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Longer wait times expected as Colorado becomes island of access to abortion care

Already the wait time at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains clinics is 19 days. At the Boulder Abortion Clinic, they're scheduling out to mid-July.

COLORADO, USA — The phone at the Boulder Abortion Clinic was ringing non-stop on Friday with calls from journalists looking to speak with Dr. Warren Hern, a medical provider who has been performing abortions since the moment Roe v. Wade passed.

"I'm annoyed by the fact that I'm 84," laughed Dr. Hern. "I don't like it; I liked it better when I was 50 years younger, but here we are." 

But Dr. Hern's age will not stop him from continuing to perform abortions in Colorado, a state that will become an island of access to abortion care now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.

RELATED: In Colorado, abortion remains legal after Supreme Court ruling

"There is no way to meet that need right now, so the situation is calamitous all over the country," he said about the demand Colorado and other states where abortion stays legal will see. 

There are 23 medical providers in Colorado that perform abortions, and even fewer perform late abortions like Dr. Hern's office. 

"Many of my patients have desired pregnancies, and they are very anguished about ending the pregnancy; they don't want to do that," he said. "They want to have a baby, not an abortion, but they have a situation where the fetus they're carrying will not survive or will suffer interminably if it's born alive, and they want to spare their baby that fate." 

Women have been traveling from around the world for decades to his office to receive the care they cannot get in their own country or state. 

Even before Friday morning's decision, his office was seeing a 50-100% influx of patients after Texas passed the "heartbeat bill" last year. 

Dr. Hern is quick to point out that it's only women with money who are even able to access care in other states, which he said adds to the discrimination this Supreme Court decision will create. 

RELATED: How will the Texas abortion law impact Colorado?

"We're scheduling women in the middle of July now," said Dr. Hern. 

He added that a 2-3 week wait time can put women in danger.

"One of the penalties for these laws for women is that they can't get an early safe abortion that is less expensive and less complicated, lower risk, less emotional distress," he said. 

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains runs 10 of the 23 places that perform abortions in Colorado. 

They are currently seeing a 19-day wait from a call to an appointment. 

"When you're talking about a time-sensitive matter like abortion care, that's a very long time and can completely change a patient's trajectory as to what type of abortion care they're eligible to receive or if they are eligible for abortion care at all," said Dr. Kritina Tocce, the vice president and medical director at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. 

While they have also seen an increase in patients from Texas and Oklahoma, after Friday, they expect an influx from all over the country.

"It's not just going to be the neighboring states," said Dr. Tocce. "Patients are going to have to travel wherever they can obtain appointments." 

Dr. Tocce said they are seeing patients choose locations based on where they can find a cheap flight, or where they might have friends and family to stay with. 

Planned Parenthood has been working on a plan to expand resources in Colorado and across its region. Dr. Tocce said that will mean more brick-and-mortar clinics, increased staffing, and more access to care through telemedicine.

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