Note: This story from Colorado Newsline was originally published in December 2021 when lawmakers announced their intentions to introduce the legislation. It has been updated now that the bill has passed the House.
DENVER — The Colorado House of Representatives passed a bill March 14 that, if passed, would codify protections for the full range of reproductive care, including abortions, into state law.
Democratic lawmakers introduced the legislation, titled the Reproductive Health Equity Act, earlier this month. The lawmakers announced the legislation in December 2021 in response to a U.S. Supreme Court case that could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade precedent.
“It’s time to ensure that Colorado is truly a legal and safe place for anyone seeking access to their right to reproductive care,” state Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver) said in December of last year when plans to introduce the legislation were announced.
That legislation is sponsored by Gonzales, state Rep. Meg Froelich (D-Greenwood Village) and House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo). State lawmakers return to the Capitol on Jan. 12.
“Our vision is a Colorado where abortion care is treated as health care, and when someone decides to have an abortion or seek out reproductive health care, they are able to get that care on the timeline they need with the support of the physician and health care providers whom they trust,” Gonzales said.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in December for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that concerns Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. That ban, if upheld by the court, could open the door for a reconsideration of the landmark case Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion in 1973. The Supreme Court currently has a 6-3 conservative majority.
Colorado lawmakers want to protect abortion access in case the court ruling erodes federal abortion rights.
With examples set by the Mississippi law and the Texas ban from 2021, the Colorado lawmakers said other states could be emboldened enact their own abortion restrictions. Women from states with limited abortion access already travel to Colorado for safer, more accessible care.
“We need a world, and a Colorado, where abortion isn’t just legal, but it must be accessible, affordable and supported in our communities,” Froelich said.
A ballot measure that would have limited abortion access failed in 2020, as did a 2008 constitutional amendment question that would have defined “personhood” as beginning at the moment of conception.
“The right to abortion is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, and here in Colorado we’ve made that clear at the ballot box over and over again,” Froelich said.
Colorado Democrats control both chambers of the state General Assembly, and the governor, Jared Polis, is a Democrat. If the proposed Reproductive Health Equity Act does pass, it could be reversed by a future Republican majority in the state legislature, or by voters in an election.
How other elected officials responded to the SCOTUS case
As the court heard oral arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Colorado’s congressional delegation weighed in on the issue along party lines.
“In case you haven’t noticed, these laws are a relentless attack on Americans’ right to abortion care. They’re extremist, they’re inhumane and they’re wrong,” Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat who represents Colorado’s 1st Congressional District, said during a rally in front of the Supreme Court organized by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
DeGette serves as the co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) “Barbara and I are politicians, but we have a suggestion for you: Keep abortion decisions out of the hands of politicians. Keep abortion decisions in the hands of American citizens. That’s where it should be.”
Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, agrees with that.
“Women make their own health care decisions, not politicians,” he said in an emailed statement. “The Supreme Court has upheld that right for 50 years and it shouldn’t change.”
Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat who represents the 6th Congressional District, wrote on Twitter that the Roe precedent needs to stand and that today’s case is about “protecting health care and defending the law of the land.”
Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter expressed concern about the court backtracking on precedent.
“The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case has the potential to erase decades of progress made in the fight for reproductive freedom for women and families across this country,” he said in an emailed statement. “I will continue to work in Congress to ensure women have the constitutional right and the freedom to determine their own personal healthcare decisions.”
Meanwhile, Republican Reps. Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn and Lauren Boebert all signaled on social media their support for the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
“As SCOTUS hears arguments today on the Dobbs Abortion case let us remember, the freedom to choose life is a beautiful thing. I am pro-life and trust the Justices to make the right decision for the unborn children, and families of America,” Buck tweeted.
A decision in Dobbs. v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is expected in the summer.