Woods and Neville fail to stop teen-pregnancy-prevention program

On a voice vote late yesterday, the Colorado Senate rejected an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) and Laura Woods (R-Westminster) that would have deleted funding for a state-run program credited with decreasing the teen pregnancies and abortions by over 35 percent.

It was a watershed moment for backers of the program, whose efforts to procure state funding were killed last year by Senate Republicans–as chronicled by national news outlets and lowly blogs alike.

But the watershed moment was nearly eclipsed by the water cooler discussion of why in the world Woods would go out of her way to oppose an astonishingly successful teen pregnancy prevention program, given the spectacular bipartisan allure of lowering teen pregnancies and abortions?

Woods doesn’t return my calls, so someone else will have to ask her, but the stakes are about as high as they can get, as control of state government likely depends on who wins Woods’ swing senate district in November.

Politics aside, Woods has been consistent in standing up for her anti-choice and Tea-Party positions, from the day she started running for the legislature until now–as opposed to other state Republicans who’ve essentially re-invented themselves (Sen. Cory Gardner, Rep. Mike Coffman) when faced with tough election campaigns in moderate districts.

Woods didn’t speak at last night’s senate hearing, leaving her co-sponsor Sen. Tim Neville to explain their hostility toward reducing abortions and pregnancies among teenagers.

Neville started out by saying he was concerned about the “widespread and temporary use of sterilization products on women and girls in Colorado.” Arguably, you can describe the program that way, if you must. Under Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative, which has been privately funded, low-income women and girls receive free or reduced-cost long acting reversible contraception (LARC), such as intrauterine devices (IUDs).

Neville, who’s the leading GOP contender to defeat Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, went on to say (Listen here at 535:35).

Neville: These IUDs and other issues do nothing to prevent the spread of STDs [sexually transmitted diseases]. There is nothing to suggest that the psychological and medical risks and costs associated with the increased sexual activity will be managed or addressed by these funds or this legislation.

The use of IUDs has never been shown to encourage more sex, as you might suspect. So the psychological risk-benefit analysis should focus on the mental-health impact of being a teen parent or having an abortion versus avoiding an unwanted pregnancy.

Neville, who was bothered by lack of parental notification in administering the contraception under the program, argued that the LARC program isn’t necessary because “birth control is already provided, free, to anyone who needs it who qualifies” under the Affordable care act.

But it’s specifically the use of implants and long-acting contraception that makes the program successful, and some forms of LARC birth control, along with the training needed to provide them, are not covered currently by Obamacare.

Neville’s closing comment was also incorrect and probably the most frustrating to LARC backers. He alleged:

Neville:  “Colleagues, this is a program that, if it went through a vote through the Senate and went through its natural process, would not have made it.”

In fact, just last week the state house defeated an amendment, almost exactly like the one offered by Neville and Woods, with the support of all Democrats and three Republicans. And it’s nearly a certainty that one Republican or more would have joined Democrats in the state senate to pass a stand-alone LARC bill last year and this year. That’s probably one reason Republicans allowed funding in the budget in the first place–to take it off the table.

Neville did not make the anti-LARC argument, among the most popular last year, that IUDs cause abortions, but Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt of Colorado Springs raised it last week,  as quoted in the Colorado Springs Gazette.:

Klingenschmitt: “I would be fine with family planning. I would be fine with some kinds of birth control, but when the taxpayers are funding post-conception abortion pills, that crosses the line.”

Klingenschmitt’s and other GOP objections will be irrelevant once the budget bill clears the state senate today and is signed by Hick.

Then all eyes (or at least the eyes of the political world) will turn to Woods, Neville and other Republicans to see how this issue plays out on the campaign trail.

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