Will Colorado GOP Fund Successful Contraception Program at Half the Cost?

Colorado's governor is again seeking funds for a program that has reduced teen pregnancy and abortion rates by half.

Colorado's governor is again seeking funds for a program that has reduced teen pregnancy and abortion rates by half. 7 NEWS - The Denver Channel / YouTube

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is seeking funds, rejected by state Republicans last year, for a program that has decreased teen pregnancy and abortion in Colorado by 50 percent.

Hickenlooper’s $2.5 million request is half the amount sought to run the program last year, due primarily to the decreasing cost of contraceptive devices and the wider coverage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), David Brendsel, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, told Rewire.

Under the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, 36,000 long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) devices, including intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other implants, were offered at little or no cost to teenagers and low-income women.

The program offers a range of outreach, training, and funds for contraception that are not yet fully covered under the ACA.

State officials raised $2 million in private funds to maintain the program at a reduced level after Republicans blocked funding for the current fiscal year. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) for six years ran the program with funds from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation.

Colorado clinics were forced to put women on waiting lists for care, and they were charged more after the funds were denied by state GOP legislators, some of whom oppose contraception because they believe it’s akin to abortion.

“We’re looking for sustainable funding,” Brendsel said.

“We’re glad the Governor’s budget recognizes that investing in the LARC program is one of the smartest policy decisions we can make,” Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, said in an email to Rewire. “We need to continue Colorado’s pioneering effort to both reduce teen pregnancy and conserve taxpayer dollars, which we hope will be a bipartisan effort in the legislature.”

State observers say that Hickenlooper, a pro-choice Democrat, has a chance to pass the LARC program this year, despite previous failures. One Republican state senator would need to defect from the GOP caucus, which holds a one-seat majority in the chamber. That did not happen in April.

Republicans in the legislature opposed funding for this year based on a number of unproven claims, including that IUDs cause abortions, that Obamacare is able to fully cover the program, and that promiscuity results from the use of contraception.

In his $2.5 million request for Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative, the governor’s office states that funds for the program would be used to reach about 6,200 women, at an average of $404 per client. The budget request notes that Medicaid costs for a birth are upwards of $11,000.

Hickenlooper’s budget request notes that a “portion of the new funding will be used to outreach to new non-Title X providers such as federally qualified health centers, public health agencies, and community health and rural health providers to ensure that they understand the benefits of family planning are are equipped to counsel and insert contraceptive devices.”