By Emilie C. Ailts

This year is the 55th birthday of the birth control pill. It is also 44 years since the U.S. Supreme Court decriminalized birth control in Griswold v. Connecticut. Yet, debates over family planning and contraception are alive and widespread. Coloradans witnessed this first hand last fall when the "personhood" amendment that could have re-criminalized birth control in the state was defeated. Similar measures have already been introduced in seven other states so far this year.

However, current health policy discussions about the role of publicly funded preventive reproductive health care services demonstrate a great step forward in accepting that health care includes family planning. In fact, debates over the availability of affordable birth control, sex education and the financial wherewithal to acquire said resources, are moot without considering the critical role government can play to empower individuals to make responsible reproductive health decisions. This includes the support of publicly funded family planning programs like Title X and the Medicaid family planning waiver.

According to a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute, 2 million unintended pregnancies and 810,000 abortions nationwide are prevented annually by publicly funded family planning services. In Colorado, publicly funded family planning centers are estimated to have saved more than $69 million in 2004 alone and, in 2006, prevented 28,500 unintended pregnancies and 11,900 abortions. These numbers demonstrate the value of publicly funded, equitable resources that enable families of all socio-economic backgrounds to acquire the means for a secure livelihood.

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