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Proactive family planning

Matt Zalaznick

Sometimes, it’s a good idea not to start a family. Our American culture tells everyone they should be married with kids. But whether the problems are financial or emotional, not everybody’s ready for a family.The valley is abuzz over Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi’s proposal to increase property taxes to fund day care and other early-childhood programs. But the county has already made a more important move: funding a pair of family planning clinics opening later this year in Avon and Eagle. The clinics will not perform abortions, but they will dispense birth control and provide other forms of reproductive health care to uninsured and low-income families. The goal, county health officials say, is to reduce teen pregnancies and stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.According to county health officials, 25 percent of Eagle County households report they do not have health insurance, 8 percent of births in Eagle County are to teenagers (about 60 a year), and 90 percent of teen births in Eagle County are to Hispanics.Public officials here receive more reports of chlamydia than food poisoning. Opponents have complained the clinics will be giveaways to illegal immigrants. Some have even said the clinics will attract illegal immigrants to the county, as if people south of the border planning to sneak into the United States are poring over a list of American counties with family-planning clinics. These criticisms are deluded. By raising the inflammatory specter of illegal immigration – the red-herring-du-jour people are using to argue against all sorts of social programs – it ignores the problem that some citizens, even in swanky, college-educated Eagle County, live in poverty, just cannot afford decent medical care or need a little more education about where babies come from. And it’s people who are in need whose finances – and therefore their lives – who will be most strained by an unintended or imprudent pregnancy. Eventually, the problems of over-stressed families, wealthy or not, become the community’s problems, too. Christians conservatives attack family-planning programs with their have-a-family-at-all-costs doctrine. The family is so important to them, they don’t realize this dogma can lead people to have families before they’re ready, and that results in troubled families. That’s a bigger threat to the American family than two homosexuals marrying each other. At the same time the county has moved to help families, they also may be moving toward making it harder for them to have an address in the Eagle County. Tightening land-use rules is more likely to hurt young families looking for affordable housing than wealthy baby boomers looking for large second homes. The new rules, which include a 75-foot no-build zone around the Eagle River and a ban on building on certain ridgelines, are aimed at mansions. But second-home seekers will cope. They can deal with moving their mansion a bit down the mountainside and 25 feet farther away from the river. This migration is likely to squeeze – physically and financially – any developer hoping to turn a profit an affordable-apartment complex. There’s so much more money to be made on a handful of homes than a box of low-rent apartments. This county commission can create all sorts of incentives for building affordable housing, but if real estate continues to be the area’s main source of economic growth, more real estate-friendly commissioners are likely to get elected. And those commissioners, listening to their mansion-building constituents’ calls for more room, are likely roll back some of the building restrictions to keep the economic engine purring. Which means we might not need those family planning clinics for long. The way Eagle County is going, the way it’s likely to continued to be dominated by high-end vacations and high-end real estate, there may not be a lot of families around to benefit from these new social programs, no matter how many we create. City Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 748-2926, or mzalaznick@vaildaily.com. Check out his blog at http://www.vaildaily.com/section/BLOGVail, Colorado


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