Demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Justices are hearing arguments in a Mississippi case that seeks to overturn Roe v. Wade. (Jane Norman/States Newsroom)
Colorado needs to act to protect abortion access, today, tomorrow and always.
And as leaders of the abortion rights organization Cobalt, and the reproductive justice organization COLOR, we are calling on the Colorado General Assembly to step in, just as it did in 1967, when we became the first state to decriminalize abortion, and affirmatively protect abortion rights in Colorado.
It’s time we meet the moment with action, not just words. And this moment is a crisis for our Constitutional right to access abortion.
With the Supreme Court’s inaction on the Texas abortion ban, Senate Bill 8, and the majority’s hostility to abortion rights, it’s clearly time for Colorado to act. Currently, no law in Colorado protects the right to or access to abortion. To fix that problem, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, or RHEA, will be introduced in the Colorado General Assembly in 2022. The prime sponsors are State Sen. Julie Gonzales and State Rep. Meg Froelich, and Colorado House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar.
The Reproductive Health Equity Act will ensure every individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse contraception; every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to choose to continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion; and a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of Colorado.
Colorado needs to take action now. It’s been more than five months since the Texas vigilante abortion ban, SB 8, has been in effect. The right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to enjoin this blatantly unconstitutional Texas anti-abortion bounty hunter law, which bans all abortions with no exceptions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, generally around 6 weeks after a person’s last menstrual period.
Pre-viability abortion bans are unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s rulings in Roe and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor put it, “the Court should have stopped this madness months ago.”
But conservatives on the Supreme Court, including three Trump-appointed justices, have refused. It appears they want to delay the case as long as possible until they can gut or overturn Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the case that represents a direct challenge to Roe. Oral arguments were heard in this case on Dec. 1, 2021, and a decision is expected in June 2022.
The suffering caused by the Texas law and the court’s inaction cannot be overstated. And that suffering always falls most heavily on communities of color, low-income people, young people, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, and those least able to access health care. Pregnant people who can afford it are seeking abortions in other states, including Colorado. But most people can’t. Their constitutional right to abortion effectively no longer exists for them in Texas.
It is clear at this point that the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade 50 years ago may be entirely overturned next year in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health. It has already ceased to exist for many people across the country, in Texas and other states where impossible to overcome barriers to care have been passed into law by anti-abortion legislators and governors.
We simply cannot count on the federal courts to protect our rights in Colorado. And Roe has always been a floor, not a ceiling. We must ensure that abortion is not only legal but also accessible for anyone who wants it, without stigma, cost barriers, or political interference.
Coloradans agree on protecting abortion access and reproductive rights. It’s a fundamental part of our Colorado values. Forty-one abortion bans or restrictions have been introduced at the Colorado General Assembly since 2010. All of them have been defeated. Four abortion bans have been attempted on the Colorado ballot since 2008. All of them have failed by landslide margins thanks to Colorado voters. The most recent, 2020’s Proposition 115, lost by 20 points.
We are in a state of emergency for reproductive rights and justice. That is why COLOR and COBALT will continue to rise up and act with our partners in this movement to affirmatively protect abortion rights, and we are calling on the Colorado General Assembly to do the same with the Reproductive Health Equity Act.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.