Last Thursday, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced that the Colorado teen birth rate has plummeted by 40 percent after the state began offering free contraceptives to low-income women.
Since 2009, Colorado has covered the cost for more than 30,000 IUDs for low-income women in the state. IUDs, as Supreme Court Justice/Supreme Defender of Women Ruth Bader Ginsburg has pointed out, can cost $1,000 for women without insurance, “nearly a month's full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.”
As a result, Colorado has witnessed a significant decline in the number of teens giving birth and an accompanying drop in WIC and healthcare costs.
Meanwhile, Texas' teen birth rate and repeat teen birth rate remain higher than the national average. The Texas Legislature needs to follow Colorado's lead and make birth control more accessible for all women.
Three reasons why Texas needs free birth control after the jump.Here's why:
Texas requires teenagers who are 17 or younger to have parental consent before obtaining a prescription for birth control. Teens who don't want to tell their parents that they are sexually active—because it could require an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous conversation— or whose parents would not provide consent have significantly fewer options for finding safe, affordable forms of contraception.
Additionally, even if teens do acquire parental consent, birth control is expensive, especially for people without insurance. Although some programs, like the Women's Health Program, provide funding for contraception, attacks on Planned Parenthood have shuttered more than 60 clinics in the past few years. Since the 2011 legislative session, an estimated 250,000 Texans have lost women's health services.
Removing these unnecessary roadblocks to basic healthcare services would make contraception more accessible to Texas teens. When Colorado began offering free IUDs, the state moved from the 29th to the 19th spot for states with the lowest teen birth rates. Texas sits at the 45th spot, and our state's teens deserve better.
According to the New York Times, teen births “cost Texas taxpayers $1.1 billion in health care, foster care and lost tax revenue” in 2010 alone.
Colorado's Family Planning Initiative has saved the state more than $42 million in reduced healthcare costs. Additionally, WIC enrollment fell by 23 percent between 2008 and 2013.
“This initiative has saved Colorado millions of dollars,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “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.”
More accessible birth control means more choices for women seeking to avoid unintended pregnancy. For teens in particular, pregnancy can be costly: Infants born to teenagers are more likely to have low birth weights and health issues. Cutting Texas' teen birth rate in half could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money. Free birth control pays for itself.
Providing access to birth control would be one of the most “pro-life” policies that Texas legislators pass.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, contraceptive services provided by clinics receiving Title X family planning funds helped Texas women avoid 62,900 unintended pregnancies in 2010 alone. In one year, family planning funds prevented 21,500 abortions in Texas.
Unfortunately, Title X funding is not enough to cover contraceptive access for all low-income Texas women. But if Texas lawmakers made a dedicated effort to expand women's health services and birth control access to women, we would witness an unprecedented drop in abortions across the state.
Natalie tweets from @nsanluis.