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Anthony Kennedy’s Retirement Has Sparked a Push to Get IUDs

A flurry of tweets urged women to stock up on birth control amid worries that Roe v. Wade might get overturned.

justice anthony kennedy coat with iud superimposed birth control

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Justice Anthony Kennedy announced Wednesday that he plans to retire from the Court on July 31. Almost immediately, women worried about the fate of Roe v. Wade, with many urging others to get IUDs and stock up on birth control.

Kennedy’s retirement instigated worry because he’s been the Supreme Court’s swing vote for over a decade. He’s sided with liberal justices in a series of key decisions—including the landmark Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in which he surprised conservatives by affirming the protections guaranteed by Roe v. Wade.

But now that President Trump will be tasked with appointing a new Supreme Court pick, many of Kennedy’s swing decisions are within striking distance of conservative forces—and many fear that Roe v. Wade will be the first to go. As a result, women have already taken to Twitter with their plans to protect themselves and others—and one of the most popular options is getting an IUD.

The destruction of Roe v. Wade could take two distinct forms: a total overhaul of the 1973 ruling, or a slow chip at the provisions it has protected for the past 48 years.  

The nuclear option is likely years away. In order to fully overturn Roe, a state would have to pass a law that directly violates the established doctrine, and the resulting lawsuit would have to reach the nation’s highest court. But the slow, rule-by-rule erosion of abortion rights also poses a serious threat. Anti-abortion advocates could bring smaller changes, like 20-week abortion bans, and chip away at Roe’s provisions until the decision loses its meaning and power.

Moments after Kennedy’s announcement broke, women took to Twitter to express their outrage and fear.

Former Obama White House Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco put it more bluntly:

But other women called for a more specific action, one that could at least begin to shield from the consequences of Kennedy’s departure: getting an IUD.

One Twitter user, @MF_Greatest, urged women who were entertaining the thought of an IUD to not delay:

Another, @1followernodad, gave additional advice:

This isn’t the first time women have sought to protect themselves in the face of legal threats to their right to birth control and abortion. IUD insertions—long-heralded as one of the most effective methods of preventing pregnancy—also spiked in the months surrounding Trump’s election, according to a report from Athena Insight. Between October and December of 2016, researchers found that IUD insertions jumped 19 percent as women scrambled to protect themselves from Trump’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the low-cost birth control that came with it.

The risk posed to Roe v. Wade remains unclear, as does Trump’s choice for Kennedy’s replacement. But his motives are not: According to a tweet from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, his shortlist only includes justices who have pledged to overturn it.