Colorado poised to invest in successful public health program to reduce unintended pregnancies

Program proven to reduce teen pregnancies, abortions and spending on government programs


(DENVER, April 27, 2016) – With Governor John Hickenlooper’s signature on the state budget, Colorado will increase funding for a public health program instrumental in reducing teen pregnancy and the teen abortion rates by 48 percent.

The program provides comprehensive contraceptive services, including hormonal implants and IUDs for those who may not be able to access them otherwise. Since 2008, several foundations provided an increase to the existing program to identify what gains could be made with additional funding devoted to long-acting reversible contraception – and the results were strong.    

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment requested an additional $2.5 million for its existing family planning budget in the 2016 – 2017 fiscal year. After narrowly rejecting attempts to increase funding in 2015, state lawmakers agreed to allocate additional state funding in this year’s budget. The additional request in 2015 was $5 million, but as more health insurance policies expand access to a broader array of contraceptive options, more individuals get health insurance access through Medicaid, and new and less expensive forms of long-acting contraceptives come onto the market, state officials reduced the budget needed to continue to see the gains made in the state.

“This modest investment marks the next phase in a tremendously successful program that has impacted the entire state of Colorado,” said Lisa VanRaemdonck, executive director of the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials and a co-chair of the coalition of 44 organizations supporting funding for the program. “The data is clear. When women have access to the family planning method that works best for themselves and their families, our financial investment is returned through better short and long-term outcomes for women and their families.”

Among the impressive gains the program has supported in Colorado are:

  • The birth rate for young women age 15-19 fell 48 percent from 2009 to 2014, and during the same time the birth rate for women age 20 to 24 fell 20 percent. The decline in the teen pregnancy rate over this period was one of the greatest in the country.
  • The number of teens giving birth for the second or third time dropped by 58 percent between 2009 and 2014.
  • The abortion rate among women ages 15-19 fell by 48 percent and among women ages 20-24 by 18 percent between 2009 and 2014.

Publicly funded family planning services have been available in Colorado for more than 45 years. In 2008, funding was awarded to the Department of Public Health and Environment to expand existing family planning services. This initiative included educating providers and increasing access to contraceptive counseling and to the most effective birth control methods, long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). These methods—IUDs and hormonal implants—can work for up to 12 years and are proven to be safe and effective for women, but are expensive on the front-end, creating financial barriers to access.

When given the opportunity to use any contraceptive, more women choose implants or IUDs. Use of these methods by patients in Colorado grew from 4.5 percent before the initiative began to 29.6 percent in 2014. Nationally, only 12 percent of women who use contraception use these most effective methods, often due to their cost.  The increased use of these methods in Colorado is indicative of why our state has had more success than others at reducing birth rates, abortion rates and the number of people using government assistance. To date, more than 36,000 women have received benefits through this program with clear improvements in public health.

“This investment benefits women and their children with both near term and long term impact.  And because teenagers have much higher rates of unintended pregnancies than other women, this initiative benefits two generations of Colorado kids by reducing unintended pregnancies and supporting teenagers’ ability to stay in school. Ensuring women have access to the most effective methods of birth control enables them to create the best future for themselves and support a healthy start for their children,” said Erin Miller, Vice President of Health Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign and the other co-chair of the coalition supporting funding.