By Jackie Moreau | Watchdog Arena
Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools
By Jackie Moreau | Watchdog Arena
Ordinarily, when student groups visit their state Capitol, they do so to learn more about the political process. In Colorado, however, high school students with a nonprofit called “Colorado Youth Matter” were busy visiting their legislators the day before the vote on a bill that would continue a grant for free methods of birth control.
Implemented in 2008 with a multi-year grant requiring no appropriation from the state of Colorado, the Long-acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) program makes intrauterine devices (IUD) and hormonal implant contraceptives available at low or no cost to women between the ages of 15 and 24 throughout the state, targeting communities with high poverty rates. The grant that funds the LARC program, administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is due to sunset in June of this year. Those advocating for continuing the LARC program have worked with legislators to create House Bill 15-1194, also known as the “IUD Bill,” requiring a new appropriation of $5 million per year from the general fund.
Colorado Youth Matter, funded in-part by the state of Colorado, receives 16 percent of its monies through the Colorado Department of Human Services. The federal Personal Responsibility and Education Program (PREP) operates under the umbrella of the Affordable Care Act, and allots public health dollars to be given to programs aiming to decrease rates of teen pregnancy, sexually-transmitted disease, and related instances of school dropout. Colorado Youth Matter, which coordinates closelywith other family planning and pro-choice advocates, is one such program.
Colorado Youth Matter scheduled their “Capitol Action Day” on March 9, in anticipation of the vote on HB 15-1194 that was originally scheduled for March 10. Youth Matter coordinator Taylor Stein made appointments for high school students to meet with legislators on both sides of the aisle.
One legislator indicated that the meeting with Colorado Youth Matter high school students consisted primarily of advocacy for the IUD bill. According to the legislator’s account, the students opened by asking for support for the LARC program and remained largely focused on the bill and related issues. The young men and women from both rural and urban Colorado high schools came armed with talking points and statistics gleaned from a number of reproductive rights websites, and lobbied the legislator on this specific bill.
The stated mission of Colorado Youth Matters is “WISE,” an acronym for “Working to Institutionalize Sex-education,” and it has branches in several Colorado school districts. The group finds interested participants through their Teen Outreach Program(TOP), and the CREATE, a national voter registration drive. Colorado Youth Matter offers ‘mini grants’ of $3,000-$5,000 to two or three school districts annually to implement comprehensive sex-education programs, despite the fact that, in 2013, Democrats in the Colorado Legislature passed a bill creating a new grant program tofund comprehensive sex-education programs for school districts which wanted it as part of their health curricula.
The Personal Responsibility Education Program, under which Colorado Youth Matter functions, awards grants to organizations which educate young people on abstinence and contraception, and seek to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Its title, however, denotes more learning and less activism.
To date, HB 15-1194 is waiting in the Colorado House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. If passed through that body it will then go to the Senate, which has a Republican majority.