For almost 50 years — since the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade — abortion has been a constitutional right in this country.
That could end in June 2022.
On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it will hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, a challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. This case could overturn Roe v. Wade, and a decision is expected in late June 2022. It is significant because, according to Roe, pre-viability bans are unconstitutional, and the lower courts have unanimously agreed — which means this case is a direct challenge to the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe.
This demonstrates why we at Cobalt fought former President Trump’s Supreme Court nominees so fiercely. The additions of Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett to the court means they have the majority they need to threaten the right to access safe and legal abortion. And they’ve signaled that they’re eager to do so.
This is the threat we have been warning about for years. Dobbs v. Jackson is a direct attack on the right established by the Supreme Court in Roe, and the highest court’s decision next year will have perilous ramifications at both the practical and political level. The significance of this court ruling next year cannot be overstated.
The court’s decision to take up this case comes at a time when we’re seeing an almost unprecedented number of abortion restrictions in state legislatures across the country. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in a four-day span from April 26 to 29, a total of 28 new restrictions were signed into law in seven states, the most anti-abortion legislation to become law in a single week in more than a decade. As of April 29, there had been 536 abortion restrictions put forward across 46 states since January, with 61 of those bills enacted.
If Roe is overturned, the nationwide constitutional right to abortion would end and abortion access would depend on whether you live in a state that allows it or not. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, if Roe fell tomorrow, 24 states would likely take action to prohibit abortion outright. Ten states already have “trigger bans” in place, which would ban abortion immediately if Roe is overturned.
Colorado, fortunately, is not one of them. Our state remains neutral on abortion laws — we don’t have restrictions in the form of TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws, waiting periods, or gestational bans, but neither do we have laws in place affirming the right to abortion. This is in part because we have relied on the constitutional protection of Roe — a protection that may not exist much longer.
We do, unfortunately, have a state funding ban on abortion care that passed by less than 1% in 1984. Like the national Hyde Amendment, the state funding ban discriminates against low-income people and communities of color.
Despite this, overall Colorado is a strongly pro-abortion rights state, and we have been since we became the first state to decriminalize abortion in 1967, six years before Roe. Because of grassroots campaigns from organizations like Cobalt, Coloradans have successfully fought attempts to ban or restrict abortion in our state at the General Assembly and at the ballot box. The most recent abortion ban, Proposition 115 in 2020, failed by almost 20 points statewide.
With Roe hanging in the balance, we do have remedies at the federal level. Congress should pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe and put the right to abortion in federal law. It has been introduced in past sessions and we expect it will be again this year. We strongly support this legislation and will urge the Colorado delegation to sign on as co-sponsors.
Monday was a five-alarm fire for abortion rights supporters and the constitutional right to abortion that has stood for a generation thanks to Roe. We must remain energized through next year and beyond. As an organization, we intend to do everything within our power to protect abortion rights in Colorado. We will hold accountable those at both the state and federal level who do not strongly and loudly act to protect our constitutional right to access abortion.
The fight isn’t over. It’s just getting started.