Trotting out the pejorative "Colobama" to describe Colorado's poor ranking on some quality of life yardstick generally evokes snickers of derision until one realizes that we really are getting the pants beat off of us on a whole host of social measures.
Suddenly, it's not so funny any more that Alabama and other states — long stereotyped for clinging to antebellum views on education, race and class — are doing a much better job of serving their citizens' needs than the state that just wasted time in the last legislative session debating the merits of "Rocky Mountain High" as the new state song.
One of the most stark contrasts in Colorado's freefall is the mother-of-all controversial subjects: reproductive health care.
The United States has one of the highest rates of unintended pregnancy in the industrialized world. Half of the six million pregnancies that occur among American women each year are unintended; of these, 1.3 million end in abortion.
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In Colorado, 92,770 of the 967,570 women of childbearing age become pregnant each year. 71% of these pregnancies result in live births, and 14% result in abortions; the remainder end in miscarriage.
Colorado has the 22nd highest teenage pregnancy rate of any state. Of the 12,130 teenage pregnancies each year in Colorado, 62% result in live births and 23% result in abortions.
Colorado is ranked 40th overall of all 50 states and the District of Columbia on access to contraception, according to the Guttmacher Institute, one of the leading non-profit social science research, education, and public policy organizations on U.S. and global reproductive health concerns.
Alabama is ranked 4th in the nation. [PDF].
This Guttmacher chart is a composite of data available before November 1, 2005. Since then, the legislature has passed a long-fought bill championed by Sen. Betty Boyd (D-Lakewood) that requires hospitals to inform sexual assault victims about emergency contraception options. Gov. Bill Ritter signed SB 60 on March 15, 2007.
During the same legislative session, a non-binding joint resolution [PDF] was passed by both chambers asserting the need for the state to "consider cost-effective public policies to reduce unintended pregnancy rates based upon comprehensive data and analysis regarding the barriers and challenges to preventing unintended pregnancies."
While the state appears to be moving in the right direction to reduce unplanned pregnancies it remains to be seen if Colorado's low ranking on contraception issues will improve.
Especially while ballot measures are floated to bestow legal personhood on fertilized eggs as an attempt — openly admitted by Coloradans for Equal Rights — to effectively ban abortion and contraception access.
Next, we'll look at Colorado's relative ranking compared to its intermountain west neighbors — New Mexico, Wyoming, and Montana. When and where does western small "l" libertarian politics play a role in reproductive health?