A Texas woman recently drove 18 hours to Colorado with an ectopic pregnancy, where a fertilized egg mistakenly implants outside, rather than inside, the uterus.
The condition is dangerous; a rupture could lead the woman to bleed to death.
The woman was unsure if it would happen to her as she was on her way to an abortion in Colorado, said Laura Chapin, spokeswoman for the Cobalt Abortion Fund.
“It’s not a viable fetus, but the hospitals in Texas aren’t going to take that risk,” Chapin said.
In this case, the situation worked out well and the woman received the care she needed.
A woman from another family seeking an abortion in Colorado over the past few months had three jobs and two kids and couldn’t afford another.
“They borrowed a cousin’s car to come here, they had to keep it quiet, so their boss didn’t know,” Chapin said.
Out-of-state women have been performing abortions at clinics in Colorado for decades, as it is one of the few states that does not impose any restrictions on the stage of gestation, which means that the women have the legal right to obtain an abortion from conception until birth.
What changed, Chapin said, was that when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade on June 24, believing that the federal constitutional right to abortion would revert to the control of individual states, some states have authorized large-scale bans on abortions.
Since then, the demand for abortions in Colorado has increased dramatically, with the majority of patients coming from Texas, followed by Oklahoma, Arizona, Wyoming and New Mexico, according to Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
By the end of September, the number of out-of-state patients seen this year — at 2,477 — had far exceeded the 2021 total of 1,560, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
A Planned Parenthood employee said the organization had a total of 222 patients who had out-of-state abortions in the 45 days before Roe v. Wade, versus 824 patients who had out-of-state abortions within 45 days of the June 24 ruling. — an increase of 271%.
Anti-abortion activists expected more women to have abortions in Colorado.
“We knew Colorado was going to become somewhat of an abortion tourism state when we liberalized our law and some states around us restricted abortion access, but the high numbers of people from out of state surprised and confused us,” Julie Bailey said. of Pikes Peak Citizens for Life and Director of Respect Life Apostolate with the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs.
The skyrocketing demand for services has also created long waiting lists for private providers, one of whom says it will be impossible to see all the patients who want to come here.
“Colorado supports the medical, emotional, and financial tab of abortion bans in other states,” Chapin said.
A Texas law that took effect in September 2021 prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, about six weeks gestation, but allows abortions in medical emergencies documented by a doctor. It provided for prosecution of anyone who ‘aids or abets’
Since August, Texas law allows felony charges against those involved in illegal abortion.
“Doctors are afraid to even refer a patient without fear of being sued,” said Dr. Warren Hern, who runs a private medical abortion practice in Boulder known worldwide for performing late-term abortions and work with difficult pregnancies, such as “catastrophic”. fetal abnormalities. ”
“People are terrified,” he said. “Women are suffering.”
Two-thirds of women applying for Cobalt financial aid come from Texas, Chapin said, with Wyoming and the Dakotas ranking next.
The Front Range cities of Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs are where the majority of out-of-state women head to terminate their pregnancies, according to Cobalt.
Hern, founder and owner of Boulder Abortion Clinic in Boulder, is one of about two dozen providers statewide, according to Cobalt Statistics.
“I can’t see all the patients who want to come here,” he said, “and the waiting lists are very bad for patients because they end up getting longer.”
Abortion procedures are time sensitive; the longer a woman has to wait for an abortion, the more expensive and complicated it becomes.
“If someone wants an appointment and we can’t see them that week, we have to reschedule it for the following week and then the following week,” Hern said. “I’ve had patients who waited two to three months to have an abortion.”
Cost is an issue for many of the women he sees.
“They don’t have a bus ticket to get to the end of town let alone fly across the country,” Hern said.
State funding for abortion in Colorado is limited to life-threatening, rape, and incest cases. The Cobalt Abortion Fund was started in 1984 in Colorado by Unitarian Universalists, to use private donations to help women whose abortions were not covered by insurance pay the cost gap.
That year was also the year with the most abortions in Colorado, with 17,550 procedures, according to statistics from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Colorado tracked 11,580 abortions last year and from January to September of this year, 9,898 abortions.
As the only independent abortion fund in the state, Cobalt dedicates most of its contributions to supporting women’s costs related to travel, motel stays, meals, and the cost of procedures.
Over the past four months, the organization has seen an “exponential increase” in need but was able to raise enough money to not turn anyone away, Chapin said.
In 2021, the organization spent a total of $6,000 on “hands-on support,” for travel, accommodation and food-related expenses, and $200,000 in procedural funding for about 1,100 clients, a she declared.
Through September, the organization has helped 1,084 clients with $273,000 in procedural funding and $164,703 in hands-on support, Chapin said.
A first trimester abortion can cost between $500 and $600, when up to 10 weeks the medicated abortion pill process can be used. Fetal tissue can also be removed by aspiration or suction.
The number of women opting for the two-step chemical pill, in which a woman essentially expels the fetus at home or in a hotel room, rather than during surgery, is also of concern to anti-abortion groups, a Bailey said.
“It’s fraught with danger because women are managing their own abortions at home and not under the close supervision of a doctor,” she said, “and we’re sure it’s going to lead to more injured women.” I don’t think it reflects how we should care for women.”
Just over two in three women who had an abortion in 2021 in Colorado used the nonsurgical medical procedure, while 28% had an aspiration method, according to state statistics.
As a pregnancy progresses into the second and third trimesters, an abortion becomes “more complicated,” Chapin said, and can cost $1,000 or more. Cobalt typically pays about half the cost of the procedure for clients, she said.
Planned Parenthood also offers a “patient assistance fund” and companies such as Amazon, Disney, Apple, Netflix, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Estee Lauder, Comcast, Cigna, Citigroup, Eli Lilly and others have stated that they extended company benefits to cover travel. expenses related to abortion services.
Two prominent abortion funders in Texas, the Texas Equal Access Fund and the Lilith Fund, have suspended granting funds for abortions, saying on their websites that they take the time to evaluate operations at in light of changes to abortion laws.
“The right to have an abortion is meaningless if it is not accessible,” says the abortion advocacy group Avow Texas, on its website. The organization is “pushing the envelope” in its quest to reduce the stigma surrounding abortion. He promotes that abortion is “safe, common and normal” and sells T-shirts that say “Abortion is love” and a heart shape with the word “abortion” on it.
Religious groups help
Some progressive religious groups helped women get abortions before the procedure became legal in 1973.
The practice has resumed, also in an underground format as in the past, said Rabbi Jay Sherwood of Temple Shalom, the largest synagogue in Colorado Springs.
“These networks exist, and the people who are part of these networks in order to protect women and clergy do not talk about them publicly,” he said.
Many Colorado rabbis helped out-of-state Jewish women who contacted them, Sherwood said. But that would be considered a private and spiritual matter.
Unlike some conservative Christian denominations and Islam, Judaism does not ban or oppose abortion, Sherwood said, because life is considered to begin at birth, not conception.
While Judaism says that abortion can and in some cases should take place if it threatens the life of the mother, whether this refers only to the physical life of the mother or also to her emotional, psychological, financial or sociological, that’s the debating question,” Sherwood said.
Either way, “the Jewish world says you can’t ban abortion,” he said.
“It’s important that abortion remains legal throughout the United States,” Sherwood said, “because every case is different, and it’s important that we don’t legislate one religious perspective over another.”
The outlook remains unstable, say women’s rights activists.
“We have hostile states saying they’re going to sue anyone who comes here for care, which is a very scary prospect,” said Chapin of the Cobalt Abortion Fund. “There’s a lot in the air, and the uncertainty is causing a lot of people to take a break.”
But Colorado, which in 1967 became the first state to expand legalized abortion only if the mother’s life was in danger to include cases of rape and incest, seems poised to continue its allegiance to access for all.
The Democratic-controlled state legislature codified abortion rights in April by passing the Reproductive Health Equity Act. The new law guarantees as a “fundamental right” the continuation of a pregnancy or abortion. The law also declares that a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus has no independent rights.