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Warren Buffett’s Family Secretly Funded a Birth Control Revolution

In the past decade, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation has become the most influential supporter of research on IUDs and expanding access to the contraceptive
relates to Warren Buffett’s Family Secretly Funded a Birth Control Revolution
Photo Illustration: Brea Souders for Bloomberg Businessweek; Source: Getty Images

Katherine O’Reilly, a certified nurse midwife in her 30s, works full time at the Mesa County Health Department’s clinic in Grand Junction, Colo., and she’s eager to show off the clinic’s stash of one of the most effective forms of birth control. First, though, she has to get out her electronic badge to unlock a heavy wood door with a paper sign, “PLEASE KEEP DOOR CLOSED AT ALL TIMES!!!” She surveys shelves packed with boxes of gloves and gauze, then walks over to an unmarked metal cabinet. She opens it and bends down to look at the bottom shelves. “There they are!” she says, as if they’d been hiding from her.

She points to a stack of long, slim packages the size of a box of chocolates. Inside each is an intrauterine device and a tall, skinny straw that clinicians use to insert the flexible, T-shaped pieces of plastic into a uterus, where it can prevent pregnancy for as long as 10 years. “When I see patients, my goal is to be able to initiate contraception today,” she says. That means having IUDs in stock is essential.