In the month since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and removed the federal right to an abortion, at least some of the Boulder health providers who offer that care are experiencing the impact of being located in a state where such access remains legal.
Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center, Colorado’s first abortion clinic, reports a 150 to 200% increase in phone calls with scheduling and logistical questions. In terms of actual patients, the center said it has seen a 250 to 300% increase in patient visits for abortion care. A spokesperson said the center is currently not providing the actual number of calls or visits to the public.
But given its history, Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center feels perhaps a particular sense of duty to continue serving those in need of abortion care in Boulder County and beyond.
“It’s at the core of our mission. It’s the very reason that we opened back in 1973,” recently appointed CEO Savita Ginde said. “We’re still here.”
Boulder has a history of support for abortion and reproductive health care. In addition to being home to the first abortion clinic in the state, Boulder in 1986 became the first city in the United States to pass an ordinance that protected people going into health care clinics from harassment, harm and hostility.
This law, which enforces an 8-foot buffer of protection for any patient who steps within 100 feet of a medical facility, was made with Dr. Warren Hern’s clinic in mind. The Boulder-based doctor remains one of the world’s only doctors who will treat patients facing extreme or serious fetal abnormality late in pregnancy, according to earlier Camera reporting.
As more people come to Colorado for abortion care, it’s possible that wait times could increase to the point that local health care providers are no longer able to provide services in a timely fashion.
However, Ginde said reproductive health and family planning organizations across the state are proactively planning and working together to avoid this.
The goal is to expand operations “in a way that doesn’t make us have to make those tough decisions,” she added.
Still, while some local clinics are reporting a higher call volume and more patient visits since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, that experience is not universal.
Boulder Community Health, for example, said it’s not experienced a significant increase in patient calls with questions related to reproductive health care in response to the Supreme Court’s decision, spokesperson Celanie Pinnell confirmed.
The Boulder County nonprofit health system has obstetrician and midwife teams that offer family planning, preconception care, prenatal care, labor and delivery and postpartum care including counseling for all reproductive options, Pinnell noted in an emailed statement. She stated the system’s providers do not offer elective terminations.
The city has had conversations with organizations providing reproductive health care in the days and weeks following the Supreme Court’s decisions, Boulder’s Deputy Director for Housing and Human Services Elizabeth Crowe told the City Council in a July 14 meeting.
“They’re still doing the work. They’re very committed to it, even more so in a way, given the additional anxiety, fear and a lot of stress that community members are having — and providers as well,” Crowe said.
“They’re really working at this point to continue to meet the needs of community members and to try to track trends and plan for ripple effects that might come upon them as a result of the Supreme Court decision on Roe versus Wade,” she added.
Ginde also acknowledged a concern about patients who may visit Boulder Valley for other services, particularly those who delayed regular mammograms or cervical cancer screenings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important for patients to know that they should not further delay such appointments out of a concern about higher patient volume at the center, she noted.
While the Supreme Court’s decision changed the circumstances, it wasn’t fully unexpected and reproductive care and family planning facilities have had some time to prepare, Ginde said.
“We find ourselves at the table, working hand in hand with each other, to make sure that together as a state, we’re strong,” she said.