Prioritizing Reproductive Health in the US

Trends / Wellness
Reya Sehgal
Nov 22, 2022
When Roe v. Wade was overturned by the US Supreme Court, people of all genders recognized that young people are coming into their reproductive years with fewer protections than their parents; that the floodgates have been opened for challenges to reproductive care, relationships, and sexual and gender identities; and that the needle has been moved so forcefully in certain states that safety of our current and future populace has been threatened. Our Visual GPS research shows that Americans are concerned about our future: 42% of people surveyed believe it is unlikely that all women in this country will have adequate access to reproductive care.

But it’s not just cisgender women who are at risk, and both language and imagery regarding reproductive care should include people of all bodies and identities. VisualGPS survey respondents overwhelmingly understand the power of imagery, with 80% agreeing on the importance of seeing pictures and videos of what’s happening to people—around the world, or even around the country—in order to understand the challenges they face. As funding for pro‑life causes has dramatically changed the landscape of reproductive healthcare across the country, the number of abortion providers has decreased significantly, making this kind of care less visible.1 In a country where 59% of people personally know someone who has had an abortion, and 88% of women regularly use contraception, it is clear that reproductive services are, in fact, a standard part of people’s lives, and deserve representation in our visual culture.2 
Getty Images customers have taken up the call to picture reproductive health in a variety of ways. In June 2022, searches have been growing for ‘abortion’ (+243%), ‘birth control’ (+46%), ‘infertility’ (+44%), as well as terms related to the fight for justice and access—we’ve seen staggering changes in search volumes for ‘abortion protest’ (+864%), ‘pro choice’ (+237%), and ‘reproductive rights’ (+261%). While medical issues related to reproductive health—from IVF to postpartum care to hysterectomies—are often directed at women, using terms like ‘maternal health’ (+119%), we’ve seen a decline in searches related to ‘women’s rights’ (‑6%) and ‘feminism’ (‑25%) and an interesting rise in searches for a form of birth control that targets people assigned male at birth: ‘vasectomy’ (+291%).

Reproductive health, however, includes a wide spectrum of medical procedures, issues, and feelings. As we’ve learned from our consumer survey, 54% of American women are worried about their physical health, and 71% say it’s equally important to take care of themselves physically as well as emotionally. Visuals that include counseling services, and reflect the heavier emotional realities of reproductive health can better represent the spectrum of feelings that patients experience, both in and out of clinical settings.
Inclusion, too, is central to the story. When period underwear brand Thinx changed its language to include "people with periods," they launched ad campaigns featuring trans men, setting the stage for broader inclusion of trans, nonbinary, and people with gender‑expansive identities in storytelling related to reproductive and sexual health—and with good reason.3 LGBTQ+ people who are assigned female at birth face significant discrimination in medical settings when it comes to reproductive and sexual healthcare, whether they’re seeking gender‑affirming surgeries or PCOS treatments, or receiving cis‑normative questioning around pregnancy and parenting. Because of the fragmentation of healthcare in the US, which often separates clinics for LGBTQ+ people from gynecological care, inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in hetero‑ and cis‑normative healthcare settings remains a challenge.4 Further, as alarmist messaging around Monkeypox echoes the moral panic of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, LGBTQ+ communities are more likely to be stigmatized.

Visuals that center reproductive health and wellness can help destigmatize and normalize aspects of health that are central to people’s lives, regardless of their gender identity, race, or choice to be a gestational parent.
[1] Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2017 (Guttmacher Institute)
[2] America's Abortion Quandary (Pew Research Center); Contraceptive Use in the United States by Demographics (Guttmacher Institute)
[3] For People With Periods — Who May Not Be Women (Thinx); Thinx Creates Period Underwear For Transgender Men (Bustle)
[4] Not Up for Debate: LGBTQ People Need and Deserve Tailored Sexual and Reproductive Health Care (Guttmacher Institute)
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