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The Real Costs of Politicians' Obsession With Reproductive Rights

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From Rick Santorum's claim to "take the bullets" as proof of his pro-life credentials to Michele Bachmann's, Newt Gingrich's, Ron Paul's, Tim Pawlenty's and Santorum's signing Marilyn Musgrave's Susan B. Anthony List pledge to systemically strip away a woman's ability to access safe, legal abortion if elected president, the GOP's anti-abortion, anti-birth control contingent is all too willing to sell out America's women and their families in their quest to out-pro-life each other.

To wit: Four of Colorado's Congressional Delegation -- Mike Coffman (R, CD-6), Cory Gardner (R, CD-4), Doug Lamborn (R, CD-5), and Scott Tipton (R, CD-3) -- all voted for provisions in federal legislation to spur the IRS to audit rape and incest survivors who choose abortion care and to raise taxes on small businesses that provide private insurance plans that cover abortion services. But politicians' insistence on interfering in reproductive health care doesn't stop with abortion: while June marks the 46th year that birth control has been legal in the U.S., attacks on contraception have reached nearly unprecedented levels in 2011. Anti-abortion, anti-birth control members of the U.S. House of Representatives supported budget provisions earlier this year to completely eliminate federal funding for Title X, a program established under President Nixon to ensure, in Nixon's words, "no American woman [would] be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition."

Federal law prohibits the use of Title X dollars for abortion, restricting use to reproductive health exams; pregnancy testing; screenings for infertility, cancer, and sexually transmitted infections; and referrals for treatments of cancer, STIs, or infertility. Colorado has more than 60 Title X locations in county health departments and safety-net clinics. The program is credited with preventing 9,600 unintended pregnancies in 2008 alone that would have resulted in 4,300 births and 4,000 abortions -- saving Colorado taxpayers nearly $27 million in costs related to births resulting from unintended pregnancies.

In their myopic zeal to eliminate women's ability to access abortion, state legislators in Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina enacted laws prohibiting their states from contracting with facilities that provide abortions. While the provisions ostensibly target abortion, their practical effect is to end payments to doctors and nurses who provide birth control, prenatal, and other obstetric and gynecological care to Medicaid recipients if the clinic where those professionals work also provides abortions. In Indiana, Planned Parenthood has stopped serving its 9,300 Medicaid clients because of the law. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has pronounced the laws illegal, but that hasn't stopped anti-abortion, anti-birth control extremists from pressing forward. In fact, 12 state senators here in Colorado tried unsuccessfully to tack on a similar provision to the state's annual budget bill.

While states haven't (yet) passed laws re-banning contraceptives, anti-abortion extremists are doing their best to accomplish that through dangerous, deceptively worded "personhood" measures that have been introduced in state capitols throughout the country to grant constitutional rights to fertilized eggs. Despite being resoundingly rejected by Colorado voters in 2008 and 2010, "backers of the proposals are pushing forward in each of the 50 states either with legislation or citizen-initiated ballot measures. And earlier this month, the national anti-abortion, anti-birth control group American Life League hosted its annual "The Pill Kills" conference in Dallas, with seminars revolving around the meme that the pill kills marriage, a follow-up to its 2009 "pill kills women" and 2010 "pill kills the environment" themes.

Policymakers who support these attacks on birth control are tone-deaf to the needs of mainstream Americans, and certainly the majority of Coloradans: research from the New York-based Guttmacher Institute shows that 99% of U.S. women aged 15-44 have ever used contraception, with an estimated 38.4 million women using birth control at any given time use of birth control crossing all economic, ethnic, and religious sectors. Moreover, recently released data from the Guttmacher Institute and the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution estimate that U.S. taxpayers spend $11 billion per year on unintended pregnancies -- roughly the same amount budgeted for U.S. operations in Iraq for 2012. In Colorado, that translates to an estimated $80 million in taxpayer dollars on births resulting from unintended pregnancy.

When it comes to demonstrating their willingness to deny mothers, wives, daughters and neighbors their constitutionally protected right to make personal, private decisions, it's clear that many of the candidates lining up for the 2012 election are in lock-step with the elected officials who reneged on their campaign promises to prioritize "jobs, jobs, jobs" by voting to restrict access to abortion and birth control. It's time to start recognizing the true costs of the anti-abortion, anti-birth control policies pursued by these politicians.