Colorado pro-choice advocates prepare for influx of patients following Oklahoma abortion ban

Following Colorado’s codification of abortion rights this week, Oklahoma legislators approved a near-total ban on abortion Tuesday. Oklahoma is just one of many Republican-led states forging ahead with abortion restrictions as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs a case that could weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade later this year.

 

 

While Colorado’s Reproductive Health Equity Act paves the way to expand services and support to all women seeking abortions in the state, providers are struggling to meet current demands. Colorado has some 40 abortion providers, half of which are clinics.

Texas banned abortion for pregnancies beyond six weeks last September. Since then, patients from Texas have been heading out of state for the procedure. According to Planned Parenthood, Colorado and Oklahoma respectively saw 1,000% and 2,500% increases in abortion patients from Texas since the ban went into effect.

With the abortion access restrictions in Texas and Oklahoma, women in both states are now likely to turn to Colorado for care. Local abortion providers say the potential surge in demand as more surrounding states seek to restrict access would overwhelm health systems and create a dangerous scenario of abortion tourism in America.

Potential Abortion Impact 

Pandemic-related disruptions to women’s lifestyles and access to contraceptive services are contributing to higher numbers of unintended pregnancies worldwide. The United Nations Population Fund announced last week that nearly half of the 121 million pregnancies reported each year are unintended, calling the situation a global crisis.

“This report is a wakeup call. The staggering number of unintended pregnancies represents a global failure to uphold women and girls’ basic human rights,” says UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem in a press statement. “For the women affected, the most life-altering reproductive choice—whether or not to become pregnant—is no choice at all. By putting the power to make this most fundamental decision squarely in the hands of women and girls, societies can ensure that motherhood is an aspiration and not an inevitability.”

Comprehensive Women’s Health Center in Denver estimates a fifth of its patients have been out-of-state patients who are often further along in pregnancy than local residents due to the logistics associated with coordinating work and travel. Appointments there are already backlogged several weeks.

Abortion advocates have remained vigilant in rallying support for women in the region. The National Network of Abortion Funds connects women with organizations that can support the financial and logistical needs of abortion tourism. The Cobalt Abortion Fund provides direct financial assistance to individuals seeking abortion care, paying for travel, accommodations, and childcare. In late 2021, a third of its recipients were from Texas.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America recently received a $275 million donation from billionaire philanthropist and novelist MacKenzie Scott. Officials say the much-needed funding will go to expansion efforts, infrastructure, and staffing investments that can support increased patient needs. The organization has been expanding its financial support net to cover the procedure and its related costs, like transportation and hotel accommodations.

In a statement to State of Reform, Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains expressed both concern over Oklahoma’s ban and resolve to become a regional hub for abortion access.

“This latest abortion ban is devastating—for Texas patients seeking care in Oklahoma, unable to access that care in their home communities for seven months now; for Oklahoma patients, who will soon find themselves in the position of having to travel for the care they need; and for all of us as we watch the steady chipping away of our reproductive rights by extremists whose political agendas don’t represent the sentiments of the majority of Americans. Your access to health care should never depend on your zip code, and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains will continue doing everything we can to care for the patients who need us.”