Abortion providers make legislative recommendations to Rep. Crow at listening session

Representatives from Planned Parenthood, CU Medical, Cobalt and more highlight abortion issues

Rylee Dunn
rdunn@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/29/22

Amid attacks on abortion access nationwide, abortion providers and advocates met with Rep. Jason Crow (CO-06) on Aug. 24 at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus to make legislative recommendations.  

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Abortion providers make legislative recommendations to Rep. Crow at listening session

Representatives from Planned Parenthood, CU Medical, Cobalt and more highlight abortion issues

Posted

Amid attacks on abortion access nationwide, abortion providers and advocates met with Rep. Jason Crow (CO-06) on Aug. 24 at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus to make legislative recommendations.  

Representatives —including physicians, administrators and others with abortion-related experiences — from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, Cobalt Advocates, CU Medical and COLOR highlighted at-risk areas in the field including training deficiencies, protections for patients and providers, inclusive language and equity in access.

Selina Najar, Cobalt Advocate’s political director, began the session by stating that since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Colorado has shouldered the burden of providing abortions to patients in neighboring states where the procedure is now illegal.

“We are bearing the impact of the Supreme Court’s unconscionable decision to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Najar said. "What we have seen in Colorado is what we have warned about with the Supreme Court for years. Overturning Roe means that states like Colorado are under incredible pressure to help patients and providers.”

Crow — a longtime supporter of abortion rights — reaffirmed his position on the issue and said it was important for him to understand the “impact on the ground” so that he can humanize the issue to colleagues in an effort to gain their support.

Additionally, Crow said that he hopes to prioritize protecting data so that abortion patients are not criminalized for seeking healthcare.

“There are some areas that are unique for legislating as well that I think we could get some traction,” Crow said. “One of those is protection of data; of publicly available, public domain women’s health data that could be used to criminalize women’s healthcare in states where abortion is illegal. And there are some efforts underway to look at how we can move legislation to provide some federal protections for that data, so it’s not used against women.”

Dr. Kristina Tocce, PPRM’s medical director, outlined five legislative recommendations to Crow; streamlining the national network of abortion providers, developing measures to attract and retain staff, clearly communicated protections for abortion patients and providers and investigating fake centers that offer “dangerous and falsely advertised services.”

“At PPRM we provide care in Colorado, New Mexico, Southern Nevada and Wyoming during this crisis in healthcare —I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a public health crisis,” Tocce said. “We are trying to increase services. Every abortion care provider is increasing services; expanding hours, onboarding more staff, utilizing telemedicine, utilizing patient navigation services.”

Tocce explained how despite expanded efforts, abortion providers are “literally overrun with patients who need abortion services,” which is in turn having a ripple effect on patients seeking other services such as birth control, cancer screening and wellness exams. Appointment wait times are now over three weeks, Tocce said.

In addition to these challenges, Tocce spoke about the harassment she and her patients are subjected to on a daily basis and asked for legal protection from those incidents.

“I am harassed every day when I walk into work,” Tocce said. “I have patients sobbing because they’re harassed by a man on a bullhorn calling them a murderer. That really takes a toll on an individual and makes people even more scared, providers and patients alike. We have rules and regulations around harassment of abortion care providers, but if they could be expanded or even reinforced that would be very beneficial to our aspect of care.”

Aurea Bolaños Perea, the strategic communications manager at COLOR — the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive rights — specifically addressed difficulties people of color face when seeking abortions.

Perea also mentioned fake pregnancy centers and said they disproportionally target people of color. Perea stated that these centers outnumber abortion clinics 3-to-1 nationally and 2-to-1 in Colorado and specifically target low-income people and people of color.

“Protecting abortion doesn’t mean it’s accessible for everybody,” Perea said. “I have to watch the ads, the stories in Spanish media saying, ‘Come here, esta clinica ahora,’ and you will be able to find care if you’re a new mother or expecting."

“(Patients are) expecting to be treated with the same amount of respect that somebody that may come to (CU Anschutz) and this hospital may receive,” Perea continued, “And what they end up receiving is someone saying ‘Do you want baby formula? Do you want diapers? You must go to this counseling center. I’ll give you an ultrasound and I’ll try to convince you to not terminate this pregnancy.’ Almost as if abortion is a quid pro quo for our communities.”

Christina Soliz, COLOR’s political director, advocated for using non-gendered language in messaging so that “we’re not leaving folks behind in talks of reproductive healthcare.” Soliz also advocated to expanded resources for rural residents seeking abortion.

“Another big thing for us is rural access to family planning,” Soliz said. “That includes access to telemedicine and mailed medication and language justice. Making sure they can receive care in their language that’s culturally competent can make a world of difference for folks.”

Dr. Aaron Lazorwitz, an OB-GYN, who moved from Houston to CU for his residency, said that medical students from Texas and Oklahoma — where abortion is illegal — have reached out to CU for resources.

Lazorwitz said that although he and other CU physicians want to help, they simply don’t have the resources to do so and have to prioritize their own students and residents.

“We’re trying to figure out what we can do to help because we all feel a strong obligation and commitment to that education and helping the future OB-GYNs,” Lazorwitz said. “And we’re all really struggling to figure out how we’re going to do that because we have to put our residents first… The patients are coming to get the care here and it’s just going to get worse and worse as those trainees in those states don’t get the training they need. 

“You’re going to have these generations of physicians coming up who can’t provide these services, can’t take care of women, and you end up in these tragic circumstances we hear on the news,” Lazorwitz continued.

Finally, Roy Taylor gave a heartfelt personal testimony about his family’s experience.

Five years ago, Roy and his wife went for an ultrasound. The doctor came back to the Taylors and informed them that “the fetal abnormalities were incompatible with life.” The Taylors were advised to have an abortion.

“It was an extremely difficult experience,” Taylor said. “This was an experience with all the support my wife needed; I had good insurance, we came to a great hospital, we had excellent care from the moment we showed up until the moment we left, everybody was great. But these things are hard.”

Taylor urged Crow to be honest with his congressional colleagues about what people actually go through when they get an abortion.

“There’s so many lies about what’s going on,” Taylor said. “The notion of the state coming in and intruding on these moments for families is so abhorrent and so scary. It’s just so important that people know the stories. Make them honestly look at these stories and and honestly look at these people and honestly see the pain they’re causing.”

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