Colorado GOP Stops Fighting Teen Pregnancy-Prevention Program

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News Contraception

Colorado GOP Stops Fighting Teen Pregnancy-Prevention Program

Jason Salzman

"It works. It changes lives. And along the way it saves the state of Colorado a lot of money. I think that's a win, win, win for everybody," said Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose).

Colorado Republicans have largely abandoned their opposition to a pregnancy-prevention program that reduced teen pregnancies and abortions in the state by 50 percent from 2009 to 2014.

For the second straight year, Republicans in Colorado’s divided legislature joined Democrats to approve a state budget bill with $4 million for the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, which provides intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) to people with low incomes. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) on Friday signed the budget bill into law

The political waters haven’t always been so smooth for the program.

After the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) spent $25 million in pilot funding from a private foundation from 2009 through mid-2015, Republican legislators nixed CDPHE’s legislative efforts to secure public funding for the program for 2015, forcing the state to solicit private funds to keep it afloat, as chronicled in a January CDPHE report that offers a “comprehensive narrative about Colorado’s experience with long-acting reversible contraception.”

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Republicans have long criticized the state program as unnecessary, inaccurately asserting that LARCs cause abortions, even preventing a “small child from implanting,” and sexual promiscuity, among other things.

Last year, however, funding for the initiative was included for the first time in the state budget bill, and a GOP amendment to delete it failed in the Republican-controlled state senate. No such amendment was offered this year.

“The fact is, it is successful,” Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose), who co-sponsored legislation in 2015 to fund the initiative, told Rewire. “It works. It changes lives. And along the way it saves the state of Colorado a lot of money. I think that’s a win, win, win for everybody.”

Asked if he thinks most Republicans are feeling that way, Coram said, “Well, I think more and more are feeling that way. I think they were were well aware, because of my position, there wouldn’t be enough votes to strip it out. So that makes a difference.”

Anti-choice groups remain opposed to the program.

“How shocking Colorado legislators care naught about the health risks for our daughters and granddaughters,” Leslie Hanks, as spokesperson for American Right to Life, said in an email to Rewire. “They care not a whit about their physical, emotional, nor spiritual health.”

Hickenlooper spoke at NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado’s annual gala on April 29, telling the 700 people in attendance that he’d thanked businessperson Warren Buffett and his daughter for funding the LARC program through a foundation.