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The focus on abortion doesn't touch on other challenges for women in Colorado

Abortion is one concern for women, as well as child care, paid leave, maternal mortality and more.

DENVER — The Supreme Court can reverse Roe v. Wade but access to abortion in Colorado won't change due to state law. But while abortion may be one concern for women, the same could be said for child care, paid leave, maternal mortality -- and the list goes on.

Mari Foster is a licensed clinical social worker trained to look at the big picture. She is hoping to encourage people to look at the complexity of these issues. 

"It's not a one-issue topic," said Foster. "It impacts all aspects of our community and society as a whole."  

Foster said several issues are interconnected, even in Colorado where lawmakers protected the right to an abortion at a state level.

Consider access to health care, for example.

Foster referenced a study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regarding maternal mortality. The study pulled data from 2014 to 2016. 

"Within the first six weeks after the birth was the highest rate of mother mortality," said Foster. "The number one cause was suicide. That's a massive concern with this population dying at rates they don't need to be dying at and leaving these small brand new people behind."

Foster said there are several initiatives in place to improve access to care, especially for minority women, including community collaboration, working on bias within the health care industry and improving care and public health programs.

With that said, people do fall through the cracks. Foster said that for kids who experience a death of a parent, abuse or exposure to substance use, the rates for heart disease, depression and other health issues skyrocket.

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"There are places across our state that don't have access and drive into the next county to get the care they need," said Christina Walker. She is with Raise Colorado, focused on policies for those who are pregnant, babies and caregivers. 

Colorado is in the process of setting up paid family and medical leave for January 2024. Until then, there are still a lot of challenges. 

"Not everyone is protected by unpaid [Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)] -- family and medical leave at the federal level," said Walker. "I have a three-month-old and my husband didn't have access to FMLA. I did but had to use pay I accrued over time. I didn't have paid leave." 

"Nationally, over 80% of workers don't have access to paid family and medical leave," said Kaitlin Altone, the chair of the Colorado Paid Leave Implementation Coalition. 

Finding child care is also a challenge. 

In 2018, there were around 255,000 kids under six with parents working and in need of some kind of child care. 

"In 2018, we had enough slots, licensed capacity, to serve 148,000 kids, which is only 58 percent of those children under six," Walker said.

She said the latest numbers are from 2018, because COVID threw a wrench in data collection. However, things likely got worse during the pandemic because of a reduction in childcare staff, according to Walker.

Then there's the issue of affordability and whether people work outside of traditional business hours. 

"Something to remember is what we are seeing exactly with Roe v. Wade, is decisions originally made decades ago and we're seeing rollbacks on it," Altone said. "Same thing happens when we make these significant wins at a state or local level." 

Colorado state lawmakers have passed several pieces of legislation to better ensure health care coverage and postpartum care under Medicaid, and a way to report inadequate maternity care. 

All the people we talked to Wednesday said while Colorado has taken steps in the right direction there is still a lot of work to be done.

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