Key fact in debate about pregnancy-prevention program: IUDs prevent pregnancy

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

The Ft. Collins Coloradoan advanced a story Monday that Boulder Rep. KC Becker is working on a bill to provide $5 million for a state teen-pregnancy prevention program that, in a privately-funded multi-year pilot phase, reduced teen pregnancies by 40 percent and teen abortions by 35 percent–and saved Colorado tens of millions of dollars to boot!

The Coloradoan quoted Sen. Kevin Lundberg, who's the Assistant Republican Majority Leader, as objecting to such funding because the program relies on the distribution of free or no-cost intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other long-lasting pregnancy -prevention implants, and Lundberg (along with twice failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez) believe IUDs cause abortions.

But IUDs work before pregnancy occurs!

“Any statement that IUDs aren't contraception simply isn't medically or scientifically accurate," said Dr. Jennifer Hyer, a Denver Ob-Gyn, in a statement distributed by NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. "As a licensed, practicing Colorado OB-Gyn I recommend IUDs for my patients all the time. They are among the most effective forms of contraception, especially for at-risk women, because they automatically prevent pregnancy. That’s why Colorado's program was so successful, and access to long-acting contraceptives needs to continue if we want to keep reducing the teen birth and abortion rate.”

The Coloradoan rightly pointed out that the "definition of pregnancy used by the [Colorado Department of Health and Environment] and other scientists has pregnancy beginning at the implantation of the fertilized egg."

The definition of pregnancy is so central to the debate around this teen-pregnancy-prevention bill that the Coloradoan should have been even more explicit, saying that the mainstream scientific community, meaning the scientific establishment of nerdy medical people, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have defined pregnancy as beginning at implantation, not before.

Pregnancy: Is established only at the conclusion of implantation of a fertilized egg. This scientific definition of pregnancy is also the legal definition of pregnancy, accepted by governmental agencies and all major U.S. medical organizations.

So Lundberg's personal belief that IUD's work by “stopping a small child from implanting” is not only wrong, but it's not relevant because the bill is about reducing teen pregnancies.  (By "small child" Lundberg was referring to zygotes, or fertilized eggs, which are formed prior to pregnancy, which starts once the egg implants in the uterus.)

In an RH Reality Check piece yesterday, I reported:

Under the Family Planning Initiative, about 30,000 IUDs and other long-lasting contraceptive implants were distributed during a five-year pilot program. Participating clinics in 37 of Colorado’s 64 counties serve 95 percent of the state’s population.

The initiative saved $23 million in Medicaid costs since it started five years ago, and continuing the family planning initiative will save $40 million in Medicaid funds, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has estimated.

Republicans hold a one-seat majority in Colorado’s senate, but observers say the teen pregnancy program funds may still clear the chamber, even without the support of Lundberg, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee. Becker, the state house sponsor, has said her bill has a Republican co-sponsor, who has yet to be named.

Scientists used to think that birth control worked, in some cases, by stopping implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine wall. But scientists now say that not only emergency contraception but other forms of birth control prevent implantation.

One Community Comment, Facebook Comments

  1. Progressicat says:

    Yes, Lundberg is ridiculous.  He is correct, however, within his context (not the one Pols lays on him to say his concerns are irrelevant).  IUDs can prevent implantation of the blastocyst in the uterine wall (a post-fertilization action), as progestin (hormone IUDs) and copper (copper IUDs) can change the uterine lining to make it inhospitable to passers by.

    Where life starts is open to debate.  Pregnancy is, I think rightly, viewed by the medical profession (and the law) as starting when implantation has been accomplished (the pregnancy established).  Other views are permissible, however, as this is a process, not a momentary occurrence.

    I think the more interesting question is this.  Seeing as some anti-abortion groups don't take a position on contraception, has the religious view of the moment of fertilization as the beginning of pregnancy generated opposition to contraception, or has the desire to oppose contraception caused some groups to select fertilization as the "moment" pregnancy occurs?

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