DENVER – The Republican-controlled state Senate on Thursday backed funding for a program that provides intrauterine birth control to low-income teens.
Some Republicans, however, remain conflicted, including Rep. J. Paul Brown of Ignacio, who backtracked last week. Brown supported the program last year but voted recently to strip funding for the program.
The $27 billion state budget passed on Thursday in the Senate includes $2.5 million for the IUD program. A similar effort failed in the Legislature last year.
The budget already passed the House, and it now heads to a conference committee to negotiate discrepancies between House and Senate versions. Because the Joint Budget Committee already included funding for the IUD program, the subject is not likely to come up again.
A handful of Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate on Thursday attempted to amend the budget to strip the $2.5 million. But four Republicans joined Democrats in defeating the effort, including Ellen Roberts of Durango.
A similar effort in the Democratic-controlled House last week attempted to remove the funding. But that effort also failed.
This is where Brown flipped, supporting the effort to strip funding.
Last year, Brown was persuaded by a fellow Republican, Rep. Don Coram of Montrose. Coram carried the legislation that would have provided $5 million to expand the Colorado Family Planning Initiative program.
Health officials say the program lowered the teen birth rate in Colorado by more than 40 percent, and Brown said at the time that he thought it would lead to fewer abortions.
After reversing course last week, he said he has “mixed emotions.”
“I still feel that it prevents abortions, but there’s a difference of opinion, and I just felt like I ought to stick with the caucus today with that amendment,” Brown said after the vote last week. “There’s a lot of money needed in a lot of different places, it’s tough making those priorities. It’s a tough decision. We have to make some tough priority decisions up here.”
IUDs act as a hormonal barrier, making it unlikely that there would be implantation of a fertilized egg. But in rare cases, the egg can become fertilized even with the device, despite it stopping the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. That issue has driven much of the opposition to the bill, with critics saying the device induces abortion.
Still, the program received national attention, receiving an award last year from the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association for the premiere public-health access program in the country.
Without state funding, the program would rely on private grants to expand, which jeopardizes its stability.
The San Juan Basin Health Department, which includes La Plata and Archuleta counties, has provided more than 500 long-acting reversible contraceptives since 2009. Including the other eight counties that surround Durango, more than 3,200 contraceptives have been provided. Statewide, more than 30,000 women have received the contraceptives.
Supporters of the bill say it actually prevents abortions, with state health officials estimating that the program would prevent about 4,300 abortions per year. They also point out that for every $1 invested in low-cost contraception, Colorado taxpayers save about $5.85 in Medicaid costs.
Barbara McLachlan, a retired Durango teacher who is attempting to unseat Brown this year as a Democrat, said she is disappointed to see Brown flip.
“The last person who talked to him (Brown) probably said don’t vote for it because our ideology says it’s not good,” McLachlan said.
“I really respected Don Coram’s stance on this because I think ideologically he doesn’t really believe in it, but he sees it’s a really good program. I don’t know why J. Paul switched. Maybe he doesn’t get it.”