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Colorado shows N.C. a better way to stop abortions

An intrauterine device, which prevents pregnancy for several years, at a clinic in Walsenburg, Colo. A state program that provides long-acting birth control has contributed to a sharp decline in birth and abortion rates among teenagers.
An intrauterine device, which prevents pregnancy for several years, at a clinic in Walsenburg, Colo. A state program that provides long-acting birth control has contributed to a sharp decline in birth and abortion rates among teenagers. THE NEW YORK TIMES

Health care professionals have long known that the most effective way to prevent abortions isn’t to make the last steps into a clinic harder to take.

A better way: Give women more tools to prevent pregnancies. For teens, that especially includes education, and states across the country – including North Carolina – have seen significant drops in teen pregnancy in recent years thanks to more robust education programs.

But no state has had close to the success of Colorado, which has seen the number of abortions drop an astounding 42 percent in just five years, the New York Times reports. Teen pregnancy has dropped an equally stunning 40 percent. Why?

A private family planning initiative funded by the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation offers teens and low-income women a free intrauterine device or implant – often just a small rod implanted in their upper arm – that can prevent pregnancies for several years.

The resulting decline in abortions and pregnancies was most pronounced in the poorest parts of Colorado, where in 2009 half of all first births happened before women turned 21. By last year, half of first births in those same areas came after women turned 24. As economist Isabell Sawhill told the NYT: “If we want to reduce poverty, one of the simplest, fastest and cheapest things we could do would be to make sure that as few people as possible become parents before they actually want to.”

80 million dollars an IUD program has saved in Medicaid expenditures, according to Colorado officials

If you favor a different kind of bottom line, try this number: The state of Colorado estimates that it has saved more than $80 million in Medicaid expenditures because of the program. That’s a figure that should raise the eyebrows of North Carolina lawmakers.

And yet, it’s a longshot that such a program would get funding here, because N.C. conservatives have historically been squirmy about giving much money to programs that encourage contraceptives, which they believe give teens permission to have sex. That’s exactly what Republicans in Colorado argued recently when they declined to help the IUD program, which is running out of money. In April, they killed a funding bill that would have provided $5 million to the program, also claiming incorrectly that Obamacare would cover the costs.

The result: A proven success is now endangered, showing once again that the biggest obstacles to slowing legal abortions are the conservatives who want to stop them. Peter St. Onge

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