Can making certain contraceptives more accessible save AZ taxpayers money?

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LARCs are considered the most effective contraception available at better than 99% (Source: KPHO/KTVK) LARCs are considered the most effective contraception available at better than 99% (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
AZ Senator Nancy Barto is among those who believe IUDs can cause abortions (Source: KPHO/KTVK) AZ Senator Nancy Barto is among those who believe IUDs can cause abortions (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Some economists believe more contraceptives would lower the poverty level (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Some economists believe more contraceptives would lower the poverty level (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

Emily Lauber, a civil engineering major at Arizona State University's Barrett Honors College, says she can't afford to get pregnant at this time in her life.

"I don't know how I could have a kid right now. I'm not ready for that responsibility," Lauber said.

That's why at 19, she chose a long-acting reversible contraceptive, or LARC, for birth control.

"It was the perfect decision for me, in terms of my future plans, not having to worry about a pill or a prescription," Lauber said.

LARCs are IUDs and implants approved to stay in place and prevent pregnancy for several years at a time with no daily routine.

Their convenience is unmatched.

"It has made my life so much easier. I absolutely adore my IUD," Lauber said.

Back in the '70s, IUDs got a bad rap after one design caused nasty infections and even infertility.

Nowadays, they're regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and growing in popularity.

Today, LARCs are considered the most reliable contraception available at better than 99 percent effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I think LARCs have unlimited potential. They are really a game changer in contraception," Jodi Liggett of Planned Parenthood said.

Many believe they can also be a game changer when it comes to the economy.

Out of law school, Liggett worked on welfare reform under then-Gov. Jane Hull. She was CEO of the Arizona Foundation for Women and also worked for Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton in human services.

"When you reduce unplanned pregnancy, your other costs go down. Less Medicaid costs. Less food stamps. Less cash assistance," Liggett said.

In Colorado, a private grant from Warren Buffet's late wife, Susan, made LARCs available to all women who wanted them over a six-year period, removing all barriers to access and cost. The results were stunning.

The unplanned birth rate plummeted, far outpacing the national decline. Now the Colorado Legislature is picking up the tab for the successful program after the private funding ran out. 

"It made sense to them, as policymakers, to go ahead and have their own skin in the game, so to speak. They made their own investment because it's saving money," Liggett said.

And some economists believe that when unplanned pregnancies go down, so do poverty rates, which are higher among single mothers.

Arizona ranks toward the bottom of the country, according to numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.

3TV wanted to know if the success in Colorado could happen here in Arizona, where taxpayers foot the bill on more than half of all births.

We reached out to five lawmakers who are involved in women's health care issues, but not one was available to speak with us on camera.

In an email, however, Sen. Nancy Barto answered our question.

She wrote:

Regarding the State of Colorado's funding a program to make IUD's available in the hopes of reducing abortion and poverty, one question I have is whether the program would significantly reduce poverty--even if it does have the effect of reducing the birth rate.

In addition, one of the concerns about government funding a LARC program like this is the state's inherent sanctioning of contraceptive devices that have the potential for causing a very early abortion, posing a serious risk for the pre-born.

If reducing abortions is part of the goal, expanding the use of IUD's would seem to defeat that purpose.

Barto is among those who believe IUDs can cause abortions, an idea not supported by science.

Top medical organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the World Health Organization explain that IUDs prevent pregnancy because they prevent fertilization.

Barto is the chairwoman of Arizona's Health and Human Services Committee, which has pushed through abortion restrictions that are among the strictest in the nation.

So perhaps it's no surprise that making LARCs more accessible is not on the agenda.

"I was lucky. My health insurance covers it, so I didn't have any out-of-pocket expenses," Lauber said.

Lauber knows not every young woman has insurance or can afford the $500-$800 in up-front costs to have a LARC and know with 99 percent certainty there will be no unplanned pregnancy.

She says if Arizona followed Colorado's lead, maybe women of all income levels would be able to make the choice she made.

"I think that would be amazing because I think that would open up more options to people," Lauber said.

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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