Colorado GOP Works to Kill Successful Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program

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Colorado GOP Works to Kill Successful Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program

Jason Salzman

Republicans continue to oppose efforts by Democrats to pass the legislation, which would provide $5 million to replace private funding that supported the program during a five-year pilot phase. The private funds run out June 30.

If you walk around the Colorado Capitol these days, you might see state lawmakers wearing mini intrauterine devices (IUDs)—on their ears or on their lapels.

The brightly colored IUD-shaped earrings, spotlighted in a recent Denver Post article, have become symbols of hope for a bill that would fund a pregnancy protection program that has reduced teen pregnancies by 40 percent over five years and teen abortions by 35 percent.

Republicans continue to oppose efforts by Democrats to pass the legislation, which would provide $5 million to replace private funding that supported the program during a five-year pilot phase. The private funds run out June 30.

On Tuesday, an amendment attached by House Democrats to Colorado’s budget bill was defeated in a house-senate conference committee. Colorado’s senate is controlled by Republicans, while the house is under a Democratic majority. If the conference committee deadlocks on a provision, as it did this week, it fails.

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“This is a common-sense, bipartisan program that has improved the lives of thousands of Colorado women,” state Rep. KC Becker (D-Boulder) said in a statement, adding that she was “shocked” that the Republicans could be so short-sighted. “Every dollar spent on this program has saved the state six times more in social services dollars that it didn’t have to spend dealing with the social and economic consequences of teenage pregnancy.”

Republicans oppose the bill for a variety of reasons, including their mistaken belief that IUDs cause abortions and their inaccurate view that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) already provides free contraception for all; the national health-care law does not reach all the women who are part of the program—and it doesn’t fund training for the staff involved in implementing it.

Still, state Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) told the Colorado Springs Gazette, “So in my way of thinking, why would the state want to fund something that’s already covered in our health situation?”

A stand-alone bill to fund the pregnancy prevention program was passed by state house committees, along party lines—though one Republican, Rep. Don Coram from the southern town of Montrose, is a co-sponsor of the house legislation.

The bill is scheduled for a vote by the entire state house April 20, and it’s expected to pass, but no action is planned in the GOP-led state senate. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office has stated that the bill is a priority.

“We will fight for this program in the house, and with our senate supporters we will do everything we can to rescue this program as it moves through the Senate,” Becker said.

The IUD jewelry remains a part of the conversation.

“It helps kind of get the conversation going, as well as alleviate fears people have when they hear the term IUD,” Larry Wolk, Colorado’s chief medical officer, told the Denver Post.

The teen pregnancy prevention program, over its five years in operation, distributed about 30,000 no- or reduced-cost IUDs or other long-acting reversible contraception in Colorado counties that account for 95 percent of the state’s population.