For her safety, we changed Valerie Ticone’s name in the story. YS will refer to people instead of just women when writing about abortion. According to the American Civil Liberties Union: “The more expansive and more accurate answer is anyone who can become pregnant needs to be able to get an abortion if they need or want one, including many cisgender women, some non-binary people, some intersex people, some Two Spirit people, and some trans men.”
Valerie Ticone’s first thoughts when traveling to Colorado from Texas for an abortion were if she would be able to get the time off work to heal her body, the price of flying, and the surgery itself.
“How sick will flying make me?” Ticone asked herself. “Can I handle being stuck in an airport and plane without causing a scene?”
She chose to get an abortion in Colorado because it’s legal there and because she had friends and family to stay with in the area, which lowered costs.
In September 2021 the Texas Heartbeat Bill became state law, which outlawed abortions and created a criminal cause of action against doctors who perform the procedure.
“It really frustrates me that it’s not available in Texas,” Ticone said. “It makes women [and people] feel like they have no choice. It’s not cheap to travel, let alone paying for the surgery.”
Ticone estimates her cost of the trip to be about $900, which was cheaper than she expected. The costs were less expensive because she lives in a main travel hub city with cheaper flights to Denver with the added benefit of not having to pay for lodging. The procedure costs itself range from about $500 to $700, depending on how far along the patient is. If someone has to pay for lodging — which most people would — the total cost of this trip can easily reach into the thousands of dollars.
The barriers Ticone faced from the experience ranged from having to find home remedies for nausea, traveling after the procedure, and the judgment she faced from those around her, Ticone shared.
Ticone is one of many people who travel from out of state to get abortions because of bans in their home states. In the first nine months of 2022, 2,477 out-of-state people received abortion care in Colorado, according to preliminary data from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, far surpassing the 1,560 people from out of state getting abortions in Colorado in 2021.
Physician Warren Hern performs abortion care at the Boulder Abortion Clinic. The clinic has been busier since the reversal of Roe Vs. Wade.
“It affects the patients,” Hern said. “It makes it impossible for many women [and people] across the country in Republican states to get a safe abortion. It takes us back to the 19th century. I think that’s a catastrophe. As far as affecting my office, we’ve been busier than usual since the Texas law went into effect in 2021.” It has also affected types of abortions that need to be performed. “Many of the women [and people] discovered they were pregnant six months ago have not been able to get abortions. They finally get to us and they’re very far along. I’ve been getting patients from all over the country for 45 years. We’re busier. We are dealing with more people who are in desperately impossible financial situations.”
Recently Hern saw two women from Texas who discovered last November they were pregnant. Both traveled, one even drove, to Florida, to get the medication abortion. In both cases the medication failed.
“They wound up seeing me, and when I saw them they were both 31 weeks pregnant,” Hern said. “That’s a very different procedure from when you’re six weeks pregnant. The pregnancy itself is more dangerous. It causes more stress. Performing the abortion is much more complicated. It takes several days instead of five minutes. It’s more expensive. It’s more stressful. It has a higher risk of complications.”
Hern sees the anti-abortion legislation as a step backward for the county.
“It’s horrifying,” Hern said. “This is a step back at least 100 years. This is not just before Roe because even before Roe vs. Wade was handed down, there were lots of safe abortions available even though sometimes they were illegal, but being done by physicians who were skilled.” But the political environment has drastically changed. “Now you have a situation where you have a police state where women [and people] are being prosecuted for having abortions. Doctors are being threatened with prison for doing abortions. That just didn’t happen 60 years ago. Sometimes there were over enthusiastic district attorneys or prosecutors that would come after doctors, but this is really a nightmare. This is not the 21st century. This is 11th century stuff. This is like the medieval inquisition and witch hunts. It’s really terribly destructive.”
In March 2023 Colorado Senate Bill 188 Protections for Accessing Reproductive Health Care passed at the state level.
“There were many people in the reproductive rights community, myself included, that were starting to get signs that Roe vs. Wade was going to be overturned,” said Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis. Jasquez Lewis represents Boulder, Broomfield, and Weld counties and sponsored SB 188. “What we fully didn’t anticipate is how horrible some of the bills would be from surrounding states,” Lewis shared.
Reproductive rights groups in Colorado sent out alerts to like-minded folks and began drumming up donor money, with one anonymous donor giving $20 million to Planned Parenthood. A large chunk of that money was set aside to help people coming from out of state to get abortions, Lewis told us.
People coming to Colorado for abortions mainly come from Nebraska, Missouri, and Texas with those coming from Texas constituting the largest numbers, Lewis said.
With a background as a pharmacist, Lewis was also focused on protecting healthcare workers who perform abortions. Lewis explained a hypothetical situation that causes her concern. If someone from Texas, Nebraska, or Missouri takes the first dose of abortion medication Mifepristone, they have to follow it up with another dose.
“If they’re traveling during that time, they have to take it with them,” Lewis said. “If they cross into Colorado, and I as a pharmacist fill that prescription, and I go to dispense it, when they [the patient] go back, if anybody in Missouri sees the prescription bottle with my name on it, they can actually investigate me here in Colorado.. They can try to extradite me. If I was in their state they could charge me with homicide and fine me for $100,000, and then could go after my pharmacy license. That’s how unbelievably appalling some of these laws are. Texas and Nebraska have something similar, it’s just not as egregious,” Hern said.
Hern has continued practicing abortions for decades because it matters, he said.
“It matters,” Hern said. “It matters for the individual women [and people]. It matters for the families. It matters for society, and now it matters for freedom.”
Hern urges people to vote. Hearn fears that if Republicans win the 2024 presidential election, they will institute a national abortion ban.
“The American people need to understand that when they go to the polls, they vote to make these things happen,” Hern said. “If they want to make it safe for women [and people] to have basic healthcare. Safe abortion is a fundamental component of women’s healthcare. If they want that they have to vote. Right now that means they have to vote democratic. It should not be a political issue but it is. It’s about power.”
Ticone had a successful procedure and is now home working again. Ticone thinks about the people in her life for who getting an abortion was inaccessible.
“My best friend had her son because it wasn’t accessible,” Ticone said. “Her baby daddy didn’t want her traveling. She felt guilt tripped. The world is already overpopulated. This pushes kids to have kids. In the end they aren’t actually raising their kid, mostly because they don’t know how. This also causes families that are struggling to struggle more.”