Pregnancy-Prevention Program Reduces Teen Abortions by 50 Percent--And It's Still Controversial

Last week, the Colorado Department of Health and Ennvironment (CDPHE) blasted a news release to reporters crediting a pregnancy-prevention program for reducing teen abortion and pregnancy rates by 50 percent in Colorado, an increase of over 10 points from a year ago.

The program provides free or reduced-cost intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) to teenagers and low-income women.

But  as I reported for RH Reality Check, Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt says the program, called the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, is "killing children" and health officials are "science deniers."

"Although CDPHE's science-deniers try to spin this increase in early-term abortions as a decline in late-term surgical abortions, they are killing children nonetheless, just sooner, and with your money," Klingenschmitt said in an email, echoing the belief of other Colorado Republicans.

"Setting aside the injustice of making all Colorado taxpayers fund these so-called 'free' contraceptives for teens with or without their parents' authorization, the LARC program is clearly a taxpayer-funded abortifacient, which violates our state Constitution's prohibition on direct or indirect taxpayer funding of abortions," wrote Klingenschmitt, pointing to a footnote in an Obama Administration legal brief stating that LARC implants may prevent fertilized eggs from attaching to the uterine wall. "These unethical methods increase abortions substantially, by preventing conceived and living embryo babies (with unique human DNA) from implanting in their mother's uterus, often without telling the mother she is doing so."

Reflecting mainstream scientific thinking on the subject, Larry Wolk, Colorado's chief medical officer, has pointed out that it's "not medically correct" to say that LARC implants cause abortions.

Under the widely accepted scientific definition, pregnancy occurs after a zygote (fertilized egg) implants in the uterine wall, and because these methods of contraception work prior to implantation, they do not cause abortions....

"This initiative continues to prove its effectiveness," Wolk said in a news release with the latest statistics about the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, referring to data showing a double-digit decrease in the teen pregnancy and abortion rate over last year's composite data. "Thousands of low-income Colorado women now are able to pursue their dreams of higher education and a good career and choose when and whether to start a family."

Colorado Republican lawmakers, during the 2015 legislative session, blocked funding for CDPHE's Family Planning Initiative, which was grant-funded from 2009 to June of this year. Wolk subsequently procured more private funding to run a scaled-back program for another year.