SoluProb™: Outlaw IUDs

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Presumed Problem

Some fear that an Intra-uterine Devise (IUD) is an abortifacient, that it induces abortions.


Those opposed to abortion have argued that IUDs should be outlawed.


imageLike many states–perhaps all–Colorado had a serious problem with unintended teen pregnancies. But unlike other states, Colorado had found a powerful solution.

Going into the 2014 elections, Colorado had made remarkable progress in lowering teen pregnancies: down 40% between 2009 and 2013. Caitlin Schmidt (2014) explained how they accomplished this feat:

Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative provided funding for 68 family clinics across the state to offer around 30,000 intrauterine devices and implants to young women at low or no cost. An IUD is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus by a doctor. They’re either wrapped in copper or contain hormones, which kill sperm Mirena_IntraUterine_Systemand make the uterine lining too thin for egg implantation. Because IUDs stay in place for five to 10 years, they’re easier to comply with than taking daily birth control pills.

An anonymous donor funded the $23 million initiative, which also provided training, outreach and technical assistance to clinics statewide.

The reduction in teen pregnancies, of course, also meant a reduction in abortions. It seemed like a win-win situation. However, as the donor-funding was due to run out, Colorado politicians began debating whether the state should appropriate money to continue the remarkably successful program.

This is an appropriate time to mention a class of problems/solutions that do not qualify as soluprobs. There are any number of cases where the problem is real but the solution is a imagefailure.Consider abstinence-only “sex education” programs in the nation’s schools. Despite the millions still being spent on programs that simply urge teens not to have sex, there is no peer-reviewed research indicating such programs have any positive effect. However, the problem of teen pregnancy was and is a real one, and the Colorado program of education and IUDs was a huge success.

Opposition to continuing the program did not seem primarily financial. Some anti-abortion groups objected to the use of IUDs in the program, linking the devices to abortion. As the debate heated up, the (unsuccessful) GOP candidate for governor, Bob Beauprez, famously said, IUDs imagewere abortifacients, which raised the image of women as “walking abortion factories.” Since he and his supporters were dead set against abortion, it was clear that IUDs had to go. Ultimately, the anti-abortion faction was successful in blocking public funding for the program, though private funds were found to continue it. IUDs, per se, were not outlawed.

Kaiser Health News explained the last minute salvation of the program this way:

The rescue of the highly-touted program comes after Republican lawmakers earlier this year killed a bill that would have provided $5 million in public funding for IUDs and other long-acting reversible contraceptives for low-income teens and young women. Colorado health officials estimate that the IUDs and other devices have saved at least $79 million in Medicaid costs for unintended births, but some opponents claimed that IUDs are abortifacients and refused to approve funding in the Republican-controlled Senate.

imageThis was the same logic used by Hobby Lobby in their refusal to let employees receive IUDs and some other contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act. Being complicit in their employees using IUDs allegedly violated their corporate religious values. The U. S. Supreme Court majority agreed with that reasoning.

Was the Problem Real?

Thus the most effective contraceptive short of sterilization, first used in the 1900s and popularized from the 1950s on in the United States, is now under widespread attack. The medical community has been quick to respond, pointing out that IUDs prevent fertilization and implantation, so there is nothing to abort. In sum, the IUD is no more an abortion procedure Tension-headachethan masturbation, a priest’s vow of celibacy, or “Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.”

For the time being, the proposed “solution” to the imagined problem represented by IUDs has been averted in Colorado, but there is no telling what will happen when the private donations run out.

Negative Consequences

Since IUDs were not actually outlawed in this instance, the major, potential damage was avoided. Young women in Colorado are still allowed to avoid unintended pregnancies and the unprepared motherhood, end of school, or abortions that are common consequences of unsafe sex.

However, the campaign of misinformation about IUDs may well cause some young women to avoid this most effective contraceptive method. And an upsurge of anti-IUD actions somewhere down the road, based on the same misinformation, is always a haunting possibility. And if private funding eventually runs out, this award-winning program, which has prevented a great many abortions, may fall by the wayside.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy


SIECUS, “Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs” — — accessed October 3, 2015

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon, “Medicaid Drives Historic Coverage Gains In Colorado,” Kaiser Health News Colorado September 1, 2015 — — accessed October 3, 2015