Will GOP strike down a birth-control program that reduces abortions?

Colorado lawmakers are looking at introducing legislation to fund a tested and proven program to reduce unwanted teen pregnancy in Colorado that Republican lawmakers tanked last session.

Long-acting reversible birth control methods, like intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants effective for three to 12 years, have long been considered too costly to be paid for by public funding through the Title X family planning program that started in the 1970s.

But studies showed LARC programs cut down the number of unwanted pregnancies. So in 2009, the Family Planning Initiative was launched by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, providing dozens of Colorado’s clinics with the financial means to offer LARCs.

Initially funded by the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, the $27.3 million pilot program provided IUDs and implants to 30,000 women in Colorado. The plan was to prove that funding the program would work to cut teen pregnancy rates and then use data collected to convince the government to fund LARCs.

The program showed LARCs worked in Colorado. But when CDPHE came looking for public money for the program, Republicans blocked it.

In data released by CDPHE in July of 2014, the state saw its teen unintended pregnancy rate drop 40 percent and abortion rate down 35 percent from 2009 to 2013 after the program was launched.

And since the last session, more proof that the program works to cut the numbers on teen pregnancy and abortion just keeps rolling in.

The latest data for 2014 released in October shows that the initiative was even more effective that year: Unintended birth rates for women ages 15 to 19 fell 48 percent.

What made this Colorado health initiative so unique and so successful is that it gave young women a choice of birth control options. Once the cost barrier was removed, women overwhelmingly chose long-term contraceptives over daily or monthly birth control methods.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that LARCs are more effective in blocking unwanted pregnancy than the pill or male condoms. While the CDC does encourage people to use condoms to prevent STI transmission, intrauterine devices and implants are the agency’s preferred birth control methods.

This chart from the Centers for Disease Control shows that just 1 out of 100 women who use IUDs get pregnant; whereas, 9 out of 100 that use the pill and 18 out of 100 that use just condoms get pregnant. Condoms are still the most effective way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.

“A lot of people who have an unintended pregnancy are using birth control, but typically, they aren’t using it correctly,” said Ellen Marshall of the consulting firm Good Works Group, which operates Before Play, the advocacy and public education arm of the Family Planning Initiative.

“These methods, like the pill, are 99 percent effective… with perfect use. But that’s always the glitch: the perfect use.”

In offering long-acting reversible contraception along with health-and-family-planning education, safe-sex advocacy and outreach, more women were able to make choices that fit their lives, said Marshall.

Though the multi-million dollar grant allowed for the Family Planning Initiative to succeed in its first six years, the funding was never meant to be permanent.

In April of this year, Democratic Rep. KC Becker and Republican Rep. Dom Coram proposed legislation that would have allocated $5 million in public financing for the program.

“If we talk about the scope of teen pregnancies, every minute a child is born to a teen mother,” said Coram. “It’s a great cost to our society, not only for the young people whose lives have been changed, but for their children’s lives. Basically, it is a sentence to poverty.”

His fellow Republicans did not agree with his perspective or the overwhelming data showing the program’s effectiveness. They struck down funding with an 18-17 vote.

“Ultimately we hit some very ideological arguments that this (greater access to birth control) is going to lead girls to be more promiscuous,” Becker told The Independent. “But there’s no evidence of that.”

[pullquote]”“We estimate that we can prevent abortions and save a lot of money, and that’s kind of a win for me.” — Republican LARC bill sponsor Rep. Kathleen Conti[/pullquote]

Those voting against the bill made arguments unfounded in actual data. Republican Rep. Kathleen Conti said the initiative could lead to higher STD rates.

“The rate of sexual activity as reported through our studies has not increased as a result and the rate of sexually transmitted diseases has not increased over this period of time as well, said CDPHE head Larry Wolk, championing the bill on the House floor last session. “These devices do not prevent or protect against sexually transmitted diseases, but we have other strategies.”

Coram said the bill did more than just cut down on teen pregnancies. It also decreased the birth-related costs carried by the Colorado Medicaid program.

“We estimate that we can prevent abortions and save a lot of money, and that’s kind of a win for me,” said Corman, who opposes abortion, on the floor. “We can save $5.85 for every $1 invested in the program.”

CDPHE estimates that the state saved between $49 and $111 million dollars in birth-related Medicaid costs.

So where is the program now?

After Republicans killed it, private groups stepped in to replace the slashed funding. In August organizations including Kaiser Permanente Colorado and the Women’s Foundation of Colorado pledged $2 million in bridge funding to keep the program going until lawmakers could successfully pass a bill.

Once again, this private funding is not meant to be a permanent solution.

Becker believes that as a matter of public health, the state must step in.

She is hopeful that Gov. Hickenlooper will include LARC funding in his upcoming November budget request and hopes Republicans can keep their ideology out of effective public health policy so that the program can continue uninterrupted.

“Making sure people are having babies when they’re ready means that they are more likely to be strong, stable families,” says Becker. “We are just continuing to see that this shouldn’t be any more controversial than anyone choosing one form of birth control over the other. We want to fund what is really achieving results.”

Last week, Hickenlooper outlined his 2017 $27 million state budget proposal. It included a request for $2.5 million in public funding for LARC programs — half of what is needed for the service to continue.

Today the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee will begin reviewing Hickenlooper’s budget proposal.

The fate of Colorado’s proven reproductive health care program remains unknown.

Photo credit: Charlotte Cooper, Creative Commons, Flickr


  1. And yet again, ANOTHER example of republicans getting in the way, regradless of what REALITY says. The problem with letting republicans run things is that they have amazingly overactive imaginations. They look at a situation, think up the WORST thing they can imagine, and assume it’s not only true, but rampant, and must be stopped. So they pass a law to stop something that ONLY exists in their minds.

    It doesn’t matter to them just how much damage they are causing to other people, it’s just them doing good, only it’s just in their own minds that this is true. Actual facts mean NOTHING to them, the stats are just liberal nonsense, because THEY THOUGHT something up and so it MUST be true! People MUST be as evil as they think they are. And so they keep passing laws to keep us from being as bad as they keep assuming we are.

    These republicans are nasty, mean, spiteful people. This program works, it does what it set out to do, it saves TONS of money, it helps women keep their lives on track. it doesn’t perpetuate a cycle of poverty and despair, and that seems to be the REAL reason they are against it. Anything that doesn’t make your life miserable is just NOT anything they are interested in.

    We don’t need to keep putting these people in office, do we? We’d all be better off if we’d just stop this nonsense.

  2. Don’t know about Republican opposition – but am flummoxed by the fact that a Democratic governor could only come up with half of what’s needed in the overall state budget. Half a program is better than none, I suppose. Who chooses which young women will NOT have access and thus double their chance of unintended pregnancy, increase the number of abortions or the amount of birth related Medicare costs.

  3. This is what is NEEDED stop planned parenthood. I know of victims and they kept babies and are very grateful. Those who do abortions,are murdering. They don’t want to have ultrasounds shown as then the woman would see the child is their. Child moves, and sucks thumb can be seen. A child waits to be born. At planned parenthood, they use chemicals to kill. Why take the pill every month. If you think it is harmless to just take a pill a day it’s not good. You are taking chemicals aiming at killing. It destroys the baby. A baby is formed at the moment the sperm and egg meet. This is not just cells, ECT. As days, weeks, and months pass the child is growing. What causes a woman’s body to expand. A BABY. A true living baby. They don’t want to get aborted. Or distroyed by chemicals that happen to be their at moment of conception. GOD only have 10 commandments. Killing is wrong. I believe those that perform abortions and do them are killing. Also is the one “Do Unto other’s as you would have them do into you”, would these same people want chemicals used on them. They are defenseless babies. How are they helping them. They pull them apart,cut them,anything that will kills them. Do they want to show them ultrasounds. No. They are murdering our next generation. The one aborted could be a nurse, lawyer,farmer, teacher or what that child would have wanted to do. They are not allowed freedom. This country murders the innocent. Tape incest is NOT the answer. I know of victims of abuse of both types. Babies are happy that their mom chose life. More and more help Resources are getting out to help mothers get thorough pregnancies. Counseling is available. In so many ways the mother feels the shame and blames herself. She is a victim. Yet people judge her As if she alone was at fault. No she is not. So many are not able to get to have babies. So many wait for adopting chances. When a child is conceived and a pill was used the chemical kills the baby. It is a baby at the very moment of conception. A woman’s body prepares for birth as baby grows so does the womb.The baby kicks at long before mother can she feel movements. Hearing a heart beat is awesome. Baby is happy. When aborted the innocent child hurts as its pulled apart. If these babies could speak I’d bet words like mommy what’s happening, help me,it hurts. They die for no fault of their own. I pray that all the crowd an innocent childern are heard. The ones that could stop abortions or encourage them, I hope they get dreams of each child they helped abort to the point that they will stop aborting. I pray that their concussion will bring them to pro life. Would you take the life of your loved ones you have in your family, or of a loved one. If you did you would be guilty of murder. Why then do you KILL the the most innocent of loved. How is victimized here. Babies are the victims. The same as the one raped, molested,and misinformed. I could go on and on defending not supporting planned parenthood. We need to respect the right to life. They need help so they can survive and feel the wind on their face, taste food,walk, run, play, hug,and love. They have the right to experience the life in this earth. Adopting is one answer. I feel those who come down on a woman for being pregnant don’t understand why they would feel they need to abort, don’t understand how ALONE They may feel. This is where counseling helps. They can have options When informed of the help centers available. I PRAY ALL CHILDERN WILL BE SAVED FROM ABORTIONS. They are victims.

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