IUD earrings won by Colorado politicians are made by Etsy seller Virginia Smith.
What’s one of the “most visible political symbols this legislative session” in Colorado? Not American flag lapel pins or pink ribbons, but jewelry in the shape of IUDs. Safe, effective, long-term birth control is so hot right now.
Colorado legislators are wearing IUD earrings and pins to show their support for a statewide family planning program that has covered the cost of contraceptives. IUDs are a super-reliable form of birth control: they can last up to 10 years and don’t require daily action like taking a pill. Just this week, the FDA approved a new IUD for American markets that it's hoped will be cheaper than current options. But right now when women pay for them out of pocket, IUDs and the doctor's visit for the insertion can cost up to $1,000. For the past five years, the private-and-publicly funded Colorado Family Planning Initiative has covered the entire cost of IUDs and birth control implants for Colorado residents. The results are staggering: more than 30,000 people have signed up for long-term birth control and the teen birth rate has dropped 40 percent. Rates of abortion among teens have also dropped 35 percent.
The teen birth rate is dropping nationwide, but over the past five years, Colorado has been better at reducing the rate of unwanted pregnancies than other states. In 2008, Colorado had the 29th-lowest teen birth rate in the country—now it’s 19th. The family-planning is cost-effective, too: the state says that for every dollar spent on contraceptives, it has saved $5.68 in Medicaid costs. Most of the cost of the program over the past six years, $23.6 million, was donated by a Warren Buffett family foundation.
"I'd love to think there is no longer a debate over this," said Lisa Olcese, executive director of Colorado Youth Matter, told The Denver Post. "The math is simple," she said. "What we're doing is working, and we need to keep doing it."
Graphic by Bethany Ng.
Now, legislators are debating a bill that would continue the work of the Family Planning Initiative, directing $5 million in state general funds to cover the cost of long-term contraception. That’s where the IUD jewelry comes into play: lawmakers want to show they’re excited about the plan. IUDs have a troubled history in the United States and though their popularity is growing—about 6.4 percent of women ages 15-44 rely on them—many people still aren’t familiar with the contraceptive.
"It helps kind of get the conversation going, as well as alleviate fears people have when they hear the term IUD," Colorado Chief Medical Officer Dr. Larry Wolk told the Denver Post.
Of course, building an awareness of IUDs is made more difficult when right-wing groups spread misinformation about them. Christian group Focus on the Family, which is headquartered in Colorado Springs, has spoken out against the bill, arguing that they don’t believe availability of free contraceptives leads to a decline in birth rates and inaccurately label IUDs as a form of abortion.
Still, beyond the Focus on the Family alternate universe, there’s wide support for making birth control accessible. A recent Planned Parenthood survey showed that one-in-three women have struggled to pay for birth control at some point in their lives and even seven in 10 Republican women said that birth control should be considered preventative healthcare that’s covered without any out-of-pocket costs.
Let’s hope this IUD fashion statement also leads to some just-as-fabulous legislation.
Sarah Mirk is Bitch Media's online editor. By coincidence, she also wears IUD jewlery.