Critical Victory for Contraceptive Access
Karla Gonzales García
Last week, the Colorado House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 9, legislation that centers the needs of people long ignored by our health care programs while continuing to build on our commitment to innovation. In recent years, we have developed working groups to improve service delivery and bring down costs. We have advanced innovative programs like the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, which ensures low-income people and young people can get effective, long acting contraception.
We are a model in so many areas and yet we have left people behind. Well no more! With the leadership of COLOR (Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights) and advocates across the state and the country, we saw the passage of Senate Bill 9, which creates a reproductive health program in our state Medicaid program to make sure undocumented people can get coverage for contraception and allow people to get a one year supply of contraception at one time.
Research indicates that the ability to plan, delay and space pregnancies is linked to improved maternal health and also to birth outcomes for babies, either directly or through healthy maternal behaviors during pregnancy. Contraceptive methods also have a range of benefits other than their primary purpose of pregnancy prevention. Contraception reduces pregnancy-related morbidity and mortality, reduces the risk of developing certain reproductive cancers, and can be used to treat many menstrual related symptoms and disorders.
Historical research has linked policies that improve contraceptive access to improved attainment of postsecondary education and employment, increased earning power and a narrowing of the gender gap in pay, and later, more enduring marriages.
While we should do more to help young parents and support their ability to thrive, contemporary studies do indicate that teen pregnancy can interfere with the ability to graduate from high school and to enroll in and graduate from college. Conversely, allowing people of all ages to plan their pregnancies helps people to achieve their education and career goals. Delaying a birth has also been shown to reduce the gap in pay that typically exists between working mothers and their childless peers and can reduce women’s chances of needing public assistance.
We will do more to ensure that every Coloradan has basic rights and that we are committed to improving the health of our communities – not just those with means or a certain piece of paper.
The fact is that we can look back at years of data or at the data collected specific to state programs, it is clear that access to contraception results in a variety of positive social and economic outcomes related to educational attainment, workforce participation, economic stability, union formation and stability, mental health and happiness, and the well-being of children. It helps people to be healthier and more empowered. It makes a difference – a positive difference.
COLOR is proud to lead this bill and thrilled to see this legislation reach the governor’s desk in the coming days. We are grateful to every person who testified, shared their stories, made a call, sent an email or took action in any way to help build support. Healthcare IS a human right and making sure that every one of us can get the care we need is good health policy, good economic policy and the right thing to do. It is the least we can do – to make sure the people we serve can get and stay healthy.
By advancing Senate Bill 9, we are saying no more. We will not turn away from undocumented people in our state. We will do more to ensure that every Coloradan has basic rights and that we are committed to improving the health of our communities – not just those with means or a certain piece of paper.
Karla Gonzales García, Policy Director of Colorado Organization Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR).
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