• April 22nd, 2024
  • Monday, 10:20:35 AM

Rep. Caraveo Hears About Abortion Access Concerns at Roundtable Discussion

U.S. Rep. Yadira Caraveo speaks with advocates for reproductive rights at a roundtable on May 3, 2023 at the YMCA in Johnstown, Colorado. (Photo: Lindsey Toomer/Colorado Newsline)


By Lindsey Toomer


First-term U.S. Representative Yadira Caraveo held a roundtable discussion where she heard concerns and ideas from stakeholders advocating greater access to reproductive health care in her district last Wednesday.


In a conference room at the YMCA in Johnstown, a small town southeast of Loveland, Caraveo, a Thornton Democrat, heard about the biggest challenges reproductive health advocates and providers are facing from representatives with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM), Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, the Northern Colorado chapter of the National Organization for Women, BIPOC Alliance and more. Anti-abortion centers, sometimes referred to as crisis pregnancy centers, and lack of access in rural Colorado were among their top concerns, and participants shared what they want to see to improve abortion access.


If you have legal access to abortion and reproductive health care, but you can’t access it, then you don’t really have it.”
Kathia García, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains


The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 50-year precedent protecting the federal right to an abortion with its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision last summer, meaning the states can now decide whether to permit the procedure. Multiple women at the roundtable emphasized that legal abortion, as in Colorado, does not mean it’s accessible, especially for more rural parts of the state, where the closest place to access reproductive health care can be at least two hours away.


“If you have legal access to abortion and reproductive health care, but you can’t access it, then you don’t really have it,” said Kathia García, a public affairs organizer with PPRM. “Being able to work to expand that would be something that not just Coloradans, but community members from outside the state who come here to be protected and to get the services that they don’t have access to, I think that would be amazing.”


Jamie Rasmussen, a program director with BIPOC Alliance, a northern Colorado organization that advocates for people of color, said she’s concerned about centers claiming to offer abortion services “preying” on people. Aurora Rousseau, a student at the University of Northern Colorado, said an anti-abortion center in Greeley is pushing a large advertising campaign toward students who might not know of the other resources available to them in the area. While the center isn’t advertising that it provides abortion services, as a new Colorado law is expected to prohibit later this year, it advertises pre-abortion screenings, she said.


“We have had reports of students going in there and then they are essentially slut-shamed and told that they shouldn’t get an abortion,” Rousseau said. “It’s really frustrating because it seems like it’s really accessible — they offer free STI testing, but when you get there, it’s a very different experience and it causes a lot of harm.”


Claudia Pérez, a public affairs manager with PPRM, said the advocates want to see more proactive work to protect abortion care since so much work lately has been on the defense, such as mitigating harm. She said this would entail greater effort to expand access and affordability across communities.


“We definitely have community members here in Colorado who have been left out, and it frustrates me when I’m in community and I hear from people, ‘Well, we’re fine. We’re in Colorado, right?’” Pérez said. “And I’m like, no, that’s not the lived experience of so many people in our state.”


Rahshida Pérez, interim executive director of the BIPOC Alliance, said as a Black woman she is experienced with going to the doctor and being told there is no problem or that she doesn’t need help. She said more doctors of color need to be brought into the world of reproductive health care in Colorado.


“No one asks me about my body. No one cares what I have to say about my body. They just want to tell me what to do with it,” Pérez said. “I think as we’re trying to recruit physicians and beef up that system … we need to show people that it is a comfortable place that they will actually be cared for by people who are willing to listen and people that know their bodies, because they have it.”


With misinformation coming from anti-abortion centers and other anti-abortion sources, Pérez added that raising awareness of the organizations that actually do help women access the care they need is another way to improve access.


Another point that resonated with Caraveo is the importance of the community coming together in the name of reproductive justice.


“Sometimes when we’re in the middle of a fight on a floor or introducing a bill, you have to stop and think of the women whose shoulders you’re standing on — that this has been decades of struggle that sadly, we have seen taken down by a concerted effort to take rights away from women,” Caraveo said. “They’re still out there. They’re still fighting. They’re still holding signs up at rallies. They’re still talking to other women about what their rights are and what we need to do to restore them, and that every step that I take, there’s a whole group of women behind me that are backing me up.”


García gave credit to the community of people dedicated to improving access to reproductive health care.


“When they see us all working together, that’s where it happens,” García said. “It all comes back to our community … we need to continue to be there for each other and continue to lift each other’s organizations, because that’s how people trust them. They see us working together, they see us standing for the same things, and it works.”


Lindsey Toomer is a reporter with Colorado Newsline. This article is republished from Colorado Newsline under a Creative Commons license.