Colorado Senators Kill National Award Winning Family Planning Program

Anyone who knows me is well aware that one of the easiest ways to make me angry is to politicize women’s health care. And the Colorado Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee has done just that.

In 2009, a private foundation provided initial funding for the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, a program designed to decrease unintended pregnancies, lower the number of abortions, and save the state millions of dollars by providing low-income women and teens with low or no-cost long-acting reversible contraceptive methods (LARC).

The program achieved results unlike any other program implemented nationwide: “The Colorado Family Planning Initiative increased access to LARC methods among young low-income women, and this improved access was immediately followed by a substantial reduction in the birthrate among this population” (“Game Change in Colorado”). In addition, millions of dollars in public funding have been saved: “While the family planning initiative has helped thousands of young women avoid unintended pregnancy, it also has helped reduce social and economic costs to Colorado. The teen abortion rate dropped 35 percent from 2009 – 2012 in those counties served by the initiative. The infant caseload for Colorado WIC, a program that provides nutrition education and support to low-income women and their babies, fell 23 percent from 2008 – 2013. And Colorado saved millions in health care expenditures associated with teen births, $42.5 million in public funds in 2010 alone” (“Colorado teen birth rate plummets”).

With the initial funding for the program set to expire this year, legislation was proposed to sustain and expand upon the existing program. It passed through the House with bipartisan support. According to conservative Republican Don Coram, “If you’re anti-abortion and also a fiscal conservative, I think this is a win-win situation for you” (“Colorado Contraception Program”). Yet the bill never made it out of the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. Just what it was doing in that committee to begin isn’t quite clear to me. Even more ironic is the fact that this committee killed the bill one day after the program received a prestigious award in Washington, DC from the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association as the premier public-health access program in the country. What is even worse is that the Senate Committee Chair, Ray Scott, congratulated Dr. Larry Wolk, Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, for receiving the award immediately before he voted against the bill to sustain and expand the program.

The bill was killed in committee along party lines, with three Republicans voting against it. Their reasoning? Well, committee members argued that funding for general family planning is already in place, so additional funding for a specific program isn’t needed. Yet long-term birth control, which has a high up front cost of $500 – $1000, is not covered by general family planning. Another concern voiced by the committee and others was the fear that IUDs cause abortions: “’Coloradans oppose the imposition of these kinds of mandates on us as individuals. There are religious reasons,’ said Michael Norton, an attorney representing Colorado Family Action, who once served as the U.S. attorney for Colorado. ‘These contraceptives are abortifacients, that is they cause the demise of an implanted or fertilized human embryo’” (“Contraceptive funding dies in Senate”). This misinformation, leading to the defeat of this legislation, will actually significantly increase the number of abortions performed in Colorado.

And here is the bigger picture: “Women’s ability to avoid unplanned pregnancy through the widespread use of the most effective methods can provide a level of well-being unimagined even a decade ago, as young women may be able to continue and complete their education and enter the labor force without having to care for young children at the same time” (“Game Change in Colorado”). When women can control their own reproductive health, they have more and better options.

So what can be done to right this wrong? Well, it’s too late to get a bill considered in this legislative session, as the session has adjourned and legislators have begun their vacation. However, if you disagree with the defeat of this bill, you can certainly contact the three Senate committee members who defeated it to let them know how you feel—Ray Scott, Jerry Sonnenberg, and Owen Hill:

ray.scott.senate@state.co.us

senatorsonnenberg@gmail.com

owen.hill.senate@state.co.us

In addition, you can contact Governor Hickenlooper and encourage him to find funding elsewhere so that this meaningful and incredibly successful family planning program can continue:

BY PHONE

Constituent Help Line: (303) 866-2885

Governor’s Front Office: (303) 866-2471

BY MAIL

Office of the Governor

136 State Capitol Bldg

Denver, CO 80203

I am contacting all of them, and I will tirelessly advocate for other sources of program funding. Women’s health and wellbeing should not be compromised by politics. We deserve much better than that.

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