A bill attempting to reduce teen pregnancies and provide state funding for intrauterine devices has passed its first test at the capitol. House Bill 1194 would provide $5 million for clinics across the state that offer long-term reversible contraceptives to low-income women and teenagers. Colorado has been running the program with a private grant, which will run out at the end of June 2015.
"Our teen birth rate has dropped 40 percent over the last four years and 34 percent drop in abortions," said Larry Wolk, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.
The family planning clinics provide the contraceptives at no cost to women ranging from the ages of 15-to-24. Supporters of the measure say it will reduce Medicare costs, improve high school graduation rates and reduce the number of children living in poverty.
"Only a third of teen mothers complete high school," said Representative Don Coram (R-Montrose), one of the main sponsors of the bill. "80 percent of teen mothers are on welfare. It's a great cost to our society, it's a sentence to poverty."
While the measure has bipartisan support, opponents feel the program encourages promiscuity and is not the best way to address teen pregnancy.
"Let's educate on abstinence, as far as I know it's a 100 percent effective," said Marie Goram, one of the citizens who testified against the bill. "This bill degrades women and says they can have a free ticket to sleep around because they won't get pregnant."
Other opponents said multiple sexual partners would lead to higher rates of suicide, drug use and prostitution.
The measure passed the House Public Health Care and Human Services with Democratic support and one Republican backing the proposal. The bill has enough support to clear the House but it's not clear if it could pass the Republican Party controlled Senate, although Coram said he thinks it falls in line with GOP principals.
"I'm not in favor of abortion" said Coram. "We can prevent abortions from ever happening. We save a lot of money and we prevent abortions, it's kind of a win for me."
Read House Bill 15-1194 [.pdf]