Gun sales surged late in 2008, immediately after the election of President Barack Obama. Many firearms enthusiasts assumed that the new president, with a Democratic Congress, would pass and implement new restrictions on gun ownership—so they raced to stock up ahead of any changes in federal law.
New research from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston finds something of a parallel phenomenon occurring at the end of 2016. It reports that many women saw the election of Donald Trump as a threat to their reproductive rights, and rushed to acquire long-acting contraceptives such as IUDs.
Specifically, the research finds that demand for such devices increased 21.6 percent in the 30 days following Trump's upset victory.
"Women responded to this political event by seeking out this method of contraception," writes lead author Dr. Lydia Pace, director of the hospital's Women's Health Policy and Advocacy Program. Pace suspects that "the threat of losing access expedited a decision, or encouraged [women] to seek out a method they hadn't previously considered."
For the study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, Pace and her colleagues analyzed a database of more than three million women between the ages of 18 and 45 who were enrolled in insurance plans. They compared rates of insertions of long-acting, reversible contraceptives such as intrauterine devices and implants in the 30 business days before and after November 8th, 2016, with the exact same period one year earlier.
They found that, in 2015, the rate of such insertions varied little between the weeks just before and just after November 8th. But in 2016, there was a large jump, from 13.4 insertions per 100,000 women just before election day to 16.3 per 100,000 women just afterwards.
Looking at the figures another way, there were about 2.1 additional insertions of such devices per 100,000 women per day in the two weeks or so after Trump's election.
"If our findings were projected to the approximately 33 million women in the [United States] in this age range with employer-sponsored health insurance, this would correspond to 700 additional insertions per day in association with the 2016 election, above the approximately 4,716 insertions per day that would have been otherwise predicted," the researchers state.
Now, this data cannot tell us whether the shift was sustained beyond an immediate post-election reaction. But the threat has persisted: As Pace and her colleagues note, Trump has attempted to weaken the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate—an effort that was partially blocked by the courts just last month.
The researchers note that, in 2012, the ACA eliminated cost-sharing for contraception among most women with private health insurance. As a result, median out-of-pocket costs for an IUD decreased from $40 to $0.
So even if Trump is successful, eliminating the coverage mandate would hardly prohibit access to the devices. Similarly, Obama's threat to gun ownership was always far from certain; ultimately, he was unable to implement serious gun control.
It seems that when a president of the other party gets elected, many people fear the worst, and take immediate action to secure their rights while they still exist. But unlike putting more guns into circulation, having more women use such devices is, in many ways, a positive thing.
"Long-acting, reversible contraception methods are by far the most effective form of reversible birth control available," Pace notes. "We have seen that, when [they are] made more available to women, the rates of unintended pregnancies go down."
There are many ways to cope with the deep depression that follows a surprising election loss. Taking precautions regarding your reproductive health is clearly among the healthier options.