THE BUZZ 3: Contraception Demand Rises

By on December 13, 2016

In the wake of the presidential election, local providers say women are placing more focus on their reproductive health.

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JACKSON HOLE, WY – Since the presidential election, local women’s health and family planning providers have reported an increase in women looking for long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs). Other women’s health advocacy groups, such as Wyoming Health Council and NARAL Pro-Choice Wyoming, have seen an increase in donations in the same time frame.

Some chalk it up to women’s fears over what a Donald Trump-Mike Pence administration portends for them, their insurance, and affordable family planning and birth control. Trump’s choice for Health Secretary Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) has a track record of limiting access to birth control.

When asked whether Emerg-A-Care has seen an upward trend of LARC requests Dr. Brent Blue quipped, “You mean because of Trump? I’d be looking for birth control too!”

While he could not confirm exact numbers, Blue noted a definite increase in the number of women coming in concerned about their health in general and their reproductive health since the election.

The same was noted at the clinic of nurse practitioner and midwife Theresa Lerch, where family nurse practitioner Lori Bowdler works. Bowdler confirmed they have seen “a definite and significant increase” in women looking for LARCs.

Providers say women who depend on federal programs for their reproductive health are also concerned. Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services.

Wyoming Health Council is Wyoming’s Federal Title X family planning grantee organization. WHC contracts with sub-recipient agencies throughout Wyoming that provide family planning services and related preventive care, including breast and cervical cancer screening, HIV and STD testing, and referrals for other health and social services.

Because Wyoming has a high rate of uninsured people—approximately 12 percent of the population—Title X family planning clinics are often a main resource for primary care. WHC is also seeing more women asking for LARCs because of their efficacy and ability to last for three, five, or even 10 years depending on the IUD.

According to Susie Markus, WHC executive director, the issues facing WHC and its sub-recipient clinics are threefold.

First, they try to provide the clients with the best fit for contraception, both preferentially and clinically. Second, Title X clinics provide family planning and related preventive care to anyone who requests service, with priority to low-income clients and often on a sliding scale. Third, LARCs are expensive for clinics to purchase, sometimes costing upwards of a thousand dollars. Because WHC clinics provide services and supplies at discounted or zero cost to low-income clients, this creates new financial strains, not taking into consideration statewide budget cuts.

So far, Teton County Public Health officials say they have not seen an increase in women seeking LARCs. However, that is not surprising to county nurse manager Janet Garland. Because Public Health caters to uninsured persons, there is no sense of urgency for clients to rush in and stock up, she said.

However, according to Jodie Pond, director of Teton County Public Health, the clinic is seeing a rise in demand for sexually transmitted infection and disease services, which often translates into family planning appointments and referrals. Pond said reproductive and sexual health are important for the overall health of a community and includes prevention, awareness, and education, all things that can be improved. Pond cautioned the damage that slashing reproductive services may have on public health.

With Trump’s appointment of Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services women could have much to worry about. According to The New York Times, Price supported legislation to ban federal funds for Planned Parenthood, claiming some clinics used barbaric abortion practices. The same article quotes Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards saying Price “poses a grave threat to women’s health” and that he could undo decades of women’s health progress.

If Price had his way, the Times reported, millions of women could lose access to preventive health care services, free birth control under the Affordable Care Act, and could again be charged more than men for the same health insurance.

From a federal level, there seem to be no federal cuts planned for Title X, and many would argue that from a health and safety standpoint, there should not be. When Pence, as governor of Indiana, defunded Planned Parenthood the state saw a huge outbreak of HIV in rural Indiana.

Wyoming could possibly see similar outcomes with coming budget strains if the wrong programs are cut. The Cowboy State only has one Planned Parenthood office in Casper, which, according to Wyoming Public Media, it and other clinics statewide are currently facing financial strain with the increased demand for LARCs.

Donations to NARAL Pro-Choice Wyoming surged slightly following the election, according to its executive director, Sharon Breitwieser.

“We have not yet observed other notable changes post-election regarding women’s health care vis-à-vis a Trump presidency,” she said. “Of course we have heard a lot of overall, general concerns.”

Word of women’s marches in Cheyenne and Casper on January 21, the same day that the Million Women’s March is slated in Washington during Trump’s inauguration, has been circulating but details have yet to be finalized. PJH

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