We Can Support Preventing Unintended Pregnancy without Shaming Young People
By: Cristina Aguilar, Executive Director
The role of lawmakers is to work to meet the needs of people in our community. One critical area that we discuss at length is the important goal of making health care both available and affordable to every Coloradan, including reproductive health care such as contraception.
Right now, the Colorado state legislature is considering House Bill 1194, which would fund a family planning program that helps to provide long acting and reversible contraception (LARC) such as contraceptive implants or intrauterine devices (IUDs) at low or no cost to low-income Coloradans.
This program is incredibly important to women of color who already face significant disparities in accessing health care. We know that Latinas are twice as likely to experience unintended pregnancy due to poor access to family planning services and a lack of financial resources to pay for contraception out of pocket. There are also specific and significant limitations to the ability of immigrant Latinos to access health information and services.
The Colorado Family Planning Initiative has made important strides in helping women in our community to overcome these barriers.
In addition to providing access to contraception supplies, this program has supported the opening of seven new clinics and expanding the hours that existing programs are open and increasing the outreach. As we look across the state, there are a large number of Coloradans who are struggling to make ends meet, many of them working more than one job to get by.
Without adequate access to health providers in their community or with hours to accommodate their work and family responsibilities, people are left without access to family planning. The funding provided in this bill has helped to ensure not just the affordability of care, but also the availability of services.
Unfortunately, we often see programs that attempt to decrease unintended pregnancy do so by stigmatizing young people and young parents. Teen pregnancy is talked about as an epidemic with young parents positioned as a scourge on our community draining resources and causing catastrophic impacts on the bottom line of the economy. This is not only insulting, but also removed from the reality of young people who are facing unintended pregnancy. Many times the people hurt most by this limited thinking are young women of color.
The fact is that right now there is a higher likelihood of young women in the Latina community to become pregnant at an earlier age. But we do not believe that young women in our community should be treated as pariahs. Latinas are more likely to live in areas with limited access to family planning services. Young women in our community are also dealing with the same obstacles of lack of insurance and money to pay for care, as well as difficulty obtaining comprehensive sexuality education and cultural or religious pressures around relationships and sex.
When it comes down to it, the simple fact is that it is better for people of any age when they are able to plan and space their pregnancies. It improves health outcomes and helps to ensure that women are able to become parents when they have the support they need to care for themselves and their children. Creating affordable access and availability to the comprehensive sexuality education, health services and supplies to plan a pregnancy has also been shown to reduce the risk of maternal death, low birth weight, and infant mortality.
We should look at how to create forward thinking policies and programs to address barriers to contraception. That means looking at effective, youth centered, health focused policies and working to create a cultural shift to ensure that we put the health of young people before judgments or agendas and stand by young parents as they raise their families. Parents need support regardless of age.
We know that due to cost many of the most effective methods of contraception are out of reach for low-income women in Colorado. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative is an important part of meeting the health needs of Latinas of all ages and ensuring that each person has the ability to work with their health professionals to discuss the best option for their health and the unique circumstances of their life.