COHEN: I’m an ObGyn — we must secure Colorado constitutional access to abortion

Jan 23, 2024

‘These important, private decisions should not be made by an insurance company, or by the government’


by Dr Rebecca Cohen


Imagine – praying for a stillbirth, because your insurance company will pay for miscarriage management but not abortion care.

Imagine – desperately wanting to be pregnant, then finding out that your pregnancy is affected by a terrible anomaly, one that means that your baby wouldn’t survive for more than a few hours after giving birth. You want to make the safe, merciful choice – one that protects your own health and prevents suffering – but you can’t. Because your insurance company won’t cover abortion care.

Imagine – knowing it’s not the right time for you to have a baby. You’ve got two little ones at home already and you can’t afford another. But you can’t afford an abortion either. Not when it’s early in the pregnancy, and certainly not when the weeks go on and it gets more expensive. So you have a baby. Because your insurance company won’t cover abortion care.

My name is Dr. Rebecca Cohen. I am an OB/GYN and an abortion provider here in the Denver metro area. I have been here in Colorado for almost 10 years, and I hear these stories, and so many more, every day.

The Supreme Court decision in 1973 established a nationwide, constitutional right for a person to make their own private healthcare decisions, including the right to an abortion. I cannot put into words how harmful it was when Dobbs v Jackson took away that nationwide right last year.

But for so many Coloradans, nothing changed. There is often a huge gap between a person’s rights on paper – where yes, you are ALLOWED to have an abortion, and their access in the real world – where no, you can’t actually GET an abortion.

We know that abortion is healthcare. And we know that healthcare decisions should be made by a patient and their family, with advice from a healthcare provider. These important, private decisions should not be made by an insurance company, or by the government.

But since 1984 here in Colorado, that is exactly what’s been happening. A 1984 amendment, which passed by less than one percentage point, forbids the state of Colorado for using any public funds to pay for abortion care, unless the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, or the pregnant person’s life is in immediate danger.

What this means is that anyone with state-funded insurance – teachers, firefighters, government employees and people with Medicaid – cannot use their insurance to pay for abortion care. It is inequitable, and cruel to say that to someone ‘the insurance doesn’t cover it’ when you know that the safest thing to do is what the patient wants – to have an abortion.

To say to someone, because their insurance doesn’t cover it, “you know that if your baby is born, he will live a short and painful life.” To say to someone “you know that you can’t afford to care for a child. But unless you have several hundred dollars – or for an abortion later in pregnancy, several thousand dollars – you’re going to have to have a baby.”

I’m fortunate, and my patients are fortunate, that we can help, sometimes, with funds. But there’s been an unprecedented surge in demand. And just because we can help doesn’t mean that this isn’t a deeply unfair, a deeply unjust system.

Abortion is healthcare, and your insurance should cover your healthcare. That is true no matter who you are. The discrimination against people with public jobs and public insurance on abortion care hurts people who are already struggling, as well as people that we rely on for our public services.

Right now, our decisions about our bodies, our future, and our lives are threatened by a 40-year-old law that wasn’t even popular at the time. We are still stuck with a discriminatory and cruel state ban on insurance coverage for abortion care.

Colorado has made many meaningful strides in protecting reproductive rights, including a shield law to protect patients and providers like me, and this next step is key. The ballot measure to put abortion rights into our constitution and by doing so removing a barrier against so many patients represents a commitment to providing meaningful access to abortion services.

— Dr Rebecca Cohen is a practicing ObGyn in the Denver Metro area.


Article from Sentinel Colorado


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