Typically, IUDs are worn inside the uterus. But lately, lawmakers in Colorado have been wearing them as earrings in a show of support for a controversial new bill that would help low-income women access contraceptive care.
Made by Virginia Smith, an Akron, Ohio-based doctor and jewelry maker, these glittery IUD-shaped accessories have unintentionally become a central symbol of reproductive rights activism in Colorado. Even a few men, like abortion-opposed Republican state Rep. Don Coram, are pinning them to their lapels. It speaks to how similar healthcare-related fashion accessories-turned-branding symbols, like the breast cancer pink ribbon, evolve in unexpected ways.
Smith, who’s finishing up an OB/GYN residency, started the project about nine months ago when a fellow medical student asked her to create earrings in the familiar curved T-shape of an IUD, and Smith delivered, using a resin base, glitter, and metal hooks. Once she started selling them on Etsy, Colorado politicians–hoping to provide $5 million in funding to a program offering IUDs to low-income women–started snatching them up. Now, Smith has sold more than 200 pairs for $20 each.
“[The earrings help to] get the conversation going, as well as alleviate fears people have when they hear the term IUD,” Dr. Larry Wolk, Colorado’s chief medical officer, told The Denver Post. The design functions not just as a show of support for the bill, but as an educational tool. And because the earrings are true to scale, Smith has gotten requests for earrings from healthcare workers who want to show their patients what the devices look like.