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Political changes lead many women to seek new birth control options
If health care law is repealed, many fear their pills won't be covered
Potential changes in the Affordable Care Act are leading many women to seek birth control alternatives to oral contraceptives. - photo by Kelsey Snell

Whether it’s oral contraceptive birth control or an intrauterine device, there’s a good chance that a woman you know is using one or the other.

Morgan Peacock, a 23-year-old from Flowery Branch, has used birth-control pills for years.

On Nov. 14, she visited her doctor and opted for an IUD. She did this for several reasons, one of which was the possibility of her insurance changing under Donald Trump’s presidency.

U.S. Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s pick for secretary of health and human services, would not commit to maintaining coverage of all contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration during his Senate hearing.

A tenfold increase in IUD appointments reported by Planned Parenthood following Trump’s election can be attributed to the fear of changes likely to be made to the Affordable Care Act.

Trump himself has said he is not in favor of requiring a prescription to buy birth control.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data from 2011-2013, Peacock is among the 7.2 percent of women ages 15 to 44 who use some kind of IUD. Some 16 percent of women in that same age bracket use oral birth control.

Intrauterine devices and hormonal implants under the skin are the most effective forms of reversible birth control, with just a 1 percent failure rate. But the devices along with the insertion procedures can cost as much as $1,000.

The devices are long-acting — IUDs can last up to 10 years — and can be the best option for women who are done having children or not ready to start a family for several years.

“Yeah, I’m pretty passionate about my right to needed, affordable medications,” Peacock said.

Gainesville’s Emely Torres agreed.

“I definitely worry about women receiving access to something so important. I can afford to pay for mine, but that’s not something all women can afford or even have access to,” she said.

Torres is about to switch to her workplace’s insurance plan, and is hoping for the best.

“I’m hoping I don’t have any issues with receiving a prescription. I haven’t had many problems in the past,” she said.

When asked about the possibility of birth control no longer being covered under her insurance due to Trump, Torres kept positive.

“I hope it’s not something that we’ll see happening ever,” she said.

Nicole Mason is another woman out of many that may be affected if birth control is taken off of her insurance.

“It’s upsetting to think about not having access to birth control when it plays such an integral part in so many women’s lives. When I hear about so many women rushing to get IUDs, I really think about how many of these women are switching from another form just to make sure they’re covered and it reminds me how scary this can be,” said Mason, 26, an Athens resident who grew up in Oakwood.

Mason said she doesn’t know many women who don’t take their birth control seriously.

“Most use the kind that works best for them and that they like the most, so switching is a pretty big deal, at least to me. I hope this ends up being all for naught, but I’m not holding my breath,” she said.

A study published in Health Affairs in July 2015 estimated that more than 55 million women were receiving birth control at no cost. Women saved an estimated $1.4 billion on the pill alone in the first year after the mandate went into effect in August 2012, researchers found.

The pill is the most popular form of birth control, and its average cost dropped by half to about $20 for a three-month supply. Average spending on intrauterine devices declined by about 70 percent to $110, while spending on implants declined by about 72 percent to $91 per implant.

When Peacock was first put on birth control, she went through a trial period at first, figuring out which medication didn’t give her unfavorable symptoms.

“For health reasons, some women need to do serious trial and error in order to find a good birth control fit that doesn’t impede other aspects of their lives,” she said.

“Without my insurance covering the majority of the cost of my contraceptives, I never would have found the right fit and would be miserable for it.”

She chose the Skyla IUD, which is the smallest of the brands available and is marketed as being effective for three to six years. While at the time, Peacock said the procedure was somewhat painful and she had problems at the start, she is happy she did it.

She was in and out of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s Heritage Clinic in 30 minutes and it may save her hundreds in the years to come.

“Under my insurance anything that is primarily used for prevention of pregnancy is covered, thankfully,” she said.

Since she has insurance that covers the cost, she didn’t have to pay anything up front. It wasn’t always like that, though. Peacock’s insurance didn’t cover her birth control for one month when she was 19.

“I ended up having to pay $270 for a month’s supply of my birth control. That month was a struggle for me because of that. And it was the first time I realized how insanely lucky I am to be under such a great health plan,” she said.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Tribune News Service contributed to this story.