After Donald Trump was announced the president-elect, many women began to fear for their birth control options, since he made campaign promises to defund Planned Parenthood and limit abortion rights.
Dr. Anne Davis, Consulting Medical Director for Physicians for Reproductive Health and an OB-GYN in New York City, tells PEOPLE that on the morning after Election Day, her office received multiple calls from panicked women hoping to set up appointments to get IUDs in the coming weeks, worried that they’ll lose their health care coverage after Trump takes office.
“It was remarkable how fast it happened,” Davis tells PEOPLE. “I think a woman knows what’s at stake.”
In the waiting room, women were in tears, she says.
“People were concerned and sad in a way I’ve never seen. They were physically stressed.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, birth control is covered with no out-of-pocket cost. But Trump has vowed to repeal the healthcare bill, and vice president-elect, Mike Pence, spent his career working to defund Planned Parenthood.
Wednesday morning, women took to social media urging others to get a long-term IUD as soon as possible.
Davis echoes those calls, saying that “now is the time.” She says that if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, women will no longer have access to free contraception, and would have to fork over the hefty costs for an IUD themselves — even if they’re insured. Getting an IUD can cost as much as $800.
“Those were out of reach for a lot of my patients in the past, because they didn’t have coverage,” she says. “Even people with insurance had to come up with extra money to get birth control. Now, with the ACA, it was kind of a whole new world.”
If the health care act is repealed, Davis says that women will have to consider cost first, and may not be able to choose the birth control option that is best for them, but rather, the one that they can afford.
“I’m very concerned, and I’m really angry,” she says. “The contraception mandate has been really successful. We have the lowest abortion rate and teenage pregnancy and birth rates we’ve had in decades, because people have access to birth control.”
“If we destroy that, we’re going to go backwards. I guarantee it.”
What will happen to Planned Parenthood?
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, said Wednesday that the organization has also seen a rise in calls, and a surge of support.
“It’s been kind of extraordinary that thousands of supporters across the country took to social media last night immediately,” Richards told Rachel Maddow on her show Wednesday. “Folks have been dropping off baked goods at our health centers.” And Richards says she has seen the same trend as Davis — a jump in the number of women calling to make appointments for birth control options covered under the Affordable Care Act.
Richards says that Planned Parenthood will continue to support women through the Trump presidency.
“Planned parenthood’s been around for 100 years, we’ve been fighting for the right for reproductive healthcare for that long, and as we’ve said today, our doors stay open. And they will.”
“I think that Mr. Trump has said in his acceptance speech that he was going to govern for all Americans, not just the ones who voted for him, and that includes women … if he is going to govern to represent all Americans, this is a right.”
During his campaign, Trump said that women are “helped greatly” by Planned Parenthood — but he would still defund it because they provide abortions.
“As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life. I’m totally against abortion, having to do with Planned Parenthood. But millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood,” Trump said during a Republican Presidential Debate in February. “But I would defund it, because I’m pro-life. But millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood.”
Is Roe v. Wade at risk?
During the third presidential debate, Trump said that Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that granted the right to a legal abortion nationwide, will be overturned “automatically” if he is elected. While the reality is not quite so simple — the Supreme Court would have to decide to take on the issue, and then overturn its previous decision — many reproductive rights advocates are worried about the future of legal abortion in the United States.
“I’m deeply concerned about it,” Davis says. “I encourage the new administration to leave the law of the land as it is. Women have access to safe, legal abortion. We know very well that the majority of Americans support that.”
Davis says that making abortion illegal would not get rid of the procedure, but rather just make it unsafe for the women seeking it out. The best way, she says, to lower the abortion rate is to preserve contraceptive coverage.
“That’s the bottom line,” she says of the role access to birth control plays in decreasing the abortion rate.
No matter what comes in the future, Davis says she and medical professionals across the country are committed to providing care for women and all Americans.
“We want to do the right thing for our patients, and we’re going to keep on doing the right thing.”