Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Colorado offered free birth control — and teen births fell by 40 percent

Juno, played by Ellen Page, looks at a pregnancy test in the 2007 film Juno. Cinema Squid

A program that provides contraceptives to low-income women contributed to a 40-percent drop in Colorado's teen birth rate over five years, according to state officials.

The program, known as the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, provides intrauterine devices (IUDs) or implants at little to no cost for low-income women at 68 family planning clinics in Colorado.

The teen abortion rate dropped by 35 percent from 2009 to 2012 in counties served by the program, according to the state's estimates.

Young women served by the family planning clinics also accounted for about three-fourths of the overall decline in Colorado's teen birth rate during the same time period. And the infant caseload for Colorado WIC, a nutrition program for low-income women and their babies, fell by 23 percent from 2008 to 2013.

"This initiative has saved Colorado millions of dollars," Governor John Hickenlooper said in a statement. "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."

The program is not without controversy. Since teens don't need to be accompanied by an adult to obtain contraceptives at the facilities, critics say the initiative undermines parental rights. Some critics reject the states' numbers altogether.

Colorado's experience is part of a nationwide decline in the teen birth rate. Part of the nationwide decline can be attributed to teenage boys having less sex, but it also correlates with an increase in long-lasting, reversible contraceptive use among teens.

Still, Colorado's teen birth rate seems to be declining much more quickly than its peers. Between 2008 and 2012, the state went from the 29th lowest teen birth rate in the nation to the 19th lowest.

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