Colorado is Fighting to Keep Its Hella Successful Birth Control Program

Obamacare's promise of free contraception gets tested.


By any measure, Colorado’s free-intrauterine-devices-for-teens program has been a massive success. Teen pregnancy rates? Plummeting 40 percent from 2009 to 2013. Abortions? Down by 42 percent. Fiscal responsibility? An estimated $5.85 saved in the state’s Medicaid program for every dollar put into the IUDs during a three-year period. But it turns out even one of the most triumphant public health programs can have an uncertain future when lawmakers fear the emancipated uterus.

The New York Times reports that the private grant from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation (Buffett-comma-dollar-sign-Warren) is drying up and in May Republican legislators quashed a proposal to keep it going with $5 million in state money. Vox reported that several of those lawmakers argued that IUDs caused abortions, which, no, no they absolutely don’t. That leaves the program’s future intertwined with the Affordable Care Act.

Colorado’s women will have to deal with this according to the capricious whims of their health care providers. Only new plans are required to provide free contraception, so if you have a health care package that pre-dates the Affordable Care Act you might not qualify for free contraception. Then there’s the question of whether teenagers will go to clinics to get the IUD confidentially, to bypass their parents’ insurance.

This is pretty shitty for women who can afford birth control, but even worse for the women least-equipped to have a baby in the first place. For instance, Residents of Walsenburg, Colorado, which has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the state, has been a site where advocates have been helping women get the Buffet-backed IUDs. The hope is give them a chance at a life out of poverty, without a child, if that’s what they choose.

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