News Contraception

Advocates Seek Pregnancy Prevention Program Funds Nixed by Colorado GOP

Jason Salzman

Funded privately over the past five years, the initiative provided more than 30,000 people with long-acting reversible contraception and lowered the teen pregnancy rate in Colorado by 40 percent.

With Colorado’s embattled pregnancy-prevention program about to run out of money, women’s health advocates last week staged a bake sale to raise money for the initiative, offering cupcakes decorated with candies shaped like birth control pills.

But the $100 raised at the bake sale didn’t make a dent in the $5 million needed to run the program over the next year.

After being voted down in April by the Republican-controlled state senate, Colorado’s successful pregnancy-prevention program, which relied on intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other forms of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), ran out of funds July 1, despite efforts by state officials to find private funding that might sustain the program.

Funded privately over the past five years, the initiative provided more than 30,000 people with LARCs for little or no cost. It also lowered the teen pregnancy rate in Colorado by 40 percent and the teen abortion rate by 35 percent.

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Over five years, while the Colorado Family Planning Initiative was run with private funds, Colorado avoided more than $80 million in Medicaid costs, according to state estimates.

“It is disgraceful that Republican Colorado senators this session voted to leave low-income teenagers and young women without access to contraception that will help them achieve their goals and stay financially independent,” said Cathy Alderman, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado. “Funding for the program expired today—leaving a huge gap for hundreds of thousands of young women in Colorado.”

Colorado will now cut back on “training for health care providers, operational assistance for family planning clinics and financial assistance for IUDs and implants,” according to a Colorado Department of Health and environment news release.

“Long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs) are the most effective reversible methods of contraception,” said Cristina Aguilar, executive director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). “Unfortunately, due to cost these methods are out of reach for many low-income women. Every person should be able to work with their health professionals to discuss the best option for their health and the unique circumstances of their life. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative works. As a result, less people in Colorado face the difficult situation of an unintended pregnancy.”

Colorado health officials are continuing to seek private funds for the LARC program.

“We are working closely with our partners who believe in this initiative to find the funding necessary to continue providing contraceptive choices to young women across Colorado,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), in a news release. “Making sure Colorado women have access to safe and effective contraception is an investment in their futures and ours.”

Republicans in the Colorado legislature made various arguments against the program, including the incorrect charge that IUDs cause abortions, the equally incorrect view that Obamacare covers the contraception and support offered by the program, and the debunked belief that contraception leads to more sex among teens.

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