5 Years Since Providing Free Birth Control, Here's What Has Happened to Colorado

The state lowered its teen pregnancy rate, dropped its number of abortions and saved millions of dollars in the process.

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative provided low-income women with IUDs and other implants at 68 clinics across the state. The program has been funded by an anonymous donor for the past five years.

The statistics: From 2009 to 2013, the teen birth rate dropped by 40% in Colorado. The teen abortion rate in counties served by the 68 clinics went down by 35% from 2009 to 2012. It all added up to a savings of $42.5 million of public funds in 2010 alone, according to the state.

"This initiative has saved Colorado millions of dollars," Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said in a press release. "But more importantly, it has helped thousands of young Colorado women continue their education, pursue their professional goals and postpone pregnancy until they are ready to start a family."


Image Credit: Vox

While some of the results can be traced to nationwide trends — the teen pregnancy rate has been dropping across the country thanks to less sexual activity and greater contraceptive use — the state said that three-fourths of the decline in birth rate can be attributed to the program.

The pushback: Despite the good results, the program is still controversial. Since teenagers can get IUDs from the clinics without parental approval, critics say parental rights are being undermined.

Others hate the concept of birth control in general. Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of public policy for the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, told the Denver Post, "Availability of contraception leads to increased sexual activity, which leads to unintended pregnancies and abortions."

Yes, you read that right. Focus on the Family's response to birth control lowering rates of teenage pregnancy and abortion is to claim that birth control leads to more teenage pregnancy and abortion.


If conservatives care about results — fewer unwanted pregnancies and fewer abortions are pretty nonpartisan goals! — then it's time to toss away their dogma against birth control. Sadly, that dogma seems to trump facts for some. For the rest of us, there's good news to be had in Colorado.

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Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

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