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Trump’s impending presidency sparks surge in calls to Planned Parenthood

By Rob Hotakainen • Nov 27, 2016 at 8:44 AM

WASHINGTON — The phone has been ringing off the hook at Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, with women rushing to make appointments to get long-acting birth control.

In the two weeks since Donald Trump won the presidency, the number of appointments at the organization’s 12 clinics has jumped by 81 percent, according to spokeswoman Tiffany Harms.

The most popular requests: intrauterine devices, or IUDs, small plastic devices that are inserted into the uterus and left in place, and hormonal implants.

Planned Parenthood officials say it’s a similar situation across the country, with many women braced for the worst. They fear that Trump will try to follow through on his promises to outlaw abortion and scrap the Affordable Care Act, which helps many poor women by providing birth control with no co-pays.

Trump stoked fears on the subject during an MSNBC town hall forum last March, when he said women who got abortions should face “some form of punishment” if the procedure were banned.

And in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Nov. 13, Trump said he would appoint conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

Trump said the abortion issue then could be decided by individual states. And if a state decided to ban abortion, he said, women would “have to go to another state” to terminate pregnancies.

On Capitol Hill, backers of abortion rights are geared up for a full-scale assault in 2017.

“Women’s access to reproductive health care shouldn’t be dependent on their income or their ZIP code,” said Washington state Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene. “It puts women’s health at risk, and these are also women’s constitutional rights. … President-elect Trump has said he’d punish women for exercising their constitutional rights. That is unacceptable and extremely concerning.”

While it could take Trump years to get the Supreme Court to overturn the law, Harms said the more immediate worry in Idaho and Washington state was the prospect of him moving quickly to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

Harms said many women would suffer a big financial hit if Trump tried to junk the national health insurance plan in the first 100 days of his presidency, as he has promised.

Raegan McDonald-Mosley, Planned Parenthood’s chief medical officer, said out-of-pocket costs for an IUD could range from $500 to $1,000 for a woman without health insurance, creating “a major barrier,” for many, especially poor women.

Harms said that was what was driving all the phone calls: Since Nov. 8, requests for appointments for long-acting methods of birth control have increased from 132 to 239.

With Trump and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin both saying they want to stop funding Planned Parenthood next year, abortion rights will be in the spotlight as soon as the president-elect takes the oath at noon on Jan. 20.

The Women’s March on Washington is scheduled for the very next morning. Organizers say that more than 200,000 people from across the country have already signed up for the march from the Lincoln Memorial to the White House.

And Jan. 22 will mark 44 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, an anniversary that’s sure to draw heightened attention. Thousands of abortion-rights opponents are expected to turn out for the annual “March for Life,” set for Jan. 27, while supporters of abortion rights are planning a counterdemonstration.

Abortion rights supporters worry that Trump will have plenty of abortion opponents in his administration, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence and his nominee for attorney general, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions.

In a speech at Liberty University last month, Pence said the new administration would move to toughen abortion laws and eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood on “the first day we take office.”

“I long to see the day that Roe v. Wade is consigned to the ash heap of history, where it belongs,” he said.

Ken Blackwell, a former mayor of Cincinnati who is one of Trump’s top domestic-policy advisers, has angered backers of gay rights and abortion rights alike. Among other things, he has called homosexuality a sin and supports gay-conversion therapy, aimed at changing sexual orientation. In an opinion piece last year in The Washington Times, Blackwell said the nation “is undergoing a major cultural shift in favor of life” by insisting on “equal rights for the unborn.”

On Wednesday, Trump named two women, both opponents of abortion rights, to key Cabinet posts: Betsy DeVos, for education secretary, and South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, as ambassador to the United Nations. Earlier this year, Haley signed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and if confirmed she would have a high-profile plank to oppose nations that promote abortion rights.

Trump tapped Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee to join his transition team earlier this month. She has drawn fire from Democrats on Capitol Hill for her work leading the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a special committee formed last year to investigate abortion providers.

Last week, the House Committee on Administration gave the panel an additional $800,000 to spend on its probe, doubling its budget.

Many Democrats, including DelBene, want the panel disbanded.

“We are wasting taxpayer dollars on a witch hunt, continuing to intimidate researchers and medical providers,” said DelBene, one of the panel’s 14 members. “They have subpoenaed folks, called for depositions, with no clear goal of what the reasoning is behind this.”

As the fight for abortion rights intensifies across the country, the number of abortions in the U.S. is declining.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that 664,435 women had had abortions in 2013, the latest year for which figures are available. That’s a 5 percent decline from 2012, with women in their 20s accounting for a majority of the abortions.

“We give thanks that more women are rejecting abortion and choosing life for their unborn children,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee.

Pope Francis jumped into the abortion debate this week, too.

On Monday, he said he would grant Roman Catholic priests the right to forgive abortion, even though he called it “a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life.”

“However, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father,” said the pope.

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©2016 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

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