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Las Vegas sees increase in out-of-state abortion patients

Updated July 6, 2022 - 9:16 am

Nevada is already seeing an influx of out-of-state patients seeking abortions that it was anticipating in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling last month that overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, returning authority to regulate abortion to the states.

Las Vegas has seen a 200 percent increase in patients traveling from Texas compared with the same time last year, according to Dr. Kristina Tocce, medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

The organization said last month that it expected its abortion volumes to increase by 80 percent — or by 10,000 patients — in its Rocky Mountain region, which includes Southern Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico.

But even in the weeks preceding the ruling, Planned Parenthood saw an increased volume of patients when abortion bans began taking effect in Texas and Oklahoma, Tocce said.

In 2021, 50,532 Texans received abortions in that state, according to numbers from Texas Health and Human Services. Tocce said that 45 percent of traveling patients in Texas accessed services in Oklahoma before its ban went into effect.

Tocce said abortion providers were going to see a ripple effect as bans continued take effect across the country.

“We haven’t seen the peak yet,” Tocce said. “I don’t think we’re going to see any decrease anytime in the near future.”

Why Vegas?

Nevada, which codified the right to abortion into state law more than three decades ago, expected to see patients traveling from states such as Arizona, Idaho and Utah in the wake of the ruling.

After the ruling last month, clinics in Arizona had stopped providing abortions while a ban in Idaho has yet to take effect. Abortions are still being provided in Utah after a judge granted a temporary restraining order that blocked the state’s abortion ban from being enforced.

But after seeing an increase in patients from Texas coming to Southern Nevada for services, patients were asked why they decided to travel to Las Vegas instead of New Mexico or Colorado, which are geographically closer, according to Tocce.

Patients cited the direct flight paths, cheaper plane fare and the presence of family or friends who could provide support as reasons for opting to travel to Vegas, she said.

“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.”

Increasing staff, extending hours

At a news conference after Roe v. Wade’s reversal, Sisolak said he wasn’t sure of Nevada’s capacity for existing doctors and clinics to support patients coming from out of state but said that the issue was being researched.

Tocce said last month that the two Planned Parenthood centers in Southern Nevada are adding staff and increasing their hours, but that there are no immediate plans to increase the number of centers here or add centers near borders with other states.

Last week, Sisolak also signed an executive order prohibiting Nevada agencies from helping other states in investigating anyone seeking an abortion in Nevada and protecting health care providers from losing their license for providing abortion services.

Tocce said that patients probably would take into account a state’s individual protections, as well as states where appointments were easily accessible, when deciding where to seek an abortion.

“We’re in such an ambiguous time right now, we just don’t know what each state is going to attempt to enact,” Tocce 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.”

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 480-243-4086 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow her @lolonghi on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Mary Hynes contributed to this report.

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