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As Colorado becomes a safe haven for abortions, advocates aim to destigmatize the procedure

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From left to right: Randi Mulkey, Isabel Aries and Priscilla Blossom spoke with Rocky Mountain PBS about the need to destigmatize abortion.

DENVER — Isabel Aries’ heart sank when she saw the two lines on her pregnancy test signaling a positive result.

Then 22 years old and living in Denver, Aries was working three jobs. Her apartment had lead in its water. The only way she would have been able to support a child was with excessive help from family members nearby, and she couldn’t bear the thought of putting that burden on her almost-retired parents.

Aries soon realized that she needed an abortion.

“At that point, it was just kind of a question of logistics,” Aries said, explaining "the mental burden of realizing there’s a pregnancy inside of me that I can’t keep having inside of me.”

Aries did not have a car, and her insurance refused to cover the procedure, meaning the funding and transportation to the Boulder Planned Parenthood — the closest, fastest option — were the most difficult parts of the procedure for her.

The privilege of access

Under a physician’s instructions, Aries took one pill at the clinic and another one hours later at home. Though the following hours were uncomfortable as her body terminated a pregnancy, Aries knows her easy access to the procedure was a privilege many don’t have, especially as the country enters a post-Roe world.

“It’s just so important to me that anyone who needs an abortion is able to get one, not just the people politicians deem worthy enough,” Aries said. “It needs to be as easy as it was for me."

The U.S. The Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade case — which granted legal and safe access to abortion for all Americans for nearly 50 years — in June. Since then, 17 states have enacted laws banning abortions, with five more likely to ban the procedure.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a law codifying abortion rights in April, meaning the right to abortion is protected for Coloradans.

For Priscilla Blossom, a Denver resident, the right to abortion wasn’t just a luxury — it was a necessity.

After having her first baby in 2012 and feeling financially strapped from supporting just herself and one child, Blossom knew supporting another child was not possible. When she received a positive pregnancy test result in 2015 while living with her parents in Miami, Blossom knew she and her husband could not afford another child, but also felt abortion was inaccessible to them.

“Not many people are very open to talking about abortion, so I felt very isolated and scared,” Blossom said.

Blossom connected with the National Network of Abortion Funds, an organization that provided her most of the money she needed for the procedure. Once she finally mustered up the courage to go to her nearest Planned Parenthood, she encountered protestors outside the facility that she described as “vicious,” yelling names at her, begging her not to enter the clinic.

The next-closest clinic was two counties away, but Blossom was so frightened by the anti-abortion protestors surrounding her that she felt he had no choice but to travel a far distance.

“But once I got there, I realized how not-big-of-a-deal it was,” Blossom said. “For me, it was a very simple procedure.”

Although it had been several years since the financial and physical trauma that came with having her first child, Blossom said the memories of hardship have lingered, leading her to panic when she found out she was pregnant for a third time and needed a second abortion, this time in Denver.

“With the rise of the pandemic, I was already not feeling great and I was worried that I would lose my son to COVID,” Blossom said. “I was so grateful to now be in a place where it was easier to get the procedure I needed.”

Within days, Blossom was able to get in with an abortion clinic in Denver, and she said the procedure was easier than her wisdom teeth removal.

“There is a lot of misinformation and stigma out there that can cause fear, but a lot of that fear is unfounded,” Blossom said. “I’ve been through this twice and I’m fine. I haven’t had any negative issues.”

Struggling for access

At 21-years-old, the last thing Randi Mulkey could handle was a pregnancy. Mulkey, who now lives in Denver, was having a conflict with her new partner when she learned she was pregnant. The two lived in Florida, where abortion was legal, but providers were limited.

Mulkey has always known she does not want kids and does not feel prepared to support them, which she felt was a good enough reason to seek an abortion.

“It’s nobody’s business if I want to have kids or if I don’t want to have kids,” Mulkey said. “To sit here and say that if you get pregnant, you can’t have an abortion when you know you’re someone who can’t feasibly take care of a child, is crazy.”

Mulkey described the abortion as “less nerve-wracking than going to the gynecologist,” which is how she feels it should be for all who want an abortion.

Within the same year, just months after starting the Depo-Provera birth control shot, Mulkey passed out at work.

Her friends then took her to the hospital, where doctors discovered she had an ectopic pregnancy and her fallopian tube ruptured. She then went into immediate surgery and recovered in the hospital for nearly a week.

After surgery, Mulkey said she awoke to no support from her partner or Evangelical Christian, anti-abortion family members, who tried to convince her to go through with birth, a decision that could have put her life in danger. 

“Given the choice, for a lot of women, if the choice is ‘Have a baby or you die,’ a lot of women are going to choose death because of the stigma,” Mulkey said. “I don’t think that I would have made it if I had not had the option to have an abortion.”

All three women who spoke to Rocky Mountain PBS said they recognized the privilege they had in being able to seek an abortion while not being victims of incest or assault, and not having their lives endangered by going through with the pregnancy.

For Aries, ensuring all pregnant people who need an abortion are able to get one — regardless of their circumstance — is paramount.

“If someone doesn’t want to be pregnant or if they can’t be pregnant, then they need an abortion. It’s plain and simple,” Aries said. “The services that they got pregnant under don’t determine whether or not they need one.”

Amanda Carlson, abortion fund director for Cobalt, a Colorado abortion fund, emphasized that people who need an abortion should be able to get one regardless of their financial background, the state they live in or the circumstances under which they got pregnant.

“We have people coming from backgrounds, religious or not, that are extremely judgmental and unsupportive of abortion care,” Carlson said. “Many levels of self-shaming... occur, and we always stress with people that whatever your reason for seeking an abortion is the right reason.”

Alison Berg is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. She can be reached at or on Twitter @alison__berg.

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