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Out-of-state patients cross into Colorado for legal abortions

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Colorado is in a part of the country where there are now a lot of restrictive abortion laws. Kansas and New Mexico are exceptions. Even so, more and more people are traveling to Colorado from out of state for abortion care. The patient count started rising more than a year ago following the Texas law banning all abortions after six weeks. From Denver, Claire Cleveland reports.

CLAIRE CLEVELAND, BYLINE: The small town of Cortez, Colo., borders three states. But the Planned Parenthood there gets calls from all over the country, says Sharon, the health center manager. We're only using her first name because she fears harassment.

SHARON: I personally have scheduled patients from Louisiana, South Carolina, many from Texas, and not just northern Texas but, like, Corpus Christi, Texas. And it's, like, a thousand miles for them to travel.

CLEVELAND: Already this year, more than 2,400 out-of-state patients have crossed into Colorado for an abortion, according to provisional state data. That's over a thousand more than in the year before Texas passed its abortion ban.

SHARON: Appointments are being pushed out further and further because we're at capacity.

CLEVELAND: Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which serves Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, has seen an 18% increase in abortions. The organization has increased its capacity, but wait times for appointments have still increased by a week or more.

NANCY FANG: There are going to be people who die because they're not able to access this care.

CLEVELAND: Dr. Nancy Fang is with the Comprehensive Women's Health Center in Denver. She says when appointments are delayed, pregnancies progress. And patients may then require a two-or-more-day second trimester abortion versus a one-day procedure in the first trimester. When Fang reviews her patients for the day, she pays special attention to where they're traveling from.

FANG: Other pieces of information that we used to not really focus too much on are how long are they staying in town, when their flight is or whether they're driving home.

CLEVELAND: The Colorado nonprofit Cobalt, which covers expenses for some who come here for abortion care, has more than doubled their spending since the Supreme Court abandoned Roe v. Wade. So far this year, they've supported nearly 400 people with things like plane tickets, lodging and child care.

For NPR News, I'm Claire Cleveland in Denver. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claire Cleveland