AUSTIN (KXAN) — State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, is proposing a pilot program to offer long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), such as IUDs or contraceptive implants, to Texas students.
The program would take place in six yet-to-be-determined school districts in the state, if passed. The bill would also require parental consent for students younger than 18 years old.
Howard says she was impressed by the results she saw out of a similar program in Colorado.
“So we wanted to try something here in Texas which could also help us address our problem, which we have here in Texas, of too many teen pregnancies,” said Howard.
In Colorado, the state began an effort to provide LARCs through family planning clinics in 2009. By 2015, the state saw a 51 percent decrease in the birth rate among 15 to 19-year-old women, according to data from the state of Colorado. From 2009 to 2014, the national teenage birth rate dropped by 36 percent.
However, the proposal for Texas faces challenges. Howard’s proposal is to distribute long-term contraception options through a school district. However, Texas currently stresses abstinence in any sex education under state law. The state leaves some sex education decisions to districts, but has established certain limits. For example, a school district cannot distribute condoms as part of any lessons. The bill regarding LARCs will likely also face opposition from the conservative Texas legislature.
Outside of the state framework, Planned Parenthood is offering assistance with LARC costs.
“Many patients are making the choice for their birth control method based primarily on cost and what they can afford,” said Sarah Wheat, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Greater Texas. “What we set out to do is make sure that we eliminated any sort of contraceptive inequities and allow patients to choose the birth control method that’s right for them.”
Wheat says the program started in Austin, but has expanded to other Planned Parenthood locations in Texas.
“We’ve sought funding from a mix of different sources including private family foundations and others so that we can eliminate any cost for patients who might want to choose a long-term method,” said Wheat.
Funding was also an issue for the Colorado program. That program was initially bankrolled by a private donor. The state legislature declined to fund the program in 2015.
“It is not a bad thing to reduce teen pregnancy. It is a bad thing to have taxpayer supported funding,” Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, told NBC News in 2015. “They should be used for appropriate and balanced sex education.”
Colorado’s Family Planning Unit Section Manager Jody Camp tells KXAN the legislature later approved a second request for $2.5 million. Camp said that funding combined with insurance and Medicaid reimbursement allow clinics to maintain the LARC program in Colorado.