Thousands rally for abortion rights at Colorado Capitol in Denver
Democrats urge protesters to vote in the midterms
Elva Escobedo, donor and event coordinator for the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, speaks at a rally at the Colorado Capitol in Denver on June 27, 2022. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)
In Colorado — unlike in states including Wyoming, Utah and Texas — the Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning Roe v. Wade does not mean abortion is already illegal or soon could be banned.
While Wyoming, Utah and Texas are among those states with laws on the books that could ban abortion procedures by the end of next month, Colorado law permits abortion at any point in a pregnancy. But the fact that their rights were secured, at least for now, in Colorado didn’t stop a few thousand people from showing up to rally Monday evening at the Capitol in Denver.
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“At the end of the day, we have to decide if we’re going to honor women as being humans,” said Rebecca Taylor, when asked what brought her to the rally. She pointed to a sign that read “Life/Liberty/Freedom/Human rights for women now!”
“I am here because I am upset, because everybody besides straight white cisgender males are considered second-class citizens,” her friend, Kate Duffy, added. “I’m sick of it. So I’m here to show my support for myself, my friends and every other woman and pregnant person in this country.”
The rally was organized by a coalition of statewide progressive groups, including the ACLU of Colorado; Cobalt Advocates; Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, or COLOR; Interfaith Alliance of Colorado; New Era Colorado; Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains; and ProgressNow Colorado Education.
Starting around 6 p.m., elected officials and activists rallied the crowd from the west steps of the Colorado Capitol building. They spoke for about two and a half hours, urging attendees to vote for pro-abortion rights candidates, support local abortion funds and make their voices heard.
“We’re here today because nine unelected people in the Supreme Court chose to enact violence,” said Elva Escobedo of COLOR. “This decision will come down the hardest on low-income people, on people of color, on LGBT people, on young people.”
Among the Democratic elected officials at the rally were Gov. Jared Polis; U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette of Denver and Jason Crow of Aurora; state Sens. Julie Gonzales, Faith Winter and Tammy Story; state Reps. Karen McCormick, Kyle Mullica, Yadira Caraveo, Emily Sirota, Brianna Titone, Lindsey Daugherty, Iman Jodeh, Steven Woodrow and Mike Weissman; and Attorney General Phil Weiser.
DeGette pointed out that the U.S. House of Representatives had passed a bill to codify abortion rights, but the effort failed in the Senate. To get it done, she said, Democrats need to maintain their majority in the House, win more seats in the Senate and abolish the filibuster, a delay tactic that prevents the Senate from passing bills without a three-fifths majority.
Polis praised the new law protecting long-existing abortion rights at the state level and declared that “together we will reverse this trend” of restricting reproductive rights in other parts of the country.
“No woman should ever face jail time for terminating a pregnancy,” Polis said.
Hundreds of people broke away from the rally and began marching through the streets around the Capitol by 7 p.m., yelling and carrying signs.
The Colorado State Patrol and Denver Police Department maintained a presence throughout the event.
Denver police haven’t reported vandalism or violent altercations in connection with protests of the Supreme Court’s Friday decision. In nearby Longmont, about 30 miles north of Denver, a Christian crisis pregnancy center was vandalized and caught fire early Saturday morning, according to the Longmont Public Safety Department.
Seizing the political moment
With midterm elections closing in, rally organizers sought to draw a contrast between Republican and Democratic candidates on abortion rights.
“The Republican Party right now is putting up insurrectionists, election deniers, anti-abortion, corporatists who are more interested in seeing their bottom lines rise instead of ensuring the bodily autonomy of the people they are elected to serve,” said Gonzales, a Denver Democrat.
Democrats currently control the Colorado House, Senate and governor’s office, but the June 28 primary election’s early turnout numbers, which favor Republicans, could point to a GOP advantage in November. Democrats have consistently won statewide races in the last several years, but their opponents believe soaring inflation, record-high gas prices and President Joe Biden’s low approval rating spell trouble in the midterms for the party in power.
“I’m not going to sit here and tell you to vote harder,” Gonzales told protesters, but Republicans are hoping Democratic voters “sit this one out.”
In a Saturday interview with conservative radio host Randy Corporon, Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Heidi Ganahl called Colorado’s new abortion law “disgusting.” The law was sponsored by Rep. Meg Froelich of Englewood, House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar of Pueblo and Gonzales, all Democrats.
“I hope to be the first woman governor and to represent women in a way that Jared Polis is not by signing that disgusting abortion law,” Ganahl, who serves on the University of Colorado Board of Regents, told Corporon. “I think giving (young women) economic prosperity and a bright future ahead is the best way that we can help them and support them in tough decisions that they may have to make.”
It’s unclear whether Ganahl would support banning abortion after six weeks or putting in place other restrictions. Her primary opponent, Greg Lopez, has previously said he’d be likely to sign a law banning abortion if it were brought to him as governor, depending on the language.
“Ganahl is clearly trying to signal her real views to the base ahead of the primary — she has deliberately hid her real positions throughout the campaign, and we will hold her accountable to her hard-right positions,” Colorado Democratic Party spokesperson Kailee Stiles said in a written statement about Ganahl’s radio appearance.
Reproductive rights advocates are planning ballot measures in 2024 to enshrine HB-1279 in the state’s Constitution — making it impossible to overturn without another vote of the people — and to repeal a state ban on using public funding for abortion care.
Gonzales and Froelich are planning a follow-up to HB-1279 that would “expand access” to abortion by “protecting providers.”
Rights still protected
Colorado abortion providers and advocates emphasize that people should keep their appointments, and that clinics will be able to meet the needs of pregnant Coloradans as well as patients traveling from states where the procedure is banned. A Monday statement from the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, or CCASA, echoed those sentiments, noting that 14.9% of biologically female survivors of rape become pregnant.
CCASA’s website, YouHaveTheRightCO.org, provides a directory of services for sexual assault survivors — including reproductive health care options that are available “regardless of whether or not a survivor reports to law enforcement,” the statement said.
“If you know someone who needs an appointment, have them call and welcome them to Colorado, because Colorado is a pro-choice state,” Gonzales told protesters.
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