Health

Anti-Abortion Republican Rejects Junk Science, Embraces Public Funding Of Birth Control

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Colorado Rep. Don Coram (R) knew his fellow Republicans wouldn’t be pleased with his decision to co-sponsor a bill to expand access to affordable IUDs among low-income women. “Oh, they’re going to have a hemorrhage, to put it mildly,” Coram told the Associated Press last week, before the bipartisan initiative was filed.

He was right. The Durango Herald reports that the legislation — which would provide $5 million in state funding for a program called the Colorado Family Planning Initiative — has put Coram “at odds with members of his own party.”

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative partners with women’s health clinics throughout the state to provide long-lasting forms of contraception to women who may otherwise not be able to afford them. Although IUDs are the most effective form of reversible birth control, they can cost more than $1,000 out of pocket, a significant barrier for impoverished Americans who lack insurance coverage.

Since 2009, the program has handed out an estimated 30,000 IUDs and implants, and it’s seen serious results. Making that type of birth control more affordable in Colorado has contributed to a staggering 40 percent drop in teen births over the past five years, eliciting praise from Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

This year, the private grant money for the Colorado Family Planning Initiative will run out, which is why Coram is seeking to keep the program operating with state funding. But not all Republicans in Colorado support using public dollars to fund IUDs — a contraceptive method that has increasingly been misleadingly construed as a form of abortion.

Last year, former GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez claimed that IUDs are an “abortifacient,” and it’s an idea that persists among some lawmakers who are currently in office. Colorado Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R), for instance, believes IUDs are “devices that are used to prevent the birth of a live baby.”

“Protecting life is a very big issue,” Lundberg, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, recently told the Coloradoan. “In my mind, that’s what government is all about, and to protect the life of the most vulnerable and most innocent seems to be the most important.”

Coram does not support abortion, but that’s exactly why he thinks his colleagues should help him fund the Colorado Family Planning Initiative.

“If we can do this, make lives better for these young people, save the state of Colorado millions of dollars and prevent abortions, tell me what’s wrong with that?” Coram told the Durango Herald. “If you are against abortions and you are a fiscal conservative, you better take a long hard look at this bill because that accomplishes both of those.”

Previous studies conducted among low-income women in St. Louis have found that the national abortion rate would plummet if more women across the country could start using IUDs. In Colorado specifically, health officials estimate that the family program program reduced abortions among teenagers by about 35 percent.

Nonetheless, it’s not entirely uncommon for Republican lawmakers to resist policies that would help achieve their stated goal of preventing abortions. Across the country, GOP politicians have repeatedly opposed putting taxpayer dollars toward family planning programs; resisted efforts to expand social programs to provide support for struggling Americans who can’t afford a family; and thwarted comprehensive sexual health classes that could equip young people with the tools to avoid pregnancy.

Dr. Larry Wolk, Colorado’s chief medical officer and the director of the department that oversees the family planning program, said in a statement that he’s glad to have at least some bipartisan support for funding IUDs.

“We are so pleased to have strong Republican and Democratic support for this crucial work,” he said. “When people see the real gains we have made in supporting low-income women and families, in reducing the abortion rate, in reducing the teen pregnancy rate and in avoiding costs to programs such as Medicaid, they understand it’s a win for our entire state.”

Coram, meanwhile, is continuing to work on policies that could help lower his state’s unintended pregnancy rate. He also filed a separate measure to implement a statewide program aimed at preventing teen pregnancies and high school dropouts. Arguing in favor of that legislation last week, Coram said that Colorado needs to approach the issue with a combination of “education, counseling, and clinical support.”