Jun 27, 2022 - News

Colorado scrambles to meet post-Roe abortion needs

Illustration of a red cross on a ticket.
Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Colorado is a "safe haven" for abortion care, but state providers say they won't be able to handle the coming influx of patients after the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

State of play: New bans and restrictions in other states are already boosting demand and leading to delays at the roughly 20 clinics that provide abortion services across Colorado.

Wait times currently average two to three weeks depending on the care needed, providers told Axios Denver on the day of the decision's release. Before Texas implemented its new restrictions in 2021, appointments were typically booked within a few days.

By the numbers: Last year, 14% of people seeking abortions came from out of state, according to Colorado health department statistics.

  • Currently, about 50% of calls regarding care are coming from outside the state, advocates say.

Why it matters: The Supreme Court's ruling overturning Roe v. Wade will make accessing abortion care more difficult in Colorado, even though the procedure remains legal.

  • Reproductive rights advocates tell Axios Denver that they are bracing for "tens of thousands" of patients, as more than two dozen states — including most surrounding Colorado — are poised to ban abortions.

What they're saying: "When we think about the next months, we should expect those wait times to increase," said Jack Teter with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

  • “Right now, we are seeing every patient who needs us, but there will come a time over the next several months … when there are simply too many patients,” he added.

Between the lines: The demand, particularly from out-of-state patients, will have ripple effects on Colorado's broader health care system, extending to primary care and family planning services.

  • In terms of what Colorado can expect: The state recorded 11,580 abortions in 2021, while Texas had 55,000.

What's next: Local abortion care advocates are meeting to determine the best ways to increase access and add providers, said Karen Middleton, director of Cobalt, a reproductive rights organization in Colorado.

  • Planned Parenthood's local chapter is taking it a step further and calling on Gov. Jared Polis and state leaders to convene a panel to triage the situation and provide more money and resources to meet the increasing need.
  • The Boulder Valley Women's Health Center said it began preparing when the draft opinion leaked and plans to tap the "generosity of new and longstanding donors" to build capacity. "We will continue to be a beacon to any person in need of the full range of reproductive health care," interim CEO Susan Connelly said in a statement.

Of note: Polis told the Denver Post he wouldn't call a special legislative session to address the issue, saying there's "no need" because abortion is legal in the state.

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