DENVER – Lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a measure sponsored by Rep. Don Coram that would set aside money for a popular program that provides intrauterine devices, or IUDs, to low-income young women.
The Colorado House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee backed Coram’s bill by a vote of 8-5, with Rep. Lois Landgraf, a Republican from Fountain partnering with Democrats to advance the bill.
The measure still must make its way through a budget appropriations process before it heads to the full House for debate.
Coram, a Republican from Montrose, has found himself in a fight with many in his own party who feel that IUDs induce abortion.
The legislation – co-sponsored by Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder – would provide $5 million to continue the program that health officials say lowered the teen birth rate in Colorado by 40 percent.
The program was funded by an anonymous grant. But for the Colorado Family Planning Initiative to continue, state support is needed.
“It’s sad that this is something we don’t want to address; we want to pretend that it never happens,” Coram said to the committee. “But by ignoring this problem, we’re not solving this problem.”
“It’s a sentence to poverty,” said Coram, who pointed out that by age 30, only 1.5 percent of teens who become pregnant obtain a high school degree.
Estimates indicate a statewide program would prevent 4,300 abortions and tens-of-millions of public welfare dollars per year that are spent on teen and unwanted births.
The San Juan Basin Health Department, which includes La Plata and Archuleta counties, provided 513 long-acting reversible contraceptives since 2009. Including the other eight counties that surround Durango, a total of 3,207 contraceptives have been provided.
Statewide, about 30,000 women have received the contraceptives through the program since 2009.
Some, however, believe the bill publicly would support abortion in Colorado.
IUDs – more formally known as a long-acting reversible contraceptive, – prevent pregnancy by stopping egg fertilization. But in rare cases, the egg can become fertilized even with the device. It still, however, stops the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
“It’s the wrong use of taxpayer dollars. This is not the kind of thing that Colorado taxpayers should be utilized for,” said Michael Norton, an attorney representing Colorado Family Action, a faith-based group that focuses on family issues.
“These are not only contraceptives, but abortifacients,” Norton said.
Marie Gorham, a volunteer who works at the Lighthouse Women’s Center in Denver, which offers pregnant women an alternative to abortion, said she worries that an IUD program would be tantamount to eugenics, or controlled breeding to increase desirable genetic characteristics.
Gorham suggested that Margaret Sanger, a founder of the birth-control movement, wanted to clear minorities from the population through the use of contraceptives.
“She wanted to get rid of the black race, Hispanics, the undesirables. This is eerily similar to what’s going on, because this is going to target the minorities, people who can’t afford to get their own birth control,” Gorham said.
Rep. Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton, said she fears the program would provide a stamp of approval for teens to have sex, asking, “Does that allow a lot of young women to go out there and look for love in all the wrong places?”
But Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, supported the program.
“We’re about total health,” Wolk said. “(Long-acting reversible contraceptive) is a pillar of education and well-being for our young adults here in the state.”