News Contraception

Colorado County That Nixed Planned Parenthood Grant Rejects Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program

Jason Salzman

Garfield County is eschewing a successful contraceptive program in favor of the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), which focuses on “abstinence-focused comprehensive sexual health education.”

The same Colorado county that recently nixed a $1,500 grant for Planned Parenthood is now refusing to join a statewide program that has proven to be among the nation’s most effective in reducing teen pregnancy and abortions.

Garfield County is not part of the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, which is credited in large part for decreasing the state’s teen pregnancy and abortion rate by nearly 50 percent over six years despite continual Republican opposition to the program’s funding. The initiative provides intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other implants at low or no cost, but only in participating counties.

Garfield County eschews the contraceptive program in favor of the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), which focuses on “abstinence-focused comprehensive sexual health education.”

“[Garfield] Public Health has never administered this program because it would be a duplication of service,” Garfield County Public Health Special Projects Coordinator Carrie Godes wrote in an email to Rewire. “Though no agencies in Garfield County run a state (CDPHE) Family Planning program, Mountain Family Health Center and Planned Parenthood provide family planning services.”

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“We refer clients to these other providers if they come to us seeking family planning services,” Godes wrote. She did not respond to question about who was responsible for the decision to not be part of the state Family Planning Initiative.

Only Title X clinics can participate in the Family Planning Initiative. Since that does not include the providers cited by Godes, they do not have state funding to offer long acting reversible contraception (LARC) for free or reduced cost to low-income women and teens.

While Colorado’s teen pregnancy rate decreased by half from 2009 through 2014, Garfield’s rate increased from 13.6 percent to 19.6 percent from 2010 to 2013, then dropped to 9.6 percent in 2014, according to state data.

The Post Independent points to neighboring Eagle and Montrose counties, which are part of the state family planning program, showing significant reductions in teen pregnancy and abortion rates—well below Garfield County’s.

In an editorial, the Post Independent called on Garfield County commissioners to join Colorado’s pregnancy prevention program.

“Garfield County should embrace the state’s success and work to prevent more teen pregnancy, which drops the abortion rate, saves money and keeps teens from making their lives and their ill-conceived children’s lives immensely more difficult,” stated the editorial. “That’s pro-life, that’s fiscally sound, that’s level-headed leadership — unlike the symbolic political step of blocking a tiny grant and exacerbating division.”

Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, a Republican who led the local Planned Parenthood defunding effort, did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment. But he’s stated that family planning services are available in the area.

“It’s not that those services aren’t available,” Jankovsky told the Post Independent.

But as many scholars and health organizations have pointed out, community health clinics won’t be able to accommodate all patients in need if Planned Parenthood centers close their doors.

Organizers who launched an online fundraising campaign to replace the $1,500 grant withdrawn by Jankovsky and his fellow GOP county commissioners presented Planned Parenthood with a $25,000 check on Tuesday.

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