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Colorado-based reproductive rights organizations see spike in donations after Roe v. Wade decision

As trigger laws take effect in surrounding states, groups prepare to support influx of patients
More than 200 people gathered in Buckley Park and marched along Main Avenue on June 24 to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v Wade. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

In the days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Colorado-based reproductive rights groups – including Cobalt, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights – have seen a surge in donations.

Advocates say raising money to keep abortion accessible in the state is crucial as other states restrict or fully ban abortions. Laura Chapin, spokeswoman for Cobalt, which works to expand and protect abortion access and reproductive rights in Colorado, said donations to the organization tripled since the court’s ruling. As of Thursday, Chapin said Cobalt had brought in about $146,000 since the court’s decision was released June 24.

“The bottom line is that Roe has been overturned and there is no constitutional right to abortion in the U.S. anymore, which means that states that have been trying to ban it for years are now going to do so and that just inflicts incredible trauma on patients, on providers, for everyone,” Chapin said.

People who donate to Cobalt can direct their money to two different places: the organization’s abortion fund or the general support fund, including the organization’s practical support fund. The practical support fund includes funding for items such as transportation, groceries or hotels for those seeking abortion care. Donating to Cobalt’s abortion fund provides direct financial support to those seeking abortion in Colorado, Chapin said.

In the weekend after the decision, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which serves Colorado, received $37,000 in donations. Neta Meltzer, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said that represents a 4,000% increase from the previous weekend.

COLOR has received more than $5,000 in donations since the court’s decision, said Aurea Bolaños Perea, the organization's strategic communications director. Bolaños Perea said that is a significant increase in donations for COLOR.

Donations to COLOR go to educational resources, the organization’s youth of color fellowship program, policy efforts and other efforts to advocate for reproductive justice across the state, Bolaños Perea said.

In Colorado, state lawmakers passed the Reproductive Health and Equity Act in April, which codified the right to an abortion and access to birth control in state law. Unless Republicans in the state gain control of the House, Senate and governor’s office, it is unlikely the RHEA will be overturned. Even without the RHEA, abortion would have remained legal in Colorado after the court’s decision because there is no state law prohibiting it.

Thirteen states in the U.S. have “trigger laws” – laws that immediately went into effect after the court struck down Roe, including Wyoming, Oklahoma and Utah. However, on Monday, a judge in Utah granted a temporary restraining order blocking the state’s trigger law and allowing abortions to resume. Yet, trigger laws may have a domino effect on abortion access in the region, advocates say.

“We’ve seen our client volume triple as of the decision on Friday (June 24) because clinics in states with trigger bans were having to call and cancel appointments, you know, minutes after the ruling came out which is just extremely devastating, and I think this is going to have a really long-term devastating ripple effect,” said Amanda Carlson, director of Cobalt’s abortion fund.

In 2021, 13.5% of abortions in Colorado were performed on people from out of state, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The number of people coming to Colorado from other states for abortions has increased every year for the past five years, according to that same data, and the total number of abortions done in the state has increased each year since 2016.

“Prior to COVID, we were using about $800k to support patients through our patient assistance fund each year,” Meltzer wrote in an email to The Durango Herald. “We’re projected to use about $6 million this year, clearly illustrating a significant increase in need (a 650% increase). The need for patient assistance funding is increasing as more patients travel our way from nearby and neighboring states in which care is no longer available.”

Abortion funds like Cobalt help offset the financial barriers to having an abortion. Both Medicaid and HealthFirst Colorado will cover abortion only if it is to save the life of the pregnant person. Public employees’ insurance in Colorado also prohibits the use of public funding for abortions.

Carlson said the fight to protect abortion access in Colorado and countrywide will depend on not just one-time donations in the wake of a tragedy or a major news event, often referred to as “rage donors,” but with sustained donations over time.

“We do plan to continue to fight this and we want to continue to show up for the clients that we serve,” Carlson said. “So we’re very excited about the rise in donations but are also keenly aware of the need to sustain this work for the long term.”

​​Nina Heller is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at nheller@durangoherald.com.

An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect title for Aurea Bolaños Perea. She is strategic communications director for Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights.

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