Abortion providers call for more resources, protections as Colorado sees influx of patients

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Sitting in a room with a group of abortion providers and advocates Wednesday at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, U.S. Rep. Jason Crow took diligent notes as abortion experts told him what they needed to improve abortion. abortion access in Colorado.

As the state has seen an influx of new patients after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade two months ago, Crow, a Centennial Democrat representing Colorado’s 6th congressional district, said it’s helpful for him to understand what’s happening “on the ground.” while he tries to persuade his colleagues in Congress to fight for abortion rights.

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Crow expressed his intent to find legislative solutions to protect women’s health care data from states that criminalize abortion, as well as protect those in the military who seek abortion services. He said that the lack of access to abortion in the country is a crisis, and that he did not think that as an elected official he would see the day when a fundamental right was taken away from half of the country’s population.

“I know it doesn’t address the universe of the challenge, but we’re certainly trying to see where we can move the needle when we can move it right now,” Crow said. “I think my job is just to support him and do everything within my power to make sure that they support him and we try to fix this egregious and egregious mistake.”

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Dr. Aaron Lazorwitz, who specializes in obstetrics, gynecology and family planning at Anschutz Medical Campus, shared how he came to Colorado to begin his residency after completing medical school in Texas because he knew he wanted to learn about abortion and Family planning. . Now that he leads education in this sector at Anschutz, he said he gets frequent requests from doctors in other states to help educate their residents.

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Lazorwitz said it’s the same with patients who come from other states, saying that if health care providers in those states don’t receive proper training, it will only continue to get worse.

“I think it’s a national problem, these areas are not going to have the trained doctors that they need, and those of us in the lucky states who can still teach, we can’t pick up the slack,” Lazorwitz said. “We tried, but we can’t.”

Dr. Kristina Tocce, medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Rockies, gave Crow several key points she wanted to get across as the most critical to improving the situation for abortion providers and patients.

First, Tocce said additional funding, so more providers can see patients, is essential. She said that with the influx of patients seeking abortion services, appointment wait times have increased for all patients, including those who need birth control, cancer screenings, wellness exams and emergency contraception. . It doesn’t matter if they’re from out of state or just around the corner: patients have to wait about three weeks.

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Another common thread for all health care providers, Tocce mentioned the need for more staff in her field amid “unprecedented demand for abortion services.” She She also said that clearly communicated protections for abortion providers nationwide are also imperative.

I get harassed every day when I walk into work, and so do my patients… I have patients who cry because they were harassed by a man with a megaphone who called them murderers, and that really affects an individual and makes people even scared, providers and patients alike.

– Dr. Kristina Tocce, Medical Director, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains

“There are so many people with real concerns about ‘Will regulators support me if vigilante groups bring charges against me?’” Tocce said. “That is such a big problem that it can deter people from working in our field of medicine.”

Tocce also wants to see protections for patients who fear what could happen in their home state if they need to travel to a safe state, like Colorado, to have an abortion. He said “I can’t stress enough” how scared patients are on top of the stress that comes with paying and traveling to make a difficult medical decision. She said the same goes for providers who face harassment.

“I get harassed every day when I walk into work, just like my patients,” Toccee said. “I have patients who cry because they were harassed by a man with a megaphone calling them killers, and that really affects a person and makes people even more scared, both providers and patients.”

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Abortion providers call for more resources, protections as Colorado sees influx of patients jason crow abortion 082422
U.S. Rep. Jason Crow speaks during a meeting with abortion providers on August 24, 2022, at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. (Lindsey Toomer/Colorado Newsline)

Finally, Tocce said he wants to make sure that patients seeking abortion services actually get them, which, he said, means investigating “bogus centers that offer falsely advertised and dangerous services,” such as medical abortion reversals. He said that some of these centers are enrolled in Medicaid.

Tocce was not the last to mention the problems these centers create for abortion providers. Aurea Bolaños Perea, director of strategic communications for the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, said these centers, often called crisis pregnancy centers, specifically target low-income people of color.

“They already outnumber abortion clinics three to one in the entire United States,” Bolaños Perea said. “They more than duplicate our clinics here in the state of Colorado, and they work under the guise of offering medical care.”

Bolaños Perea reiterated that the fact that abortion is protected as a right in Colorado does not mean that it is equitable or accessible. She said the state will remain vulnerable until the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which protects abortion rights in Colorado and was signed into law this year, is enshrined in the state Constitution.

“A basic principle of reproductive justice is that we have the human right to live in safe and healthy environments whether we decide to be parents or not,” said Bolaños Perea. “Access to abortion is a part of what we need to live a self-determined life. That means nothing when we don’t have access to safe housing, clean water, the legal right to live and work here, transportation, childcare, and so much more.”

Christina Soliz, political director of COLOR, noted the importance of ensuring that federal and state funds can be used to help with abortion access. She also emphasized the importance of using genderless language and ensuring that culturally competent abortion care is available in a person’s native language.

Kelsey Laurer, an Army veteran and certified nurse midwife who also teaches at Anschutz, said she has been working to get midwives at the university-affiliated abortion clinic, but wants advanced practice providers like midwives, nurse practitioners and assistants doctors are able to provide abortion services as well.

Laurer said she would ideally like to see funds allocated so advanced practice providers can get the training they need to be able to perform abortions and help with the demand physicians face. She said it took many months of coordinating with the clinic to get some of these providers to help with abortion care on a part-time basis.

“Most abortions in Colorado are medical abortions, and I think it makes sense for advanced practice providers to shoulder some of that burden,” Laurer said. “It’s really hard when there’s nothing simplified about education in schools. We don’t get the exposure to provide medication or…aspiration abortions as we can to the extent of our license.”