Abortion rates across the country have dropped steadily to their lowest rates since the practice became legal nationwide in 1973, but this is especially true in Colorado where the rates dropped by 10% between 2014 and 2017, from 12.1 abortions per 1000 women to 10.9 abortions. (The national average is approximately 13.5 abortions per 1000 women, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortions in the U.S.)
What’s the best explanation for the recent abortion decline in Colorado? Health officials in the state believe it’s almost entirely due to the increased availability of birth control — and not any kind of restriction on women seeking to obtain the procedure.
The Colorado Sun reports that in 2017, Colorado became the third state in the country to make it possible for women (including teenagers) to obtain oral contraceptives at the pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription. The pharmacists simply have to complete a four-hour training online before having the ability to dispense the pills.
The state health department isn’t keeping a tally, but it’s clear pharmacists have written thousands of prescriptions for birth control pills. King Soopers pharmacists alone have written more than 1,500 prescriptions since 2017. The Wardenburg Health Center on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder has written close to 400.
Albertsons and Safeway stores also allow their pharmacists to write the prescriptions, as do dozens of smaller pharmacies across Colorado, Moore said. (Walgreens does not participate.)
Even beyond the pills, Colorado allowed women to get IUDs and even the morning-after pill at pharmacies and community health clinics, all with the help of state and federal dollars.
“The goal has always been access,” said Gina Moore, who’s the assistant dean for clinical and professional affairs at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy. “We are just really pleased.”
You would think a lower abortion rate would be good news for conservative Christians and other anti-choicers who typically aim to lower the rate by blocking women from getting abortions through legislation.
Yet the accessible forms of contraception — and subsequent decline in abortions — hasn’t stopped Republicans from pushing anti-choice policies. Walker Stapleton, the Republican who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018, said during his campaign that he would be a “pro-life governor” because his faith caused him to believe life begins at conception. If he had his way, then, it’s likely he would’ve ignored the contraception data and pushed for more legislative measures that hurt women.
Colorado has successfully implemented a progressive measure that’s helped thousands of women and teen girls. It’s a scenario that right-wing Christians ought to celebrate — but good luck finding prominent anti-abortion groups doing that.
Progressives often say the anti-choice crowd is anti-women, but these results — and the fact that Republicans across the country aren’t rushing to adopt the same policies — shows you that they have little interest in lowering abortion rates unless they get to punish women in the process.
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