Mar 1, 2023 - Politics

Colorado braces for ruling on abortion pill's future

The abortion drug mifepristone. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas who is considering banning an abortion pill that has been on the market for over two decades is causing Colorado's women's health care providers to prepare for the worst.

What's happening: A ruling, expected any day now, could decide if mifepristone can continue to be sold in the U.S. A ban on the pill could be the most far-reaching limit on abortion access since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June.

Zoom in: Colorado's Phil Weiser joined 11 other Democratic state attorneys general in filing a joint lawsuit last week against the Food and Drug Administration, accusing it of overregulating the pill.

  • Meanwhile, Colorado Democrats are expected to soon introduce a bill — as early as today — that would shield abortion providers and patients from bans, lawsuits and penalties in other states, similar to a California law, sources familiar with the matter tell Axios Denver.

Threat level: Colorado abortion clinics are bracing for a ban on the pill, industry experts tell Axios Denver.

  • That would mean a spike in demand for access to care — on top of the surge in out-of-state patients Colorado has experienced following Roe's reversal.
  • Mifepristone's removal from the market would also "likely" lead to higher appointment wait times, delays in care, and force out-of-state patients to have to stay longer in the region, "creating an additional financial and logistical burden," Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains spokesperson Fawn Bolak says.

What they're saying: Women's health care providers say a pill ban — coupled with the SCOTUS decision — would create "a crisis" both for the people coming to Colorado who need help and for the patients who doctors normally see that they may not have much time for, Karen Middleton, president of Cobalt, a Denver-based advocacy group for reproductive rights, tells us.

By the numbers: Last year, the Cobalt Abortion Fund spent nearly $222,000 — mostly covering travel expenses for out-of-state patients — compared with just $6,000 in 2021 and $2,100 in 2020.

  • Steep demand hasn't stopped. Across Colorado's Planned Parenthood centers, roughly 500 out-of-state patients received treatment in January — a third of the number of out-of-state patients PPRM and other independent abortion providers saw in the entire year of 2021, Bolak says.

The big picture: Should mifepristone be banned, reproductive rights advocates say other safe and effective provider-guided medication abortion options remain, such as misoprostol.

  • But losing access to mifepristone, they argue, would mean the loss of an important option for women nationwide.

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