Women Are Switching Their Birth Control Methods Post-Roe
Lauren Robinson does not want to get pregnant unplanned. After learning of the Supreme Court’s decision, auren Robinson decided to end her unplanned pregnancy. Roe V. Wade in June—and reading Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion suggesting that the court should also reconsider Griswold v. Connecticut The 1965 ruling protecting contraception was frightening.
Robinson, a 34-year-old post-doctoral researcher, decided that she didn’t want to take any chances that the Court would overrule Griswold when it came back in session—especially since she lives and works in Michigan, a state where abortion rights are now in limbo. Although her intrauterine device (IUD), a type of long-acting reversible contraception, wasn’t due to be replaced for another year, she scheduled an appointment to have a new one inserted immediately. “The beauty of an IUD is that it’s good for 10 years,” she says. “It practically guarantees that I won’t have an unplanned pregnancy for my remaining—or the majority of my remaining—reproductive years.” She thought to herself: “Why wait?”
Robinson is far from the only woman seeking to maintain control over her reproductive health in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision. Now that abortion is either no longer an option or under threat in half of U.S. states, many people are taking steps they otherwise might not have to make sure they don’t get pregnant—and ensure they’re protected in case birth control methods become unavailable in their state. A Harris Poll survey for TIME found that 21% of U.S. females reported having changed their preferred contraceptive method within the past month.
A poll of 1,686 women was conducted between July 15-18. It found that 65 percent used birth control in the past month. One fifth also reported having changed their primary method for contraception within the previous month. The most common method of birth control is oral (28%) followed closely by contraceptive implant and IUDs (17%) and condoms and diaphragms (23%).
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A number of health professionals in the country agree that there has been a decline in patient satisfaction. Roe has led to a surge in demand for birth control—especially emergency contraception like Plan B, long-acting reversible contraceptives like IUDs, and procedures including sterilization. Chief health officer of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Dr. Diana N. Contreras says there was a 21% rise in the number of birth control appointments from June 24, to July 14. This includes a 41% jump for IUD appointments. Nurx, an online provider of birth control pills, reports a spike in the demand. After the Supreme Court’s decision in June, 10 times as many people ordered Ella, a single-dose emergency contraceptive that prevents pregnancy for up to five days after sex, compared to previous months. Julia Bernstein of Thirty Madison (the health company that runs Nurx) said that Ella was purchased by customers who had also bought a long-term prescription for birth control, like a daily pill or daily contraceptive, and this increased from 30% to 60% before the Supreme Court decision.
Harris Poll data also showed this trend. It revealed that many 18-44 year old women are open to using emergency contraception, as well as permanent. While only 11% of 18-44 year old women reported having used emergency contraception like Plan B within the previous month, 20% stated that they may use emergency contraception again in the future.
“People are very anxious, and people are very confused,” says Dr. Jessica Rubino, a consulting physician for Nurx and family medicine physician who provides abortion care in Austin. “It’s hard to know what sort of legislation is going to stick at the state or national level.”
Organizations that provide information about birth control say they’ve experienced a major surge in online traffic. Contreras claims that Planned Parenthood saw a 2205% rise in visitors to its sterilization page on June 24, which was the date of the birth. Dobbs There was a 400% rise in traffic between June 24 and July 14 due to the decision. Bedsider, an organisation that offers free information about contraception and sterilization reported a surge of 288% to its page on emergency contraception. A 171% surge was recorded to its page regarding sterilization. There has also been a surge of 100% for information about the patch used in abortion-free states.
Many residents of states might be worried for good reasons. Missouri lawmakers are open to limiting contraception. Missouri senators voted in 2021 to stop Medicaid from covering popular contraception methods including IUDs. This bill was eventually defeated. “Folks, I think, are appropriately assessing this moment as a crisis in sexual reproductive health care, and they are looking to protect themselves in any way that they possibly can,” says Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.
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Molly Kunzler (a Gladstone nurse practitioner for Planned Parenthood) and McNicholas, both say that they’ve seen an increase in long-acting birth controls. Kunzler adds that more patients than usual have also asked to replace IUDs early or requested the longest-lasting contraceptives—including the Paragard, an IUD that can last for more than a decade, which she says have typically been less popular because they can be more uncomfortable, at least initially. “They are concerned that they’re going to lose access to birth control in general,” says Kunzler. “[Patients] tell us on a daily basis that they’re worried if they don’t get it now or get it soon, they won’t have access to it later.”
McNicholas says that she’s observed an increase in demand not only for birth control, but also for sterilization—surgical procedures that permanently prevent pregnancy in both women and men. Some patients have told her that “they’ve been certain about this decision for some time, but now are feeling particularly motivated to get it done quickly,” she says. Meanwhile, in Arizona—where Planned Parenthood has ceased providing abortions amid uncertainty about their legality—Dr. Jill Gibson (Planned Parenthood Arizona’s medical director) says there have been many calls from the call center regarding sterilization.
It’s not just her patients who are nervous, says Gibson. At the two facilities where she works, she’s provided four IUDs for staff members over the last few weeks. “Even within our staff, we’re seeing a real sense of urgency to secure effective contraception while we still can.”
However, women who don’t want to get pregnant aren’t the only ones who are exploring long-lasting birth control. Gibson says that some of her patients and staff members who had hoped to have children over the next few years have decided “this is not a safe time to do that.” In particular, she says, her staff members are conscious that many things can go wrong during a pregnancy. What if there’s a fetal anomaly? Imagine if either the mother or the fetus had a serious health problem. Is it possible that a doctor would interpret miscarriage to be an attempt at ending a pregnancy? Many states aren’t clear on the details. “There’s really intense fear about what’s going to happen,” says McNicholas.
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