Remember that pilot project in Colorado that provided free IUDs and long-term hormonal birth control to teenage girls and resulted in big decreases in both teen pregnancies and abortion? The private funding has run out and they want to get public funding to expand the program to all teen girls in that state, but as usual the opposition is coming from those who are most stridently (at least publicly) against the very thing the program reduces.
Six years ago Children’s Hospital Colorado, outside Denver, and dozens of clinics around the state began focusing on long-acting forms of contraception, such as IUDs and hormonal implants.
Research shows they’re much more reliable at preventing pregnancy than the pill or condoms. Liz Romer, who runs the clinic at Children’s, where teenagers and young women can get free and confidential birth control, said that’s in part because they’re less subject to human error.
“It gives them something that is a very effective method that doesn’t require a daily decision not to get pregnant and gives them the freedom then to think about other things,” she said…
Colorado’s experiment was funded with a $23 million grant from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named for the late wife of billionaire Warren Buffett. And the results are striking: By 2013, teen births in Colorado had dropped 40 percent — compared with a 30 percent decline nationwide. The steep drop continued last year. Abortions among teenagers in Colorado were also down. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said the savings in Medicaid and government assistance far outweigh the up-front costs.
“What greater gift can you give to a teenaged potential mother than the opportunity to plan her family so when she has children, it’s when they’re wanted, when she can afford to care for them … and to do it in such a cost-effective way in terms of government spending? It dramatically reduces government spending,” he said.
When seed money from the Buffett foundation ran out this summer, Hickenlooper asked for state funding to continue the program. But Republican state lawmakers like Rep. Kathleen Conti said no. Conti complains that the long-acting birth control is too expensive and sends the wrong message to teenagers who should instead be taught to refrain from sex.
“Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the doctors encouraged the kids: ‘Now that you’ve got this, feel free to have sex with everybody.’ But I think it, by default, takes away one more intimidating problem.”
Conti also worries about an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, though there’s been no evidence of that in Colorado. Other critics complain that the program doesn’t require enough parental involvement.
More evidence for the argument I’ve been making for years, that the anti-abortion movement really isn’t about reducing the number of abortions at all. If they wanted to do that, they’d be in favor of the widest possible distribution of birth control methods at no charge. But they aren’t. Because what they really want is to control people’s sexual choices, especially women.