Americans Support Further Contraception Research

Wendy Norris

An overwhelming majority of Americans supports research on new contraceptive methods, a recent poll shows.

An MSN-Zogby Interactive poll may foretell the coming of a new and improved "Sexual Revolution 2.0" nearly 50 years since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of the first oral contraceptive – ushering in the so-called "free love" decade and eventually the movement for women's equality.

The poll released on Friday reports that 83 percent of the 6,769 American adults surveyed "believe scientists should continue to research birth control options."

Not surprisingly, young people, aged 18-29, were most supportive of expanding birth control options (87 percent) — trailing only respondents with household incomes over $100,000 (88 percent) in the push for more research.

Even those with incomes under $25,000, for whom raising children is an expensive proposition and who are more likely to be under-insured, if insured at all, overwhelmingly support (77 percent) the quest for more family planning choices.

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The poll also found that 74 percent of Americans who use birth control are satisfied with their options while one in five are dissatisfied. No explanation for the responses were provided by MSN-Zobgy; however, the lack of health care coverage for family planning is a likely reason.

A majority (61 percent) claim that while some of the costs are paid for by insurance, just 20 percent are covered in full. A quarter of those with insurance get no reimbursement for birth control costs. One-third of men complained that their insurance policies fail to cover costs while 15 percent of women reported the same problem.

The MSN-Zogby study appears to underscore Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's ability to read the political tea leaves when he pledged to restore state funding for pregnancy-prevention and family planning services that had been cut by the previous Republican administration.

News Contraception

Colorado Contraception Program Overcomes GOP Opposition

Jason Salzman

In a reversal from last year, Colorado lawmakers on Thursday approved a state budget that includes funds for a program credited with reducing the teen birth rate by 40 percent and the teen abortion rate by 35 percent.

Funding has survived for a successful contraception program in Colorado after a group of Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in supporting the initiative.

A recorded vote on the amendment Thursday confirmed that four Republicans joined Democrats in killing the anti-LARC amendment, the Denver Post reported.

Both pro- and anti-choice advocates knew that Republicans in Colorado’s senate would offer an amendment this week to eliminate funds from a budget bill for a state program credited with reducing the teen birth rate by 40 percent and the teen abortion rate by 35 percent.

The question remained: Would Republicans, who have a one-seat majority in the state senate, hold ranks, as they did last year, and leave the program unfunded?

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The answer came Wednesday in the form of a senate voice vote against the amendment, offered by state Sens. Laura Woods (R-Westminster) and Tim Neville (R-Littleton), that would have eliminated $2.5 million for Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative. The program provides long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), to low-income people.

About 30,000 long-lasting contraceptive implants were distributed during a five-year pilot program under the state’s Family Planning Initiative. Participating clinics in 37 of Colorado’s 64 counties serve 95 percent of the state’s population.

During a brief debate on the senate floor Wednesday, Neville expressed his concern about the “use of widespread and temporary sterilization products on women and girls in Colorado.” Such “temporary sterilization,” he said, does “nothing to prevent the spread of STDs.”

“There is nothing to suggest that the psychological and medical risks and costs associated with the increased sexual activity will be managed or addressed by these funds or this legislation,” Neville said.

LARC usage does not result in increased sexual activity, studies show.

Some state GOP lawmakers have said they stood against funding for LARCs because they considered that kind of contraception to be abortion.

“I have no moral problem with contraceptives. The problem is when you kill the child,” state Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) told the Associated Press in November 2014.

Medical professionals have repeatedly shown that Lundberg’s assertion about LARCs is medically inaccurate.

Woods, the other sponsor of the amendment, tried to cut LARC funding despite warnings that her anti-choice positions could damage her re-election efforts in a swing district vital to GOP hopes of retaining control of the state senate.

Pro-choice advocates praised the vote to retain LARC money in the budget bill, saying it will offer Coloradans control of their fertility.

“Self-determination and the ability to be a parent when we are ready should not be a privilege,” said Cristina Aguilar, director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), in an email to Rewire. “All women should be able to make decisions about their bodies and their futures.”

Colorado’s house last week rejected a similar amendment, so now the state budget bill will go to Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who is expected to sign it.

House Republicans voiced similar opposition to the LARC funds.

Some opposed the program based on the incorrect argument that IUDs cause abortions.

“I would be fine with family planning,” said Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, as quoted in the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I would be fine with some kinds of birth control, but when the taxpayers are funding post-conception abortion pills, that crosses the line.”

Other Republicans, such as Rep. Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock), argued that “birth control is already covered by the Affordable Care Act,” and thus Colorado’s initiative is not needed—even though the program’s training and funds for some types of birth control are not covered by the national health-care law.

Pro-choice advocates said the LARC program should serve as a model for other states.

“Here in Colorado, we know what’s proven to work on women’s health care—access to low-cost, long acting reversible contraception and keeping medical decisions between women and their doctors,” said Karen Middleton, director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in an email to Rewire. “Funding the LARC program is one of the smartest things we can do for both individual women and public policy as a whole. We hope other states will follow Colorado’s lead.”

After Colorado Republicans rejected $5 million for the LARC program last year, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment undertook its own fundraising effort, raising enough money to keep the program going at a reduced level.

The original six-year LARC pilot program was undertaken in Colorado with support from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: GOP Candidates Offer a Collective ‘No’ on Merrick Garland

Ally Boguhn

Ohio Gov. John Kasich noted that while he thought the president shouldn’t have made a Supreme Court nomination, Republicans were also to blame for the chaos the matter has caused.

Republican presidential candidates this week reacted to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee exactly how you might expect, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) released a plan to create an “AIDS and HIV-free generation.”

Republican Presidential Candidates React to Obama’s Supreme Court Nomination

Republican senators weren’t the only party members vowing to oppose Obama’s Supreme Court nomination this week. GOP presidential candidates also doubled down on their charges that the next president should be the one to appoint the replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. 

Republican presidential candidates moved swiftly to denounce the president’s decision after Obama nominated D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacant seat.

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“I think the next president should make the pick. And I think they shouldn’t go forward. And I believe I’m pretty much in line with what the Republicans are saying,” Donald Trump said on CNN’s New Day ahead of Obama’s decision.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took the opportunity to again attack Trump. “A so-called ‘moderate’ Democrat nominee is precisely the kind of deal that Donald Trump has told us he would make—someone who would rule along with other liberals on the bench like Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor,” Cruz said in a statement on the nomination. “Make no mistake, if Garland were confirmed, he would side predictably with President Obama on critical issues such as undermining the Second Amendment, legalizing partial-birth abortion, and propping up overreaching bureaucratic agencies like the EPA and the IRS.”

Cruz reiterated that the Senate “should not vote on any nominee until the next president is sworn into office.”

Speaking in Pennsylvania Wednesday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) noted that while he thought the president shouldn’t have made a nomination, Republicans were also to blame for the chaos the matter has caused.

“What I felt should have happened—I don’t think the president should have sent anybody up now,” Kasich said, according to CBS News. “Because it’s not going to happen. It’s just more division. Now we have more fighting, more fighting, more fighting.”

“I think this is not good for our country. It’s a roving debate. Both sides, you know, hands are guilty. That’s where we are,” Kasich concluded.

Across the aisle, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sanders called on Republicans to consider Garland. 

“He has chosen a nominee with considerable experience on the bench and in public service, a brilliant legal mind, and a long history of bipartisan support and admiration,” Clinton said in a statement on the decision. “Now, it’s up to members of the Senate to meet their own, and perform the Constitutional duty they swore to undertake.”

“Judge Garland is a strong nominee with decades of experience on the bench,” Sanders said in a statement. “Refusing to hold hearings on the president’s nominee would be unprecedented. President Obama has done his job. It’s time for Republicans to do theirs.”

However, speaking on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show Thursday night, Sanders noted that while he will support Garland, “there are some more progressive judges out there” who could have been picked, and if elected, he would ask Obama to withdraw Garland’s name so he could pick a nominee of his own.

Sanders Releases Plan to “Create an AIDS and HIV-Free Generation”

Sanders on Monday released his plan to combat HIV and AIDS, promising to expand treatment and help lower drug prices.

“Today, one of the biggest problems in caring for the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV is the crisis of access to affordable drugs,” reads the plan’s introduction. “One of the great moral issues of our day is that people with HIV and AIDS are suffering and, in some cases, dying in America because they can’t afford to pay the outrageous prices being charged for the medicine they need to live.”

Among the ideas in Sanders’ plan is the establishment of a “a multibillion-dollar prize fund to incentivize drug development,” which would award $3 billion annually to innovations in HIV and AIDS therapy. Sanders promised that his universal health-care plan would include efforts to ensure insurance companies could not discriminate against those with HIV or AIDS, that he would expand mental health and addiction treatment services, and to stop trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would increase the price of medication.

Sanders’ plan notes that there should be “prevention and treatment beyond health care,” which would include civil rights protections for LGBTQ people and those living with HIV or AIDS, as well as ensuring that schools provide “age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education and all Americans should have access to scientifically-accurate information regarding HIV infection.”

This isn’t the first time Sanders has addressed HIV and AIDS, as the Hill reported. In May 2012, Sanders called for the elimination of HIV and AIDS drug monopolies, which he suggested keep prices for treatment so high that many are forced to go without.

“The simple fact is that the prices of patent medicines are a significant barrier to access to health for millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans and people die because of it,” Sanders said at the time, before the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security.

Sanders’ proposal came just days after rival Democratic presidential candidate Clinton faced harsh criticism for praising the late President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan for having started a “a national conversation” on HIV and AIDS. Clinton later apologized for her remarks, noting a post on Medium that her assertion had been a “mistake.”

“To be clear, the Reagans did not start a national conversation about HIV and AIDS,” Clinton wrote. “That distinction belongs to generations of brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, along with straight allies, who started not just a conversation but a movement that continues to this day.”

What Else We’re Reading

Comedian and television host Samantha Bee had the “perfect response” to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough telling Clinton she should “smile.”

A new report from the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found that Donald Trump’s health-care plan would leave 21 million Americans without health insurance “as the replacement health-care policies would only cover 5 percent of the 22 million individuals who would lose coverage upon the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The study found that Trump’s plan would cost between $270 billion and $500 billion over the next ten years.

In an exclusive for Fusion, Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy reports on NARAL’s new campaign to hold Trump accountable for “the way he and his campaign have targeted and victimized women,” and contrast the Republican presidential candidate with Clinton.

Cecily Hilleary outlines for Voice of America the many ways voting restrictions and barriers impact Native Americans, many of whom are unable to get proof of citizenship or residency, face language barriers, and have to make hours-long trips to get to a polling location.

“I feel empty inside. I feel like I don’t have a say in the political process. This is taxation without representation all over again. If we already paid our debt, we should be released without the bondage. But we’re being punished for a lifetime,” Harold Pendas told ThinkProgress about losing his right to vote due to a felony conviction. Florida, which had a critical primary battle on Tuesday, blocked more than 1.5 million state residents from voting this week due to the state’s felon disenfranchisement laws.

International Business Times’ Ned Resnikoff explains how a Republican brokered convention could allow mega-donors a “second chance” to push through their favorite candidate to the nomination.