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Out of state patients flock to Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood

Graphic courtesy of IPSOS

At Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, health care providers knew that when strict abortion laws went into place, people would be willing to travel from all over the country to secure a safe and legal procedure. Despite all their preparations, when Roe vs. Wade was overturned, the influx of out of state patients caught everyone by surprise. Here's President and CEO Adrienne Mansanares.

"Immediately after the Dobbs decision in June of 2022, our call times were really high, meaning a lot of people had to wait a long time to be able to get an appointment, and then early on in June, July, August, We were booking out really far, so patients would have to wait upwards of four weeks sometimes to get an abortion.
And as you might imagine, if you know that you don't want to be pregnant, waiting those four weeks can be torturous."

Now, wait times are only a few days. By training more of their licensed providers, 19 out of the PPRM's 20 health centers are able to provide medication abortion services. Local patients with non immediate concerns are directed to telehealth clinics so that those coming in from out of state are able to receive care in Planned Parenthood facilities.

"We also started seeing many of our family planning visits here locally, people who wanted to renew their birth control or who, had a urinary tract and we converted a lot of to a telehealth situation so that they could still receive excellent compassionate care but they wouldn't have to come in to our health centers."

Many out of state patients are coming from Arizona and Oklahoma Arizona protects abortions up to 15 weeks, but Oklahoma prohibits abortion entirely, abortion entirely outside of cases that would prove fatal to the carrying individual. Oklahoma's laws are most comparable to Texas, the state that contributes up to 80 percent of out of state patients.

"During the pandemic in April of 2020, Governor Abbott in Texas declared that abortion care was non essential, meaning people couldn't leave their homes in Texas to receive an abortion. And so we had already started to see a big jump in patients traveling from Texas in April 2020. So then that went kind of back to normal when abortion care was available again in Texas during that short time.

And then right after the Dobbs decision, when the Supreme Court eradicated the protections under Roe v. Wade, we saw that jump again from out of state patients from Texas."

Despite the progress being made to accommodate these new patients, they still face a litany of personal and legal challenges.

"So one thing they're risking criminalization.
That's scary. It provides a lot of stigma. There's a lot of shame around that. It's confusing the laws of their own communities. So patients may not know what laws govern their movement. Think about how cruel that is to not know whether or not [00:03:00] what you're doing is legal or illegal. It's terrifying for patients.

But I'll say people are willing to face jail time, fines. Some of our patients are jumping on an airplane for the very first time in their lives. Nearly a third of the patients that are traveling for care are already parents. So they want to focus in on the health and the well being of their current family.
And you think about those kiddos that they're either leaving at home or they have to bring with them or they're trying to figure out childcare."

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains serves Colorado and New Mexico. According to one study done by multinational market research firm, Ipsos in 2024, four in five americans believe that abortion issues are between a woman and h er doctor Mansanares feels that it is her organization's responsibility to ensure that the will of the people who live in these states is reflected in their legislation.

"I don't think any state is protected or immune from the political and religious radicals that are working to take this right away from people.

I'm very proud of the work that we've done with our coalition partners and all of our supporters in Colorado. But I don't think that's something that we can ever take for granted. I think it requires everyone who believes in healthcare to be able to register to vote, to make sure that we're electing champions, and to make sure that we don't ever remain or fall back into complacency.

I think it's something we have to continually fight for forever. Abortion care is the number one issue on many voters minds as we're heading into, uh, Election season in 2024. We have the chance to win big across the state and to be a key influencer in the next several years of policymaking here in the Rocky Mountain region.

It can be either challenging to remember or maybe disappointing to think about, but we do have lawmakers here in Colorado. Who, if they had their way, they would implement the same cruel bans that we see now in Texas and Oklahoma and in other states where only one election away from losing access to care in our region."

Reproductive health clinics around the country are experiencing strains on their resources and Mansanares worries that the Southeast may be the next place to get hit Big.

"I'm looking at two states in particular, one at Florida. Florida is a very populated state. And if we lose access to abortion care in Florida, it will have a devastating impact in the southeast part of the country.

And I imagine we'll start to see even more people having to Travel very long distances for their health care. And then I'm also looking just to our neighbor over in the West at Arizona. There's another ballot initiative that would protect abortion care there. [00:06:00] Whenever the laws in Arizona go backwards and up and down, and people don't know what their rights are, and they're not sure if they can get access to birth control.

Which is what we've seen in Arizona in the recent years, they travel to our health center in Glenwood Springs. And so it's a small health center in Glenwood Springs. I'm very proud of that mountain town health center. We see a lot of, you know, the entire kind of Rocky Mountain region can come there. And when people are traveling from Arizona, or sometimes they're coming from Utah, it just puts a strain on our ability to see patients locally."

As the laws continue to change rapidly, Mansanares encourages people to keep holding on to hope and engage with democracy.

Lily Jones is a recent graduate of Mississippi State University, with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and a concentration in Broadcasting and Digital Journalism. At WMSV, MSU's college radio station, Jones served as the Public Affairs and Social Media Coordinator. In her spare time Lily likes to go to the gym and watercolor.