Nevada is already seeing more out-of-state patients seeking an abortion, which state officials expected after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Las Vegas has seen a 200% increase in patients traveling from Texas, as compared with the same time last year, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Patients are also expected from Arizona, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Utah after the ruling. Abortion providers are preparing for a ripple effect as abortion bans begin across the country.
“We haven’t seen the peak yet,” Kristina Tocce, MD, medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and an obstetrician-gynecologist in Colorado, told the newspaper.
“I don’t think we’re going to see any decrease anytime in the near future,” she said.
Nevada made the right to abortion part of state law more than 3 decades ago, in 1990, which protects abortions up to 24 weeks. Colorado passed a similar law this year.
In June, before Roe v. Wade was overturned, Tocce said the organization expected abortions to rise by 80% — or about 10,000 patients — in the Rocky Mountain region, which includes southern Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Even before the ruling took place, Planned Parenthood saw higher numbers of patients as abortion bans took effect in Texas and Oklahoma, she said. After the 6-week ban took place in Texas, about 45% of traveling patients went to Oklahoma. Now that a ban is in place in Oklahoma, patients are going elsewhere.
Las Vegas providers have asked patients why they decided to travel to southern Nevada for services rather than Colorado or New Mexico, which are closer to Texas, Tocce said. Patients cited several reasons, including direct flight paths, cheaper plane tickets, and the presence of family or friends who could support them.
“We’re going to see such a demand on abortion in any state that has secure access,” Tocce said. “Patients may be forced to travel further away.”
After Roe v. Wade was overturned, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak held an emergency news conference to reaffirm the state’s commitment to protecting abortion rights. He also said he wasn’t sure about Nevada’s capacity to support out-of-state patients, but providers were researching and preparing.
Two Planned Parenthood centers in southern Nevada are adding staff and increasing their hours, Tocce told the newspaper last month, though there weren’t immediate plans to increase the number of locations or add centers near state borders.
Last week, Sisolak signed an executive order that stops Nevada agencies from helping other states investigate patients seeking an abortion in Nevada. The order also protects patients from extradition and healthcare providers from losing their license for providing abortion services.
As abortion bans continue to roll out across the US, patients will likely consider traveling to states that have certain protections and accessible appointments, Tocce said.
“We’re in such an ambiguous time right now, we just don’t know what each state is going to attempt to enact,” she said. “My head just swims with all of the possibilities. If that’s challenging for me, I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like for a patient to navigate.”
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