Former Gov. Hickenlooper unveils plan to expand access to women's contraception

Gov. Hickenlooper first introduced the plan in Colorado in 2009.

May 29, 2019, 10:51 PM

Former Colorado governor and 2020 presidential candidate John Hickenlooper unveiled a new plan to "protect the reproductive rights" of women by proposing a federal expansion of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC).

Hickenlooper's new plan pledges to increase Title X funding by $700 million to provide federally-funded LARC, such as Intrauterine Devices (IUDs). While the program will be available to all women in the U.S., the proposal is tailored to meet the reproductive health care and family planning needs of rural and low-income women without insurance, requiring a one-time doctor’s visit to receive the long-acting birth control.

"Women with two or three jobs, or otherwise unpredictable schedules that make a daily pill difficult benefit the most from LARC but often have the least access," said Lauren Hitt, communications director for Hickenlooper’s campaign. "This plan would provide all women access to qualified medical professionals and accurate information about the contraceptive open."

Hickenlooper’s proposal is an expansion of Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative, a state program enacted in 2009 to provide funding to public health clinics to supply free, or low-cost contraceptive implants to women starting at age 15.

The proposal comes as conservative states like Alabama, Georgia and Missouri passed highly-restrictive anti-abortion laws, banning terminations as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, a stage when many women may not even know they are pregnant.

"I think that it’s a fundamental inalienable right that women should have control over their own bodies," Hickenlooper told MSNBC while announcing his plan. "What’s going on in Indiana and even Missouri now, I mean so many states, is horrific."

Hickenlooper’s federal LARC plan is part of the former governor’s resolution to halt the influx of states issuing abortion bans, according to Hitt.

"He would also support legislation as president to permanently enshrine Roe v. Wade into Federal law," Hitt told ABC News.

The LARC proposal seeks to do the following: federally subsidize the cost of LARC; repeal the Trump Administration’s Title X funding restrictions, which prohibits health clinics like Planned Parenthood and others from receiving federal funding if they offer, or refer abortions; allocate additional funding to provide LARC training to doctors and health care providers, as well as provide operational support to health care clinics and fund a public education campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of LARC.

"There's a great deal of misinformation about long-acting reversible contraception, which is part of the reason the governor funded this effort in the first place," Hitt told ABC News.

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, which was kick-started by a $28 million grant from billionaire Warren Buffett’s family, allowed Colorado to distribute IUDs to 75 public health clinics throughout the state, providing training to medical staff and distributing 43,713 contraceptive implants to women, according to a 2017 report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Researchers found that between 2008 and 2015, the program reduced births by 20% for adolescents between ages 15 to 17 and 18 to 19, who lived within seven miles of Title X clinics receiving LARC benefits, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

In 2017, Colorado state officials reported that over an eight year period, the program resulted in reduced state teen pregnancies by 54% and state teen abortion rates by 64%, subsequently saving over $70 million in averted public assistance costs.

"In light of the systemic attack on women’s reproductive rights in states across the country, a federal program which expands access to affordable effective contraception is even more necessary than when Colorado’s LARC program began 10 years ago. As president, Governor Hickenlooper would subsidize the cost of LARCs for women who cannot afford it – and dramatically expand access to LARC for all American women," according to Hickenlooper’s plan released to ABC News.