Women fearful that the Trump administration will limit reproductive rights are showing the first signs of channeling their frustration into action.
Planned Parenthood confirmed to STAT that it saw an increase in donations, emails, and phone calls on Wednesday. And the advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America received so many unsolicited donations — many designated in honor of Hillary Clinton or sardonically honoring Donald Trump — that a spokesperson called it “just unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”
At Planned Parenthood clinics in the American heartland, supporters dropped off baked goods and flowers. And on social media, women urged each other to donate to reproductive health organizations — and to schedule an appointment to get long-acting contraception while it’s still covered under the Affordable Care Act.
The Republican majority in Congress is likely to work with Trump to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood and to install a Supreme Court justice opposed to abortion.
And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday said Congress would move quickly to repeal Obamacare, which covers reproductive health services for millions of women. Among other things, the law gives most insured women free access — with no copay — to approved methods of birth control, including intrauterine devices, which typically run $500 to $1,000. (Trump could also get rid of the free birth control through a regulatory maneuver, even if a full Obamacare repeal stalled in Congress.)
Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood, said “it’s too early to tell if we’ll see an uptick in requests for IUDs as a result of the election.” But social media has buzzed this week with posts from women urging others to get long-lasting contraception while it’s still covered.
Minneapolis-area resident Gillian Needham is doing just that.
She said she decided to get an IUD right after Trump’s election. Her appointment is next week.
Needham, who works at an addiction treatment center, happened to be at a Planned Parenthood clinic for a regular appointment on Wednesday. The mood was raw despair; one nurse’s face was red from crying. Then a woman came in bearing a bouquet of white flowers, a card, and a donation for the clinic staff — moving Needham to tears.
It wasn’t just that location: On Wednesday, people brought cookies, doughnuts, and flowers to Planned Parenthood clinics in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, spokesperson Jennifer Aulwes said. The regional chapter also saw a “surge” in volunteer applications, donations, calls, and online messages of support, Aulwes said.
“Everyone today is asking, ‘What can I do to support Planned Parenthood?’” Aulwes said on Wednesday. “In fact our Minneapolis-based clinic has gotten that question from almost every patient they’ve seen today.”
There have been at least nine votes in Congress over the past two years to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which is used to support non-abortion services such as cancer screenings. The Republican sweep makes it more likely such a bill will be enacted next year.
Outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Boston on Wednesday evening, undergraduate Carly Wallace pulled out her smartphone to take a photo of the organization’s banners. She then shared it on Snapchat as a defiant gesture of support. Wallace, a premed student at Boston University, said she hadn’t been too involved in advocacy before the election. Now, she said, she plans to donate and speak out to “voice my disdain” for restrictions on reproductive health.
“I just feel terrified,” said Sue Riddle, a Boston-area illustrator who accompanied her niece to the clinic to get birth control. Riddle already makes a monthly donation to Planned Parenthood, but is considering increasing her donation.
Kaylie Hanson Long, a NARAL spokesperson, said that one concerned woman alerted the group’s staff that she had updated her wedding registry after the election, replacing requests for traditional gifts with a request to donate to NARAL. Hanson Long said the group also received an “unprecedented number” of offers to volunteer.
At a protest rally Wednesday night in Boston organized by several left-leaning groups, the chants from a crowd of about 4,000 shifted at one point to “Women’s rights are human rights” — echoing Hillary Clinton’s famous proclamation in a 1995 speech in a suburb of Beijing. At least one handwritten sign bore the same message.
One source of anxiety for many women is uncertainty about just what Trump will prioritize.
Trump has voted for and donated to plenty of Democratic candidates, and even during the campaign he spoke positively about the women’s health services that Planned Parenthood provides. Yet he also pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Nobody in the reproductive health/reproductive rights community has any earthly idea of what he is going to do,” said Dr. Willie Parker, an Alabama obstetrician and abortion provider. “That makes it totally plausible to paint a worse-case scenario.”
In May, Trump put out an initial list of 11 Supreme Court nominees he would consider. They included three federal appeals court judges who ruled that Christian organizations should be exempt from the ACA’s mandate to cover birth control for women. (One of them, former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, once called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.”)
Another judge on Trump’s list wrote a 2012 decision upholding a South Dakota law requiring doctors to inform patients that women who have abortions face a greater risk of suicide — even though there’s no conclusive proof that one causes the other.
Trump updated his list in September with 10 more potential nominees, including a former congressman who sponsored the first bill to ban a particular type of surgical abortion known to critics as “partial birth” abortion.
“If you want to stay in bed or hide from the world, I can’t blame you. But I hope you won’t,” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards wrote in an email to supporters on Wednesday.
Reproductive rights groups aren’t alone in receiving fresh pledges of money and support from despairing Democrats. The American Civil Liberties Union has received more than 30,000 donations totaling nearly $2 million since Trump’s win, according to ACLU spokesperson Thomas Dresslar. And the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which advocates for Muslims’ civil rights, has seen a boost in volunteer offers and applications, according to CAIR spokesperson Ibrahim Hooper.
Though encouraged by the support, some women’s rights activists stressed that it will take more than donations and Instagram posts to push back against the administration.
“That same energy that … [has] people dropping off cookies and doughnuts at Planned Parenthood — that needs to be channeled into sustained, focused political activity,” said Parker, who chairs the board of the advocacy group Physicians for Reproductive Health. “We have to have sustained political engagement around reproductive rights issues at every level.”
No reproductive health organizations announced detailed plans to fight the new regime in Washington in the first hours after the election. Several activists told STAT the wounds were still too fresh to do so.
But Parker said he’s hopeful that once reproductive health supporters get over their initial shock, “many people will double down and increase their advocacy.”
Still others “will be engaged to come off the sidelines,” he said.
He just hopes they vote.
This story has been updated with information from the advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America.