The simple facts behind preventing teenagers from becoming parents transcend party politics. Sadly, the simple facts about effectively reducing the teen-pregnancy rate — not so.
One of the most effective programs Colorado has ever undertaken to keep teenagers in school and out of maternity wards is at risk because of outright erroneous and in some cases dangerously jejune misconceptions.
In 2007, a private grant began a statewide program that made it much easier for poor, young women to get effective birth control and counseling, especially increasing their ability to get IUDs and dermal implants.
The result? A dramatic drop in teen-mother rates in the Colorado communities that took part in the program.
In Aurora, the teen pregnancy rate has been reduced by 20 percent since 1992. While there are numerous reasons behind the reduction, researchers are confident about data showing this program is responsible for dramatic teen-pregnancy decreases.
And in Denver? Half. The teen-pregnancy rate in Denver has been reduced by 50 percent since 1992.
The private grant that makes much of this possible is now running out. House Bill 15-1194 would allot $5 million to keep the program going.
It is indisputable that the money spent on this program is repaid to taxpayers many times over. Taxpayers realize huge savings from the cost to the public when poor teenagers have children. More important, the lives of teenagers who don’t have babies are dramatically better economically. The teenagers who stay in school, finish school and are far more apt to move into college and the workforce at levels that require much less or no government assistance. Simply by providing effective counseling and birth control such as IUDs and implants, lives are dramatically changed, improved and millions in taxpayer dollars are saved. No one disputes that.
So why are state Republicans threatening to scuttle this? A story by Colorado Public Radio quotes Littleton Republican state Rep. Kathleen Conti exemplifying the problem:
“Does that allow a lot of young ladies to go out there and look for love in all the wrong places, as the old song goes?”
There are plenty of lawmakers who believe that providing information and access to birth control only increases sexual activity, despite the fact that there isn’t one credible study that backs that up. In fact, the data clearly shows that teens armed with information, an opportunity to get guidance and birth control if they want it don’t have nearly as many babies, and they are much less likely to contract disease.
And there are many state lawmakers like state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, who wrongly believe that IUDs are some kind of controlled abortion, dubbing them “abortifacients.” He and some Republican lawmakers believe that even though no medical, government or scientific source backs the claim. Science clearly disputes it, but they insist. It’s political hooey. Basing a legislative decision on such claptrap is dangerous and mean-spirited.
This week, Senate Republicans killed a funding measure that provides effective counseling to Western Slope teenagers, focusing on abstinence, but allowing for comprehensive counseling. It’s a bad sign.
This measure is too important to die at the hands of ignorance and political malfeasance. If your state senator doesn’t understand the science behind birth control, insist they learn it before deciding the fate of this critical measure.
Follow us on Twitter @AuroraSentinel and Facebook @TheAuroraSentinel