The Battle for Birth Control

I walked into the Planned Parenthood and buzzed the intercom to be allowed into the waiting room – a security most likely a result of recent attacks against their workers.

“We tried to call you,” the receptionist said. “We don’t take Tricare, but you can apply for federal aid.”

“How much would it be without federal aid?” I asked.

“Over $1,000. Depending.”

I filled out the federal aid application and took a seat. Looking around, I saw two women waiting for their turn. The room smelled sterile, and the receptionists were laughing in their office. The room felt safe.

It took an hour for the onsite doctor to educate me about my options and insert it.  I didn’t pay a cent for my IUD. Federal funding and an hour of the doctor’s time saved me from pregnancy for six years.

I doubt it will be that simple again. When Donald Trump defunded Planned Parenthood by revising Title X on Feb. 22, it cut federal funding needed for women without health insurance or with inadequate insurance – like me.

Under the Trump order, Title X money can only go to healthcare clinics for women that do not perform abortions and do not refer women to abortion clinics.

Anti-abortion groups find Trump’s revision as a long-awaited victory.

 "The Title X program was not intended to be a slush fund for abortion businesses,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement.

However, for other women like me, the revision makes it impossible to receive basic health care and birth control without insurance.

It’s not a little-known secret that the government barred clinics from using federal funding for abortions decades ago. The funding pays for contraception, STD testing, cancer screenings, pregnancy tests, sex education, etc. So yes, anti-abortion clinics, you are shutting down local abortion clinics, but at what cost?

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 66 percent of women who visited Title X clinics lived at or below the poverty level, with 48 percent uninsured.

Planned Parenthood gets three-fourths of its funding through Medicaid reimbursements. Therefore, Title X defunding directly affects poor women without insurance, who have a pregnancy rate more than five times that of higher income women.

A 2016 study found a dramatic drop in women seeking contraceptives and increase in births in Texas after the state barred Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds. In counties that had a Planned Parenthood clinic, the number of women returning for their Depo shot dropped by 21.2 percent in the two years after changes in funding. The same counties found a 27 percent rise in births in the same period.

Also according to the KFF, 83 percent of Planned Parenthoods are prepared to provide contraceptives on site, opposed to 34 percent of Federally Qualified Health Centers. The number is even lower for clinics that can provide an IUD same-day – only 35 percent for health departments and 30 percent for FQHCs, compared to Planned Parenthood’s 81 percent.

With or without insurance, it’s hard to find a decent health clinic. Especially so for students, who, in theory, should be able to use the student clinic without issues.

When I attempted to get an IUD at Student Health Services at UNC, I had a consultation first. After spending an hour waiting for the doctor, despite having an appointment, and going through my options, I was told I would not be able to get an IUD without a referral from my primary care physician. I had one problem with that: I didn’t have one.

When I arrived at Planned Parenthood, I asked when I could schedule the actual insertion, and they gave me a funny look. They do IUDs same-day, they told me. Did I need a referral? Another funny look. Nope, just go in with an empty uterus, and come out with an IUD in under an hour.

Only 16 days after my visit to Planned Parenthood, Trump announced his revision to Title X. Now without any health insurance, I can only hope I can somehow afford emergency health care, since I cannot rely on federal aid. Planned Parenthood clinics may be the largest abortion provider in the country, but their clinics provide millions of American women with options, including contraceptives and education to prevent unwanted pregnancy in less controversial ways.