Late-term abortionist’s plan to open clinic in Colorado meets pro-life resistance

colorado pro-life protests Pro-Life protestors demonstrate in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2017. | Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

A pro-abortion group backed by one of the country’s most infamous late-term abortion doctors is raising money to open a new clinic in Pueblo, Colorado, to provide abortions for women traveling from states with more restrictive abortion laws. 

The organization known as Clinics for Abortion and Reproductive Excellence (CARE) says it is raising funds to open the “first- and second-trimester” surgical clinic “so that we may assist the many patients who struggle with accessing appointments and traveling great distances for their abortion.” CARE currently operates abortion clinics in Bethesda, Maryland, and Bellvue, Nebraska.

The medical director of CARE is LeRoy Carhart, a prolific late-term abortionist who waged a legal fight in Nebraska in the late 1990s and early 2000s to strike down the state’s ban on partial-birth abortions. He also unsuccessfully sued to block a 2003 federal ban on partial-birth abortions, which remains in place today. Carhart is one of the few abortion doctors in the country who openly performs abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy.

“We must ensure that we will maintain access in the Midwest should Nebraska lose access,” the group says, referring to recent legislative efforts in Nebraska to strengthen the state’s pro-life laws. 

Abortion is legal up to birth in Colorado and protected under the law. The state has positioned itself as a destination for women traveling from other states to obtain abortions.

In response to the threat of a new abortion clinic in Pueblo, a local pro-life pregnancy center is leading an effort to turn the tide of public opinion against the opening of the new abortion clinic. 

Tamra Axworthy, CEO of the ACPC Women’s Clinic in Pueblo, told CNA that the pro-life community in southern Colorado is aware of the threat of the new abortion clinic and is marshaling people and resources to respond. ACPC, located not far from downtown Pueblo, is a pro-life center that provides pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, and connections to community resources for pregnant women.

Axworthy said the prospective location of CARE’s abortion clinic is in the Bessemer neighborhood — a somewhat underserved working-class residential area by the interstate — near a hospital and elementary school.

Social media posts from CARE Colorado suggest that renovations are ongoing at the building, but Axworthy said she’s not sure what his timeline is for opening. 

“We’re hopeful that if we can’t shut it down in the court of public opinion, that we can at least ensure that he follows every possible code and regulation to open up that facility,” Axworthy said. 

“He sees this as a community that’s going to welcome and support him, and that is not what he’s going to get.” 

Axworthy said it is important that pro-life people familiarize themselves with Carhart and his ideology, because she thinks it is likely that he will attempt to open new abortion clinics in other communities around the country. 

In Pueblo, Axworthy said the pro-life community is considering sending postcards to households in the Bessemer area to warn them, directing them to a dedicated website created to store information about the clinic and Carhart. 

“It’s important for our community to know who this guy is ... and that he’s bad news for Pueblo,” she said. 

Beyond that, Axworthy urged pro-life people to pray and fast so that the abortion clinic does not open, and contact their elected officials, especially the mayor, whom she said “could shut this down if he wanted to.”

CNA reached out to Carhart’s organization for comment but did not receive a response. 

July 2022 article from the Pueblo Chieftain reported that in 2015, Pueblo’s Planned Parenthood location closed when its lease was not renewed. While the Pueblo location was not a surgical or medication abortion site, it did provide informed consent counseling for women who were scheduled to have an abortion at another location, the Chieftain reported. Colorado has numerous abortion clinics, the closest to Pueblo being the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. 

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Colorado was the first state in the nation to decriminalize abortion. The initial legislation, signed into law in 1967, allowed abortion in certain limited cases: rape, incest, or a prediction of permanent mental or physical disability of either the child or mother. Six years later, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade declared abortion a constitutional right nationwide.

Roe v. Wade is now overturned, but earlier this year Colorado passed a law that stipulated that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state.” The new law codified a right to abortion for the full 40 weeks of pregnancy, for any reason, securing Colorado’s place as one of the most permissive states in the U.S. when it comes to abortion.

There is also no waiting period for an abortion in Colorado and no residency requirement. Already, ​​Colorado is home to Warren Hern, an abortionist who has been active in Boulder since 1975, and publicly accepts patients seeking late-term abortions from anywhere in the world.

Abortion providers in Colorado have positioned themselves as a destination for women seeking abortions, particularly women who live in states that have or plan to impose restrictions on abortion. Several of Colorado’s immediate neighbors, including Utah, Arizona, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, have significant abortion restrictions in place that are now in force following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. These include complete bans on abortion in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Utah, though Utah’s ban is currently blocked in court. 

In recent years, reports have emerged of large numbers of women traveling to Colorado from nearby states such as Texas to obtain abortions — Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains at one point had a prominent banner on its homepage welcoming women traveling from Texas to obtain abortions. And although New Mexico is closer to Texas, Colorado has three times as many abortion clinics as does New Mexico. 

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains told CBS News Colorado in August that in the months since the overturning of Roe, their facilities have seen a 270% increase in out-of-state patients seeking abortion.  

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