Teen Pregnancy Prevention Expansion Stumbles In Committee

Originally published on March 11, 2015 7:40 am

A bill to expand a teen pregnancy prevention program for low-income youth failed in the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday on a party line 3-2 vote. Republicans defeated the measure, one that was sponsored by one of their own.

"I guess this is my big thing is let's take an inventory of what we're doing before we throw another layer on there," said Senate Finance Committee chair Tim Neville (R-Littleton).

Neville wants Colorado to take a deeper dive on all of the teen pregnancy prevention initiatives. For instance, in 2013 Democrats passed a law to update sex education classes in the schools.

"How is it working, how are we doing? Is there something we should look at doing instead?" said Neville.

Meanwhile, the Senate sponsor of House Bill 1079 [.pdf], Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) noted it would have saved Colorado a lot of money. According to a non-partisan financial analysis, it would have come to $602,160 by the second year.

"You can see the fiscal benefits for keeping Medicaid teens from getting pregnant and dropping out of high school," Roberts said. "The fiscal impact not only to the state, but also to the effected teenager in terms of her economic potential throughout life."

The program is currently operating in Delta, Mesa and Montrose counties. Teens on Medicaid, both male and female are eligible and it's mostly federally funded.

The bill would have provided state money to entice counties across Colorado to participate.

"Program materials and instructions are age appropriate, value neutral, culturally sensitive, science based and medically accurate," said Margery Grandbouche with Hilltop Community Resources, which operates the Get Real Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. "The primary focus of our program is that the only sex that is safe is no sex at all. Safer sex is using positive decision making and contraception."

But one opponent thought it was duplicative.

"It doesn't address the core issue of non-marital child bearing. We need to develop families and form healthy families before we have a child," said Joneen MacKenzie a nurse who works for the nonprofit Center for Relationship Education. "It's very contraceptive based."

Another bipartisan proposal to provide state funding for long acting contraceptives such as IUDs for low-income women at risk of pregnancy is still making its way through the statehouse. That bill is also expected to fail in the Senate.

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