May 4, 2022 - News

Colorado abortion providers brace for surge in out-of-state patients

Illustration of hands in medical gloves holding red picket signs, forming a red cross symbol.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The U.S. Supreme Court's leaked draft of the majority opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade is sending Colorado providers into panic mode.

Threat level: Abortion will remain legal here if the landmark ruling is overturned. But a reversal would trigger new bans in states surrounding Colorado, and providers are preparing for a deluge of out-of-state patients.

  • Rebecca Cohen, a provider in Denver, tells Axios the influx began after Texas' near-total abortion ban took effect last September. Now, 20% of her clients come from out of state, compared to 5% beforehand.
  • Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains clinics have seen roughly triple the number of patients from Texas regularly streaming in — and that number could soon spike, spokesperson Neta Meltzer tells us.

What they're saying: "The reality is pretty bleak," she adds. The increase in new patients is expected to present "a staggering volume and will be an incredible challenge to meet that kind of need."

Zoom in: The demand will have ripple effects, from extending already-lengthy wait times at clinics to limiting care altogether.

  • Many out-of-state patients are arriving for care later in their pregnancy terms or coming with medical complications that make the procedure more involved.
  • In addition, some clinics in Colorado are wrestling with worker shortages, straining their resources.

Yes, but: Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains received a $20 million donation in March from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott to help the nonprofit handle the spike in out-of-state patients.

  • The gift marked the largest in the organization's history and will go toward health care services, staffing, technological updates and more.

What's next: The Supreme Court decision should be released within the next two months. If the Roe v. Wade ruling is overturned, abortion would immediately be illegal in at least 13 states.

  • In the meantime, Colorado clinics "will do everything [they] can" to expand access as abortion providers dwindle nationwide, Meltzer says.
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