"A redneck Republican wearing an IUD": Colorado lawmakers use birth control earrings to push for family planning

The state's bipartisan effort to fund contraceptive access is also very well accessorized

Published March 17, 2015 3:28PM (EDT)

  (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-1882217p1.html'>Image Point Fr</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
(Image Point Fr via Shutterstock)

Colorado lawmakers have had some colorful discussions over the past several months about whether or not intrauterine devices (IUDs) can prevent "a small child from implanting" in a woman's uterus or should be considered "abortifacients." The dispute (which is redundant and not based on science) has kept politicians stalled on the question of making IUDs more widely accessible with public funding. But now, as state legislators debate a bipartisan bill that would provide $5 million for a program that provides long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) to low-income women, advocates of the measure are wearing their support on their sleeves -- or rather, dangling from their ears.

Three words: Sparkly IUD earrings.

According to the Denver Post, a coalition of lawmakers has begun wearing birth control-inspired accessories (which are made of resin, not actual IUDs) around the Colorado capitol to drum up support for the bill. The measure would infuse public money into a privately funded family planning program, called the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, which expires this summer. The current initiative has provided an estimated 30,000 LARCs to low-income women, and is believed to have contributed heavily to the 42 percent drop in the state's teen abortion rate over the past five years, as well as a 39 percent drop in the teen birth rate over the same period.

But the IUD earrings -- which are handmade by Virginia Smith, an Ohio-based OB-GYN who sells them on Etsy -- are also being used as a way to educate confused lawmakers about the effectiveness of LARCs. The Post calls the jewelry "one of the most visible political symbols this legislative session," which could help conservatives who oppose abortion to get on board with the measure:

Eliza Schultz, a lobbyist for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, gives the earrings to supporters — but she doesn't wear them herself.

Instead, she carries an actual IUD. "It's hard to talk about sex," Schultz says. With the IUD, "we can start the conversation with fact." [...]

Different ones work different ways, but the one Schultz shows lawmakers is placed in the uterus for five years, where it slowly releases small amounts of hormones that inhibit sperm from fertilizing a woman's egg and blocks implantation by thinning the lining of the uterine wall.

A frequent reaction she gets from lawmakers: "The whole debate is about this little thing?"

One Republican lawmaker, State Rep. Don Coram, opposes abortion but has agreed to co-sponor the bill, and told the Post he views it as a sensible way to prevent poverty and save taxpayer money. Coram helped gain approval for the measure in its first House hearing, and has also championed another statewide program to prevent teen pregnancies and reduce high school dropout rates. He's also taken to wearing one of the IUD earrings around the capitol, but as a lapel pin.

"A redneck Republican wearing an IUD -- it just doesn't make sense does it?" Coram told the Post. "Seriously, though, I think this is one of the most important bills we are looking at."

By Jenny Kutner

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