A Giant IUD Lands in DC as Senate Blocks Contraception Access Bill

A giant inflatable intrauterine device, more commonly known as an IUD, stood tall in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, June 5 as a stark visual reminder of what’s at stake as the Right to Contraception Act failed to garner enough Senate votes to move forward. Installed by Americans for Contraception (AFC), a campaign advocating for contraceptive access across the country, the lavender IUD is set to pop up in various states where birth control access is most at risk.

With a majority 51–39 tally, the bill that would have prevented states from passing restrictive legislation on hormonal and non-hormonal contraceptive access was only nine votes shy of moving forward. Only two Senate Republicans voted in support of the bill, while nine Republicans and one Democrat didn’t show up to vote at all.

Chris Fleming, a spokesman for AFC, told Hyperallergic that the IUD motif was “the perfect visual representation” for this bill as “it’s the number one form of contraception under attack by the Republican party.” The device, which is either coated in copper or infused with hormones, is inserted through the cervix and into the uterus, triggering an immune response as a foreign body that creates a hostile environment for sperm and prevents newly fertilized eggs from embedding in the uterine wall.

Though IUDs are strictly for preventing pregnancy, Republican legislators have purported that the device can be considered an abortifacient while pushing forward bills that recognize life at the moment of conception.

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Equal parts flexible and formidable, the lavender IUD commanded attention in Americans for Contraception’s bid to raise awareness surrounding flippant attitudes to the threat to contraceptive access.

Some Senate Republicans criticized the Democratic party for pushing the Right to Contraception Act, claiming that there was no risk to contraceptive access and that Democrats were using the bill to stoke fear in voters.

“It’s imperative that the American public know that the Right to Contraception Act, despite what the Republican spin may be, is under attack,” Fleming told Hyperallergic, citing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion arguing that the court should re-examine cases such as Griswold v. Connecticut.

“That was the first case that codified the right to contraception for married couples,” Fleming said. “There were three other cases that came after that, so if you strike down Griswold, you strike down all the subsequent decisions.”

Fleming noted that the positive response to the IUD inflatable coincided with the American public’s favorable attitude toward protecting contraceptive access nationwide, and that it was a great way to introduce educational conversations about contraception as healthcare, though he specified that it “was primarily men who were asking what [the IUD] was.”

“There was one tweet I saw that somebody said something along the lines of ‘imagine being from a foreign country and walking in and seeing a giant IUD,’” Fleming recalled. “I laughed and told them to imagine being from a foreign country and walking out of Union Station and realizing that the right to an IUD is under threat and the Republicans don’t even support it.”

Though a typical IUD can last between three and 10 years depending on the manufacturer, the inflatable IUD had to come down yesterday evening as stormy weather rolled into the Capital that evening. Premonition? Let’s hope not …

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