Teen pregnancy prevention bill passes in House
DENVER — Rep. Ray Scott joined 22 other Republicans in opposing a bill Monday that would extend successful teen pregnancy-prevention programs in Mesa, Montrose and Delta counties.
The Grand Junction Republican said he opposed SB177 because he couldn’t get any assurance that the decade-old programs that have cut teen pregnancies in half don’t advocate abortions, despite the programs’ directors insistence that they don’t.
“It was too vague on the language as far as what they can do and not do, which means abortion,” Scott said. “I read through it, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I was concerned about that.”
Western Slope Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, also voted against the bill. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, were among nine Republicans who voted for the bill, which passed 41–23.
It heads back to the Senate for a final vote.
Though Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with the existing programs and may not have anything to do with any new ones, the measure was nearly derailed last month when the organization expressed its support of the programs in a Senate committee.
When that happened, Republican lawmakers who had once supported the bill, partly because the programs encourage abstinence, spoke out against the bill.
Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, dropped her name as the chief House sponsor, saying she was too busy to carry it. Nikkel, however, was one of the lawmakers who voted against it.
As a result, Coram rescued the measure, saying the abortion issue was a specious argument that had no basis in fact.
“This is a total lack of understanding,” Coram said. “People just didn’t take the time to find out what the program is and what it does.”
Coram said since the bill has been in the Legislature, seven other counties have expressed an interest in setting up their own programs, which are 90 percent funded by Medicaid and 10 percent from a local match.
Scott said he also voted against the measure because of the federal deficit, saying the nation can’t afford spending more money on new programs.
He said he asked that the measure include language specifically banning any abortion advocacy, but Coram said no one ever said anything to him about such wording, including Scott.