News Contraception

Lawmaker Opposes Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Because IUDs Stop a ‘Small Child From Implanting’

Jason Salzman

Citing inaccurate science, a leading Colorado lawmaker is signaling he'll oppose providing funds for a state program that, during a five-year privately-supported test phase, reduced teen pregnancies by 40 percent.

A state program in Colorado that’s reduced teen pregnancies by 40 percent over five years and teen abortions by 35 percent is facing opposition from a Republican state lawmaker who is wrongly concerned that intrauterine devices (IUDs), distributed for low or no cost as part of the program, cause abortions.

Private funding for the state-run Colorado Family Planning Initiative ends this year, and state Rep. KC Becker (D-Boulder) is working on a bill providing $5 million to keep the program going.

Becker’s bill is opposed by state Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud), who told the Ft. Collins Coloradoan that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s arguments for the bill amounted to “poor science,” citing his belief that IUDs work by “stopping a small child from implanting.”

Lundberg was referring to his unfounded concern, reported by the Associated Press in November, that IUDs are abortifacients.

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“I have no moral problem with contraceptives. The problem is when you kill the child,” Lundberg told the AP.

In multiple interviews, Colorado’s chief medical officer, Dr. Larry Wolk, said Lundberg is “not medically correct,” noting that IUDs work by preventing pregnancy from occurring.

Still, Lundberg told the Coloradoan, “I don’t buy the argument that they’re trying to prevent teenage pregnancy when they’re pushing this.”

“Protecting life is a very big issue,” the Coloradoan also quoted Lundberg as saying. “In my mind, that’s what government is all about, and to protect the life of the most vulnerable and most innocent seems to be the most important.”

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

The initiative saved $23 million in Medicaid costs since it started five years ago, and continuing the family planning initiative will save $40 million in Medicaid funds, the Department of Public Health and Environment has estimated.

Republicans hold a one-seat majority in Colorado’s senate, but observers say the teen pregnancy program funds may still clear the chamber, even without the support of Lundberg, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee. Becker, the state house sponsor, has said her bill has a Republican co-sponsor, who has yet to be named.

Becker told the Coloradoan that she is currently trying to dispel the myth that IUDs cause abortions.

But high-ranking Republicans in Colorado, including 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, who lost to pro-choice Gov. John Hickenlooper in November, think otherwise.

In one widely publicized debate with Hickenlooper, who’s a strong supporter of the teen pregnancy initiative, Beauprez announced that he has a “big problem” with IUDs because an “IUD is an abortifacient.”

Scientists once thought that some forms of birth control, including IUDs, worked, in some cases, by stopping implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine wall. But scientists now say they work by preventing fertilization, with the caveat that science cannot “definitively rule out that a method may inhibit implantation.”

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