What it means for Colorado if Roe V. Wade is overturned
A leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court shows that justices may overturn Roe v Wade. Colorado lawmakers recently enacted a bill that protects access to abortion here, but the ruling could lead to restrictions around abortion access in surrounding states.
KUNC’s Samantha Coetzee spoke to Kate Coleman-Minahan, an assistant professor with Colorado University's College of Nursing to discuss what this means for local clinics that offer abortion services.
These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Samantha Coetzee: How do women access abortions in Colorado right now? Are they typically done in hospitals or private clinics?
Kate Coleman-Minahan: Most abortions are done at outpatient clinics here in Colorado.
Coetzee: And what resources are available to people in Colorado seeking abortion access right now?
Coleman-Minahan: There are several abortion organizations that help fund abortion like Cobalt. Here in Colorado, there is a ban on the use of Medicaid to fund abortion, and there is no mandate for private insurance to cover abortion. So, often people struggle paying for abortion care since it's out of pocket and can range anywhere from $400 up to close to $1,000. So these organizations can help provide funding for people.
Coetzee: I'm thinking about states close to Colorado like Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma and Texas that have so-called trigger laws on the books that will restrict or ban abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Can we expect to see more people from these states coming to Colorado for abortion access if this happens? Or what are we seeing right now as laws are getting stricter in states like those?
Coleman-Minahan: We are seeing an increase of people coming from out of state here in Colorado seeking care. In Texas, we know the majority of Texans are going to Oklahoma and New Mexico, but Oklahoma recently eliminated access to abortion. So we will see more people coming as other states further restrict or eliminate access to care. We are planning to see an increase over what we've been seeing here.
Coetzee: And do you have any idea of how much of an increase that could be?
Coleman-Minahan: I do not know what the increase is now. Data from my colleagues at the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found over a thousand people leaving the state of Texas a month and 45% were going to Oklahoma. So once that's eliminated, we're going to see even more. I don't think anyone knows exactly the increase that we'll see.
Coetzee: Will local health clinics be able to handle this influx when it ultimately happens?
Coleman-Minahan: Some researchers have been studying wait times and whether there is a delay for abortion appointments at states that are currently seeing an increase in out-of-state patients. Even here in Colorado, there has been an increase in wait times. So although we are able to provide care for people coming out of state, as that volume increases there can be more wait times which can push people later into pregnancy, delaying access to care.
Coetzee: In the future do you think health care providers who perform abortions in state with restrictions or bans will end up moving their practices to Colorado?
Coleman-Minahan: I do not think we have any data on that, so I'm not sure. I do think one opportunity that we have here in Colorado and in other states that allow advanced practice, clinicians such as midwives, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, is that there is an opportunity for them to help increase the abortion provider workforce. Colorado does not have a law restricting abortion provision to physicians, but when I conducted a study with advanced practice clinicians here in Colorado, only 12% were aware that they could actually provide abortion care.
Coetzee: Is there anything else that we should expect locally if Roe v. Wade is overturned?
Coleman-Minahan: We will see an increase in people coming from out of state, and that will affect wait times for both people coming from out of state and people here in Colorado. So this is going to have an impact not just on people in the states that are restricting or eliminating access, but also states like Colorado. We can expect to see an increase so we should prepare not only the workforce to provide this care, but support, including funding to help people get out of state. These people often have to drive or fly long distances as well as find places to stay, including at hotels. We could provide more of a welcoming environment to people that are forced to flee their states to obtain essential health care.