DENVER – Women’s advocacy groups held a mock bake sale near the Colorado Capitol on Tuesday, calling on lawmakers to fully fund a birth-control program that provides intrauterine devices, or IUDs, to low-income women.
Presenting cupcakes with candied tops made to look like birth-control pills, left-leaning groups pointed out that the Legislature this year blocked $5 million to expand the Colorado Family Planning Initiative program. Health officials say it lowered the teen birth rate in Colorado by 40 percent.
Supporters say the program 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.
“We’re here today to raise awareness around the fact that this highly successful program ... was not funded at the Legislature this year,” said Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado. “Next year, we want to make sure legislators aren’t shortsighted.”
Senate Republicans led the charge against the measure, despite it having bipartisan support, including sponsorship from Rep. Don Coram of Montrose. The program was funded through an anonymous grant. For it to have expanded, general-fund support was requested.
Several Republicans, however, said without the state funding, program directors would simply find a way to come up with the money from private donations. It appears those discussions are taking place.
Mark Salley, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the department plans an announcement about funding in early July, including information on what’s next for the program. But he added that the program has yet to secure private dollars.
“The program will continue one way or the other as a result of ongoing federal, state and public-private insurance funding,” Salley said.
Runyon-Harms said the program needs the certainty of public dollars, which is why groups are calling on lawmakers to “stand with women.”
“There’s no guarantee that private funding will continue, and secondly, this program saves the state a lot of money,” she said. “It’s in their best interest to continue to fund this. They’re being penny wise and pound foolish.”