Medical providers, organizers expect ‘tidal wave’ of patients seeking abortion services

Medical providers, organizers expect ‘tidal wave’ of patients seeking abortion services
Democratic Rep. Susie Lee meets with medical providers and organizers to talk about access to abortion services in Nevada. (Photo: Michael Lyle)

by Michael Lyle, Nevada Current

LAS VEGAS — Nevada medical providers are already seeing an influx of patients from across the country seeking abortion services and are warning about a potential tidal wave that could wash over on Nevada’s system of care. 

Adam Levy, a medical provider at Birth Control Care Center and the director of planning for UNLV Women’s Health Center OB-GYN department, said there have been patients coming to Nevada from as far as Kentucky since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month.

Following the ruling, which threw out a nearly 50 year precedent that protected the constitutional right to an abortion, several state bans on abortion have gone into effect, with more Republican-controlled Legislatures expected to enact more bills to prohibit access to abortion. 

“Right now, the volume is not excessive at this point, but we are expecting a literal tidal wave of patients needing care,” Levy told Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee during a panel Monday.

As abortion bans ramp up and more patients seek out-of-state medical care, Levy said it is possible health services and funding in Nevada will be delayed.  

“We have half the country coming our way,” he said. “Anyone who says otherwise has their head in the sand.” 

Lee hosted a roundtable with medical providers and organizers with Planned Parenthood, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and Nevada chapter of the National Organization for Women to discuss the impact the court’s decision will have on reproductive care in the state.

Lee said some predictions indicate Nevada is “going to see a 63% increase” of people traveling to the state for abortion services now that Roe has been overturned. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health policy organization, nearly 9,700  abortions were provided in Nevada in 2017, “though not all abortions that occurred in Nevada were provided to state residents: Some patients may have traveled from other states, and some Nevada residents may have traveled to another state for
an abortion.” 

“We already have an overburdened health care system and a shortage of nurses and doctors,” Lee said. “That’s going to have an impact on women here in Nevada.” 

Speakers said the shortage of resources among abortion providers will mean longer wait times and an increased risk to pregnant people needing an abortion.

“There will be longer wait times and more advanced gestation, especially from patients from out of state because they are going to struggle to get here,” Levy said. “They are going to suffer a lot more issues just to get the care they need.”

This won’t just affect patients seeking elective abortion services. 

Nadia Gomez, an OB/GYN and chair of UNLV’s Women’s Health Center, has already had a patient from Texas that had to travel to Nevada “because she couldn’t get an ectopic pregnancy terminated.” 

Texas enacted its six week abortion ban in 2021. 

“I couldn’t understand that,” Gomez said. The number one cause of maternal death in the first trimester is a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.” 

Mondays’ discussion in Nevada comes against the backdrop of increasing criticism of the Biden administration’s  response to the decision.

“A lot of people are looking at the Biden administration and want them to be a little stronger,” said Jeri Burton with Nevada NOW. 

Burton added recent comments from the White House, which told reporters recently that President Biden’s goal “is not to satisfy some activists,” haven’t gone over well. 

Though Biden recently signed an executive order to preserve some access to abortion, Lee said the trouble with executive orders is they can change depending on who’s in the White House. 

The House, Lee said, is expected to take up legislation to expand abortion protections. 

“The next shoe to fall are laws that prosecute providers and ban people from doing interstate travel,” Lee said. “We’re going to deal with that in Washington when I get back.” 

But abortion rights legislation approved in the House won’t have enough votes in the Senate to bypass a Republican filibuster.

Lee urged groups to vote in November to ensure Democrats hold on to the House and gain additional seats in the Senate in order to reform the filibuster and pass abortion protections. 

Nevada has laws protecting access to abortion, but providers and organizations said more needs to be done at the local and state level to ensure people understand their rights, and those rights are not infringed upon.

Levy has tried to get the Clark County’s District Attorney’s office to look into a crisis pregnancy center, one which is located directly in front of the Birth Control Care Center, for lying to patients about abortion services. 

“I have argued with district attorneys in Clark County to try to get them shut down in terms of straight out fraud,” Levy said. “There is a lot of pushback from there.”

The District Attorney’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

Aside from patients seeking care, Gomez said abortion bans could also hurt training for medical students. 

“We are going to see an influx of residents coming in,” she said. “These are people who graduated medical school and are training under us to be board certified OB-GYN by the time they finish their four years. We are also going to have an influx of trainees coming in to try to train in our clinics as well.”

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