Protestors gathered at the Colorado Capitol on May 3, 2022, in support of legal abortions. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)
The same day the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision that will have the effect of banning or restricting abortion in as many as half the states, Coloradans on all sides of the abortion debate were preparing next steps.
Two Democratic state lawmakers who spearheaded passage of a bill this year protecting the right to abortion are planning a follow-up, they said. Though the Legislature will not be in session again until January, state Sen. Julie Gonzales of Denver and Rep. Meg Froelich of Englewood announced plans Friday to begin drafting a bill together.
The bill will “protect Colorado abortion care providers and ensure access for anyone who seeks abortion care at this critical time,” Gonzales said on Twitter.
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The lawmakers still need to work out the bill language, Gonzales told Newsline, but their goal is to “expand access by protecting providers.” The legislation might also include protections for patients coming to Colorado from states where abortion is illegal, she said.
News of the Supreme Court’s decision left Gonzales “overwhelmed by an anxious rage,” she told Newsline.
“My head knew that this was going to likely be the result,” she said. “My heart was not prepared. … I spent the morning responding to messages from family and friends and colleagues and organizers who are just devastated.”
Reactions from the anti-abortion movement were much different. Kristy Neeley, who volunteers with a group called 40 Days for Life that prays outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Fort Collins, said she was “overjoyed” by the news.
Neeley’s group helps connect women considering abortion with resource groups that can provide food, diapers and free parenting classes, as well as adoption agencies.
“We know the real battle is to support and help these women going through crisis pregnancies,” she said in an email. “They face some pretty tough situations and so we will continue to pray and offer compassionate, loving, last minute hope and help to anyone looking for an alternative.”
Over the years, Colorado voters have soundly rejected a series of ballot measures seeking to ban or greatly restrict abortion. Another could appear on the ballot this fall: Initiative 56, which seeks to make aborting a fetus equal to killing a child under Colorado law, was approved for signature gathering earlier this year.
Colorado a ‘safe haven’
Abortion rights advocates stressed during a virtual news conference Friday that Colorado abortion patients should not cancel their appointments, and that clinics in the state would be able to handle an expected increase in demand following the high court’s decision.
House Bill 22-1279 — the new Colorado law codifying abortion rights — prevents local governments in Colorado from restricting abortion at any point in a pregnancy. But the procedure is already or soon to become illegal in the neighboring states of Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. As a result, Colorado clinics are seeing an increase in patients from out of state.
“Colorado is a safe haven for abortion care,” Jack Teter, regional director of government affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said during Friday’s news conference. “We already see patients from every state in the country,” including “people who have driven a thousand miles one way through the night” with children in the back seat.
Advocates warned that if Republicans flip either chamber of the state Legislature this fall, they could impede state Democrats’ efforts to further protect abortion and potentially reverse HB-1279. The law passed along party lines and faced stiff GOP opposition.
House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, a Loveland Republican, again condemned HB-1279 in a written statement Friday.
“The Democrats have gone too far with their extreme legislation,” McKean said. “In Colorado, we must work together to improve the lives of all Coloradans — those citizens who live and work in our communities now and those yet to be born.”
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