Colorado declines to help other states pursue abortion investigations, executive order from Gov. Polis says
Gov. Jared Polis signs the Reproductive Health Equity Act into law on April 4, 2022, at the Governor’s Residence in Denver. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)
Days after hundreds of protesters called on Gov. Jared Polis to take action in support of abortion providers and patients, the governor issued an executive order that appears to address some of the protesters’ concerns.
The governor’s Wednesday order bars state agencies — except when subject to a court order — from providing medical records, patient-level data or billing information to help another state investigate people for providing or obtaining reproductive health care, which is defined under state law to include abortion.
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It also directs state agencies to use the full extent of their legal authority to “pursue opportunities and coordinate with each other to protect people and entities who are providing, assisting, seeking, or obtaining reproductive health care in Colorado.” Notably, however, Colorado’s Constitution currently prohibits the use of public funding for abortion.
In the order, Polis directed the Department of Regulatory Agencies to implement rules ensuring no person will be disciplined by a state board or disqualified from professional licensure for providing or assisting in reproductive health care.
Finally, Polis’ order declares this: “I will exercise the full extent of my discretion to decline requests for the arrest, surrender, or extradition of any person” charged in another state with providing or seeking an abortion, “unless the acts forming the basis of the prosecution of the crime charged would also constitute a criminal offense under Colorado law.”
Colorado has for years allowed abortion at any point in a pregnancy. Earlier this year, Polis signed a bill that codified those longstanding abortion rights in state law. Two of the bill’s Democratic sponsors, Rep. Meg Froelich and Sen. Julie Gonzales, have said they are working on follow-up legislation to protect patients and providers.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion on June 24, and even before that decision several Western states moved to ban or restrict the procedure. Colorado providers have since seen an influx of patients from out of state. Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona have already banned abortion. A Utah law bans abortions after 18 weeks, and Wyoming’s ban will kick in by late July, if it is certified by the governor.
On Saturday, hundreds of protesters marched to the Governor’s Mansion in Denver, in an event organized by Denver’s Party for Socialism and Liberation. They called on Polis to:
- Provide “emergency funding to abortion clinics to ensure that no person is turned away from Colorado for lack of capacity”
- Prohibit “any state entity from cooperating in the investigation or prosecution — civil or criminal — of abortion recipients or providers”
- “Bar the sharing of medical records with law enforcement”
On Tuesday when asked to comment on the demands, a Polis spokesperson reiterated the governor’s support for reproductive rights without saying whether Polis planned to issue any executive orders. An organizer for Denver PSL told Newsline on Tuesday that her organization had not received a response from the governor.
But the executive order issued Wednesday appears to respond to the demands, particularly those related to the sharing of personal information to assist in out-of-state investigations.
“We are taking needed action to protect and defend individual freedom and protect the privacy of Coloradans,” Polis, a Democrat, said in a written statement Wednesday. “This important step will ensure that Colorado’s thriving economy and workforce are not impacted based on personal health decisions that are wrongly being criminalized in other states.”
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