Taking care of neighbors in times of crisis is a Colorado tradition

Abortion rights demonstrators rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 4, 2020. Among abortion-rights activists, there’s relief and optimism as the Biden administration takes power Biden is expected to soon issue executive orders reversing anti-abortion actions taken by Trump. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Coloradans take care of our neighbors in times of crisis. With Texas’ new abortion ban, Colorado needs to support the Texans who have been abandoned by their state. This is a crisis. We can help. And we should.

We have a moral obligation to support our neighbors when their home states refuse them access to lifesaving care. And abortion care is lifesaving— people are 33 times more likely to die from carrying a pregnancy to term than from having an abortion. New research shows that banning abortion in the US would increase the number of pregnancy-related deaths by 21% overall, resulting in hundreds of women dying because they were denied healthcare. Being denied abortion is associated with more life-threatening health conditions

Texas’ ban forces anyone who needs an abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy (two weeks after a missed period) to either stay pregnant against their will, seek a potentially less safe abortion outside of the clinic, or travel to a state like Colorado. When Texas banned abortion earlier in the pandemic, many Texans came to our state for care. It’s likely that Texans desperate for care will turn to us again. Other states have indicated that they will ban abortion in a similar way and their residents are likely to similarly turn to us.

As experts on the impacts of abortion policy, we have three recommendations as Colorado prepares for our new role in the changed landscape of abortion care in the United States.  

First, we need to support abortion providers in Colorado. Although abortion is a common pregnancy outcome and a normal part of maternal healthcare, stigma and regulations have separated abortion from other pregnancy care. This means that organizations that provide abortion care are frequently under resourced, understaffed, and under supported. This is particularly true for the smaller independent clinics that provide most abortion care. Colorado’s Medicaid program should cover abortion, but it doesn’t. Federal restrictions on funding further constrain abortion providers. Colorado should directly fund the organizations that provide this critical, lifesaving care to Coloradans and those who must travel to our state. We support healthcare providers directly for other crises, like COVID-19. We can do the same for this crisis.

Our healthcare system in Colorado can absorb crisis levels of demand for a short period, but may not be equipped to meet the dramatically elevated demand for abortion that is likely to come. Thankfully, there is substantial interest among Colorado healthcare providers to receive training in abortion provision.

Second, we need to support organizations that provide logistical and practical support to people seeking abortion care. Traveling out of state leads to costs for transportation, hotels, and childcare. Traveling requires time off work and delays access to care, increasing the cost of abortion. Abortion funds support people who face these burdens, including organizations in Texas, like Jane’s Due Process, TEA Fund, Lilith Fund, Fund Texas Choice, West Fund, and Frontera Fund. And it also includes the Cobalt Fund, a Colorado organization that supports people seeking abortion care here. There will likely be many people who need this support in the coming months. 

Finally, Coloradans have a long history of protecting abortion rights in our state – which was the first to decriminalize abortion in 1967. Just last year voters rejected an abortion ban at 20 weeks of pregnancy. We must continue to reject efforts to restrict abortion access in our state, since residents of many other states will rely on us. We must also improve our public health abortion surveillance and consider access to abortion a quality indicator, as we have a responsibility to document the health impacts of disasters and how our state responds.  

We in Colorado have the opportunity to support our neighbors as they try to exercise the right to make their own life decisions. We can and should be a safe haven for those fleeing injustice. 

Kate Coleman-Minahan is an Assistant Professor and nurse practitioner at the University of Colorado College of Nursing at the Anschutz Medical Campus. Dr. Amanda Stevenson is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder. The views expressed here are their own and not those of the University of Colorado.

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