While several cities in Colorado are expected to become destinations for people seeking abortions, Puebloans continue to be 50 miles away from the nearest Planned Parenthood.
Unlike states that have or are expected to ban abortion, Pueblo’s lack of abortion services has little to do with the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision.
In 2015, Pueblo’s Planned Parenthood location, 955 US 50 West, was forced to close after the building was sold to a new owner, Pueblo Galleria LLC., who refused to renew the lease, according to a January 2015 Pueblo Chieftain article. After sexual health care organizations were forced out of town, Pueblo has been without abortion services.
An agent with Pueblo Galleria LLC. was contacted by the Chief for this article but would not comment on why the lease was not renewed
Forced relocations of Planned Parenthood centers can happen for a variety of reasons, according to Adrienne Mansanares, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. There have been cases where locations are moved after opposition from surrounding businesses and landlords.
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“Unfortunately, we see owners who allow political or religious beliefs to get in the way of our relationship,” she said. “It’s not common, but it happens.”
Some individuals from Pueblo who seek an abortion or to receive other reproductive health care services offered by Planned Parenthood travel about 50 miles to Colorado Springs, where about 500 patients from Pueblo are seen each year, Mansanares said. Some Puebloans travel as far as Alamosa, Durango or even Farmington, New Mexico, to receive care at Planned Parenthood sites.
“While we don’t have an on-site health center in Pueblo, we do have options,” Mansanares said. “I want to strongly encourage anyone in Pueblo looking for information about pregnancy options to give us a call.”
Outside of abortion services, Planned Parenthood offers breast and cervical cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection testing, birth control prescriptions, and other family planning services.
“We still offer those services at our health center in Colorado Springs, and when we see people coming from Pueblo, it may be because their primary care provider has stopped providing services or the wait time at the health department clinics public is alone and it’s easier to get out in Colorado Springs,” Mansanares said.
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Less than a month after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood Colorado locations are already seeing an influx of patients coming from neighboring states.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health care policy think tank, 26 states are “certain or likely” to enact 6-week, 8-week or near-total abortion bans after the Supreme Court ruling. The list of states that may impose bans includes Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
“We’re absolutely seeing more and more patients traveling in, mostly from Texas, and we’re already starting to see patients from other states that banned abortion care like Oklahoma, Utah, Idaho, and I imagine we’ll continue to see them ,” Mansanares said.
Colorado is one of six states with no gestational age restrictions for abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Pueblo County Health Department Family Planning Clinic Doing Everything It Can to Reduce Unplanned Pregnancies
Due to federal Title X funding, the Department of Public Health and Environment’s Family Planning Clinic in Pueblo is unable to perform abortions, but the department is working to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, especially among teenagers and young adults.
Historically, Pueblo County has seen high rates of teenage pregnancies. However, rates have decreased significantly in the past decade, according to Jody Carrillo, interim program manager at the PDPHE Family Planning Clinic.
In 2009, there were 348 births among 15-19 year olds in Pueblo County. Six years later, the number of teenage pregnancies dropped by nearly 64% to 151 births. Carrillo said the decrease in teenage pregnancies was largely the result of the introduction of long-acting reversible contraceptives at the Family Planning Clinic and other health care providers in Pueblo County.
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Unlike birth control pills, long-acting reversible contraceptives such as intrauterine devices and hormonal contraceptive implants can be effective for anywhere from three to 10 years, depending on the type. The devices can be “expensive, if not unaffordable,” for low-income people without the clinic’s fee scale for contraceptives, Carrillo said.
“Family Planning and birth control services are on a sliding scale of fees, including little or no fees for youth and confidential patients,” according to the PDPHE Family Planning Clinic website. “The sliding fee scale depends on your income and how many people you support. Testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections will come with low-cost fees.”
Other contraceptive options offered by the clinic include oral contraceptives, Depo-Provera injections, condoms, diaphragms, vaginal rings and patches. The clinic also offers educational presentations, STI testing, pregnancy testing and cancer screening among other services.
“The services provided by the Family Planning clinic will be critical to prevent unwanted pregnancy,” Carrillo said. “It is vital for a woman of reproductive age to have control over her health, to be offered education and access to quality services and contraceptives.
Pueblo Chieftain reporter James Bartolo can be reached by email at [email protected]