Colorado’s Top Doctor Seeks Funds for Pregnancy-Prevention Program Rejected by GOP

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News Contraception

Colorado’s Top Doctor Seeks Funds for Pregnancy-Prevention Program Rejected by GOP

Jason Salzman

After the Colorado legislature rejected funds for a program that reduced teen pregnancies in Colorado by 40 percent over five years, the state's chief medical officer said he'll seek money for the program from private foundations.

Days after Republicans in Colorado’s senate voted down funds for a successful teen-pregnancy prevention program, Colorado’s chief medical officer has vowed to find donors to continue the program, according to a report in Health News Colorado.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told the online news outlet. “We are going to go out and see if we can raise the money through private foundations. We already have some preliminary interest. We’re going to pull together a group of interested supporters in the next month and see what we can do.”

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, credited with reducing teen pregnancies by about 40 percent and teen abortions by 35 percent, was funded during a five-year test phase through a $25 million grant from the Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation.

With the private funds scheduled to run out in June, state health officials hoped the Colorado legislature would pick up the tab, based on the program’s successful track record.

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But while the pilot project’s success did not impress state GOP lawmakers, it has caught the eye of foundations in Colorado and nationally, Wolk told Colorado Health News, in part because Colorado is the only state in which more than 20 percent of young women attending Title X clinics used long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), like intrauterine devices.

LARC devices are widely regarded as the most effective birth-control option for young women who may forget to take pills or encounter problems with other forms of contraception.

More than 30,000 free or reduced-cost LARC devices were distributed to women in clinics serving 95 percent of the state’s population under the Colorado Family Planning Initiative.

A Republican lawmaker from rural Colorado and a Boulder Democrat teamed up to co-sponsor a Colorado house bill funding the program.

The bill passed but was blocked by senate Republicans, some of whom falsely argued that IUDs work by “stopping a small child from implanting.”

Others stated that the Affordable Health Care Act covers the contraception offered by the Colorado programeven though this is not the case. Some also worried that more contraception could lead to more sex, despite evidence to the contrary. Anti-choice GOP lawmakers also made the familiar argument that the government shouldn’t fund birth control at all.

Proponents of the program repeatedly cited state figures that for every dollar invested in the LARC program, $5.85 will be saved in Medicaid costs.

Wolk said Colorado’s success in reducing teen pregnancy could easily be reversed if funding for the LARC devices, and for an associated training program, is permanently lost in the wake of Republican rejection of the successful initiative.