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Pitt Survey Finds Presidential Election Influenced Some Women To Switch To IUDs

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
Passed in 2012, the Affordable Care Act made long-lasting contraceptives like intrauterine devices, or IUDs, more easily available for women. Placement is quick and often painful, but it's more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

Results from a University of Pittsburgh survey published last week found that the presidential election impacted women's decisions about their contraception.

Sonya Borrero, director of Pitt's Center for Women’s Health and Research, said in the weeks after the election, her colleagues at UPMC hospitals said they were getting numerous calls from women who wanted to schedule an appointment to get a long-acting contraceptive like an IUD or replace their contraceptive with a longer one to outlast the administration.

She said she wanted to know if that was just anecdotal or if it was happening across the country.

Credit provided photo / University of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh

About 5 percent of the 2,158 women who answered the anonymous online survey said they obtained a long-acting reversible contraception option. Sixty-five percent of those women said their decision was influenced a “great deal” by the election, and 25 percent said the election had “somewhat” of an effect on their choice.

Borrero said that’s not a trivial percentage and has caused physicians to debate best practice in counseling women making decisions based on potential policy changes.

“We don’t want women to necessarily make fear-based decisions. But at the same time we don’t know what the future of contraceptive access and coverage is going to be,” she said. “Trying to weigh that in the midst of all of these other trade-offs that women are making is complicated.”

Hospitals in the Allegheny Health Network tracked a 60 percent surge in billing for IUD devices from November to December 2016. But the network’s spokeswoman said was hesitant to attribute that to the election.

About half of the women who responded to the Pitt survey identified as Democratic-leaning and 36 percent were Republican-leaning. Of the Democratic-leaning women, 75 percent said they were concerned about their contraception options following the election. Of the Republican-leaning women surveyed, just 3 percent said that was a concern.

Borrero said she hopes the data will inform legislators.

Credit provided photo / University of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh

“This is a real and salient concern for women,” she said. “Even those with employer-based insurance or in relative financial stability. I think the proportion of women who voiced that this is a concern stands in stark contrast to expressions of disbelief by politicians that women have trouble affording contraception.”

The survey was posted for one week on social media in January before the new GOP health plan was proposed, while legislators discussed repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Sarah Schneider is WESA's education reporter. From early learning to higher education, Sarah is interested in students and educators working to create more equitable systems. Sarah previously worked with news outlets in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Idaho. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she worked for the school newspaper, the Daily Egyptian.