couldn’t afford treatment,” said the former Arizona State University student. “I figured if I didn’t go get this affordable care right now, it might not be available later.”
Trowbridge was not the only one. Planned Parenthood clinics in Arizona saw a 64 percent spike in the number of women asking for intrauterine devices in the three weeks after the election of Trump, who issued a pro-life memorandum on one of his first days in office and had pledged during the campaign to cut off funding to the clinics.
Trump made good on one of those promises Thursday, signing a congressional resolution that restores the ability of states to pull federal funding from health care facilities that perform abortions.
That Title X funding, for family planning services, will still be available for facilities that provide birth control, cancer screenings and other women’s health services – just not for abortions.
Pro-life advocates like Joseph Perron, president and co-founder of the Arizona East Valley Pro-Life Alliance, welcomed the move. He said his organization does not have a problem with pregnancy prevention, or even with Planned Parenthood – as long as it stops providing abortions.
“If Planned Parenthood could just do health care and not kill babies, it would be a great halfway point for health care centers to work together to offer health care to women who need it,” Perron said. “There really are some great people over at Planned Parenthood.”
But pro-choice advocates worry that while the specific target may be abortion, the larger damage from defunding Planned Parenthood would be a loss of access to affordable – sometimes free – services like IUDs and other health care.
Those were among the concerns that brought millions of women out for the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches across the globe on the day after Trump’s inauguration. And many of them marched into local women’s health facilities seeking long-term contraceptives as well.
Planned Parenthood is not the only clinic that has seen an increase. Others in the state and the nation reported seeing a similar rush of women seeking to get contraceptives, particularly long-term contraception like an IUD that can last five years or more – longer than Trump’s first term in office.
“We saw a huge increase in women interested in IUDs after the election, especially as the lines at Planned Parenthood got longer,” said Amy Blosch, intake coordinator at Camelback Family Planning, one of many Arizona facilities not affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
The surge in interest has not tailed off. Blosch said that where Camelback implanted a total of three IUDs for the month of September, it had already implanted four by noon on a recent Wednesday.
At Planned Parenthood, the initial post-election surge has fallen slightly, from 64 percent higher than normal in November to 57 percent in the first months of this year, said Tayler Tucker, a communication specialist with Planned Parenthood Arizona.
Tucker said many patients were like Trowbridge, who was getting ready to graduate from ASU and worried that the newly elected president might take steps that would put affordable contraception out of reach.
Women are afraid of losing their birth control because “the current administration clearly demonstrates that affordable access to contraception is not a high priority,” Tucker said.
Facilities like Planned Parenthood tout their ability to provide low-cost services to women who might not otherwise be able to afford them.
Blosch said that about 60 percent of the patients at Camelback apply and get their IUDs through the ARCH foundation, which provides them for free to women who have no insurance and low incomes.
“IUDs would typically cost around $1,000 if you paid for them out of pocket without insurance,” Blosch said. “But when ARCH covers it, patients only have to pay for the visit fee, which is about $150.”
Trowbridge said cost is not the only barrier to women seeking help. She thinks women still need to overcome the stigma of talking about reproductive health, a taboo that she says keeps women from talking to each other about these issues or seeking professional help.
“It’s important that young women understand that these services are something you should reach out for and shouldn’t feel ashamed,” Trowbridge said. “It’s not until women realize their reproductive rights are going to disappear that they start to value them, and that’s sad.”