Mecklenburg health director says Colorado contraception program could help in Charlotte

Mecklenburg County’s health director said Tuesday that a pilot program in Colorado that offered long-term contraception to teenagers and low-income women could provide benefits if started locally.

Marcus Plescia, the heath director, told county commissioners that the Colorado program produced results usually not seen in health pilot programs.

The teen birthrate in Colorado dropped by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013. The rate of abortions declined by more than 40 percent, according to news reports from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The women in Colorado were offered free intrauterine devices and implants in the controversial Colorado Family Planning Initiative.

“We feel like we need to do more here,” Plescia said.

Commissioners did not discuss Plescia’s idea in detail.

Commissioner Ella Scarborough said she wanted educational efforts about pregnancy to also focus on men.

“I am so tired of us always talking about women and pregnancy,” she said. “When will we include men? What are we going to do about helping men understand responsibility is on them too?”

Plescia said he agreed, and that any educational campaign should be aimed at men and women.

Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour said he is worried that free, long-term contraception could be a step toward sterilization.

“It’s not a stretch of imagination that the county would offer this as an option, then a board down the road would say you need to do this thing (sterilization),” he said. “It’s the next logical progression in authoritarian planning.”

Plescia said he thought the program would increase people’s choices.

“We don’t think they are for everyone,” he said. “For people (for) whom it makes sense, we want them to have an option.”

Plescia’s presentation also discussed challenges, such as violence, smoking and HIV.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs