Contraception cuts down on abortions, and long-acting contraception is more effective than many other methods. So the idea of putting $2 million in state funds toward increasing access to long-acting contraception for low-income girls and women seemed like the kind of program that everybody could favor, whatever their views on abortion. A win-win with a small price tag. If only it were that easy.
Senate President Wilton Simpson, an anti-abortion Republican, pushed the idea during the recent legislative session. He wanted to model it after a program in Colorado that reduced unintended pregnancies. Long-acting reversible hormonal contraceptives, which include intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants, are up to 20 times better at reducing unintended pregnancies than birth-control pills or patches, in part because they don’t require any attention after they are inserted by a health care professional, the National Institutes of Health reported. But LARCs, as they are often called, can be expensive, putting them beyond the reach of low-income women.
“It just gives these young women an opportunity to live a life that otherwise is not available to them,” Simpson told the News Service of Florida. “I am a pro-life senator. This actually prevents a lot of abortions from happening.”
He’s exactly right, and his stance is pro-life in the best sense of the word. Isabel Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institution, has argued that “if we want to reduce poverty, one of the simplest, fastest and cheapest things we could do would be to make sure that as few people as possible become parents before they actually want to.”
None of this apparently matters to a wing of the anti-abortion crowd. The Florida Catholic Conference worried that long-acting reversible contraception had an “abortifacient effect” that impedes implantation of embryos in women’s uteruses. In a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Catholic Conference said that “women continue to ovulate while using these products; conception still occurs.” The Catholic Conference urged DeSantis to veto the $2 million, and the governor obliged last week. DeSantis may have shored up his conservative bona fides as he runs for a second term and positions himself as a 2024 presidential contender. But make no mistake, the veto of this sensible idea will add to the number of abortions needed in Florida.
Despite the outcome, Simpson deserves credit for pushing a smart approach to reducing abortions. While his effort failed, he should try again during next year’s Legislative session. Florida deserves more common sense ideas that tackle real problems — and less pandering to score political points.
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