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Texans seeking abortions are straining resources in New Mexico and Colorado

 An exam room used in women's reproductive health at Whole Woman's Health of Austin.
An exam room used in women's reproductive health at Whole Woman's Health of Austin.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains is considering adding clinics near the Texas border, but says immediate demands are unsustainable.

From Texas Standard:

Many Texans seeking abortions since SB 8 went into effect have crossed state lines to do so.

“It is overwhelming for both the people who are helping those patients and for the patients themselves. Fear, not knowing if they're going to be able to secure an appointment, secure everything that's needed in life to take a few day trip, sometimes, to get to a place where they can get services,” said Dr. Kristina Tocce, medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which covers Colorado and New Mexico.

SB 8 bans abortions in Texas after a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. It also opens anyone who helps a person seek an abortion after that time to legal penalties of $10,000.

The law went into effect September 1. On Friday, a federal judge will consider putting a temporary stop to it.

Dr. Tocce and other abortion providers across the country will be watching the decision closely.

Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below to learn more about Dr. Tocce’s concerns with Texas’ new abortion law.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: How many more Texas patients have you seen at your clinics since SB 8 went into effect – and what has that done to your resources?

Dr. Kristina Tocce: We have seen quite a few Texas patients… In a week, we can now see over 50% of the average Texas volume that we would typically see pre-SB 8.

It’s definitely a challenge to our resources. And we are continuing to strive to build up those resources.

Texas Standard: Is this sustainable for you? How is this affecting operations?

Dr. Kristina Tocce: Everyone wants to do everything possible to serve every patient that can come to us. And we continue to strive to do that. But it is definitely a challenge. It is exhausting to staff.

And it's just, you've already hit the nail on the head, it's not a sustainable pace with the infrastructure that most abortion clinics have currently. We need to increase that capacity to accommodate more patients that need our services.

Texas Standard: Not all people seeking an abortion beyond six weeks even have the ability to travel to another state. How much of a concern is that to you?

Dr. Kristina Tocce: I think that is a constant worry for every person who works in abortion care, because we realize that we're seeing a small proportion of patients that have the means to get to us. What about all of the other patients that don't? They're basically sentenced to continue a pregnancy that wasn't in their life plan.

Texas Standard: Would Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains consider expanding its offerings, particularly near Texas borders, if the courts don't choose to put a stop to Texas’ law?

Dr. Kristina Tocce: We have definitely had discussions and plans. I would say that that's something we are definitely trying to expand our infrastructure with. But it's not something that can happen overnight, obviously, and that's really hard for all of us to accept because we, of course, want to serve everyone we can.

Texas Standard: Could you say a little bit more about the strain this has placed on women and on the doctors who work in your clinic?

Dr. Kristina Tocce: It is overwhelming for both the people who are helping those patients and for the patients themselves. Fear, not knowing if they're going to be able to secure an appointment, secure everything that's needed in life to take a few day trip, sometimes, to get to a place where they can get services.

And for providers as well, to face those stories and to participate in helping coordination of care and doing everything we can to accommodate things that come up unexpectedly too. It is an enormous strain on everyone.

And I just really can't drive home the point enough that patients are really in a whole new world of trying to figure out a lot of logistics to obtain basic medical care. And every medical study indicates that patients do better and public health is improved if access to abortion is truly accessible to everyone who needs it.

Texas Standard: Are you concerned about the possibility of being sued by someone trying to apply the Texas law to an out-of-state provider?

Dr. Kristina Tocce: Definitely there is concern amongst the abortion providing community like, could this law come and be used out of state? We are working with legal teams and are optimistic that that's not the case.

However, there are no promises and there are many things that could happen and change in our state and surrounding states. I just sincerely hope that in Colorado and New Mexico, we remain states where patients can come and have safe abortion care.
Copyright 2021 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.