The state health department made progress last week in gaining support for a $5 million boost to its free contraceptives program targeted to low-income teenagers and young women.
A bill proposing the use of state funds for wider access to long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) and other services, House Bill 1194, is touted as the answer to preventing unplanned pregnancies by advocates.
Some dissenters of the bill said rather than an infallible way to prevent pregnancy—like abstinence—LARCs are risky and undermine the dignity of women.
Josephine “Joyce” Dennison, a physician assistant and mother who attends Light of the World Parish, said she sees the impact of inter-uterine devices on women.
“At work, I see a lot of psychological and social consequences of casual sex, while using contraception, including LARCs,” said Dennison, who works at Alternatives Pregnancy Center and Our Lady of Hope Medical Clinic in Littleton. “Women start very young having sex, they have multiple partners, or have sex with someone who has multiple partners. There’s unaccountability on both sides, trust issues, manipulation, lack of voice, and most importantly, broken hearts.”
A study by the University of Colorado at Denver in 2007 revealed teenage girls’ chances of earning a high school diploma increased—by almost 18 percent—if they waited for sex until 18 years old.
“The reasoning behind this may be when teens become sexually active, they are preoccupied with the present, investing more time and energy on the relationship versus their school work, compared to teens who abstain,” Dennison said.
Since 2008, the state health department has provided IUDs and implants at a low cost or free for women ages 15-24 through its clinics. LARC advocates credit the program with increased use of contraception—between 5 and 19 percent—and decreased the expected number of unintended pregnancies by 29 percent in 2011 for women ages 15-19.
But with increased use comes increased risk, advocates say, and the likelihood of impacting a women’s health.
The Colorado Catholic Conference, the state lobbying arm for the Church, announced it opposes the bill.
“The CCC is deeply concerned about the consequences of widespread temporary sterilization of women and girls in Colorado; these forms of contraception do nothing to prevent STDs and there is nothing to suggest that the psychological and medical risks and costs associated with increased sexual activity will be managed or addressed by this legislation,” the conference stated.
During a hearing at the Capitol Feb. 24, Dennison commented to lawmakers that some IUDs, like Mirena and Skyla, have caused medical issues.
“IUDs as a whole can migrate, perforate the uterus (and) lodge in other parts of the body, like the fallopian tubes or the bowels. IUDs can also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy, uterine perforation and pelvic inflammatory disease,” Dennison said.
Mirena warning labels announce a close to 50 percent chance of an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in the fallopian tubes) if a user becomes pregnant, which can be life threatening.
The so-called short terms costs to the state for aiding young pregnant women could become long-term costs if they experience health issues or resulting emotional, psychological or medical consequences, opponents say.
LARCs also cause a loss of respect for women.
In the encyclical Humanae Vitae (“Human Life”), Pope Paul VI said “a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”
Fertility, Dennison said, should be seen as a blessing from God not a curse.
“Each person is created in God’s image and each of us is intricately and wonderfully made,” she said. “In women, a complex interplay of natural hormones bring about fertility. Because LARCs disregards and subdues a woman’s fertility, it dishonors women.”
For more information about House Bill 1194, visit www.cocatholicconference.org.