May 5, 2022 - News

Colorado's abortion fund is lifeline to other states, advocates say

Illustration of stacks of one hundred dollar bills laid in a medical cross shape
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A plane ticket. Money for the babysitter. A free Lyft ride. Or a night in a hotel.

How it works: The Cobalt Abortion Fund, run through the Denver-based advocacy group, provides financial assistance to Colorado residents and people from out-of-state who are unable to access care where they live.

  • In addition to covering the cost of the procedure, Cobalt often helps with logistics, such as travel.
  • "They are coming from the middle of Texas and they have no money to get to the airport. We help them there," explains Karen Middleton, Cobalt's president.

Why it matters: The effort — formerly known as the Women's Freedom Fund — is part of a national network of donor-backed nonprofits that will play a major role in ensuring access to abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, as a draft Supreme Court decision suggests, and some states ban the procedure.

What they're saying: Rebecca Cohen, a Denver provider, sees clients who receive money from the fund. Now, the need is greater than ever, as the state prepares for an influx of patients.

  • "It worries me … that it's not going to be sustainable, but it is truly the difference for so many of our patients," she tells Axios Denver.

By the numbers: The $250,000 fund — and a $60,000 separate account for travel costs — helped about 1,200 women last year, Cobalt leaders tell us, and they are raising money to expand the reach.

  • Since Monday, the fund received more than $36,000 in donations — a significant jump.
  • "We will raise more money. We will take money out of other funds if we need to in order to protect the abortion fund access," Middleton tells Axios Denver, ensuring they won't turn anyone away.

The big picture: If Roe is overturned, the average American would have to travel an estimated 125 miles to reach the nearest abortion provider. The current average is 25 miles, according to the Myers Abortion Facility Database.

  • An estimated 20% of all abortions in Colorado are obtained by people from other states, and the state is a particular refuge for people from Texas.

The other side: Colorado's anti-abortion community is devising its own response.

  • Abortion opponents — backed by the state's once-robust religious right — intend to make Colorado "the frontline" of a fresh fight on the issue, says Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute, an affiliate of Colorado Christian University.

What's happening: The morning after the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion went public, opponents of abortion rights in Colorado held a conference call to discuss ways to repeal the state's abortion protections and reach people coming to the state for abortions.

The coalition is preparing a lawsuit to challenge a new law guaranteeing access to abortion at any stage because it grants rights to a special class of people and not others, they argue.

  • Other ballot measures or state legislation being considered would allow medical professionals to opt out of abortion procedures as a matter of conscience.
  • In addition, the organizations are considering new billboards to advertise alternatives to abortion and a plan to add more pregnancy services through nonprofits.

What they're saying: "We are gearing up for the reality that we are going to have to deal with more women coming to Colorado to seek abortion," Hunt tells us.

Of note: The state's anti-abortion pregnancy centers have come under intense scrutiny in recent years for deceptive practices. Legal efforts and legislation to challenge the procedure have not advanced.

What's next: The organizations are looking to draw donations from people in states where the procedure is made illegal by a Supreme Court ruling.

  • In the meantime, Hunt says he's eager to see a final ruling. "If this [draft] is a sense of where the court is going to be, it's thrilling," he says.
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