Colorado proposes radically expanding abortion access in the state — again

Colorado State Capitol Credit f11photo  Shutterstock CNA Colorado State Capitol. | f11photo / Shutterstock.

The Colorado state Senate last week passed a three-bill “Safe Access to Protected Health Care” package that would radically expand abortion access in the state.

The package now advances to the state House, which is likely to hold a vote on it this week. Given that Colorado has a Democratic majority in its House and a Democrat governor, the bills seem likely to become law.

These measures would further expand abortion in Colorado, a state that already has some of the most pro-abortion laws in the U.S.

If enacted, the three bills would mandate employers fully cover abortions until birth, ban treatments to reverse the abortion pill, greatly restrict crisis pregnancy centers from advertising, and more.

Crisis pregnancy centers, which typically offer pregnant women and families free resources and baby materials, are specifically targeted in the new abortion package. The bill covering crisis pregnancy centers calls them “anti-abortion centers” and says they are “the ground-level presence of a well-coordinated anti-choice movement.”

“False advertising relating to the provision of abortion or emergency contraceptive services, or referrals for those services” is strictly prohibited, but it is not clear as to what exactly constitutes “false advertising.” 

The Safe Access to Protected Health Care package further builds on the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA), enacted last April, that codified abortion into the state constitution and expanded access to the point of birth.

The RHEA explicitly states that unborn babies at any stage of development do not have rights in Colorado, saying, “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of this state.” 

Though a state constitutional amendment bans tax dollars from being used to pay for abortions, Brittany Vessely, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, which opposes the package, told CNA that the new laws being proposed would essentially create a workaround.

“If enacted, [this bill] would circumvent Colorado’s prohibition against public funding of abortion in the Colorado Constitution by requiring large employer insurance plans to provide coverage for the total cost of an abortion and requiring individual [and] small-group plans to provide abortion coverage,” Vessely said. “Insurance funding does contain public funding — it is ridiculous to assume premiums mean it’s private funding, but this is the argument from bill sponsors.” 

“Even though the 2022 Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) already made Colorado one of the most extreme pro-abortion states in the country, pro-abortion lawmakers are still pushing for more abortion access,” Vessely said. 

The Colorado Catholic Conference is the public policy outreach arm of the bishops of Colorado. 

“We are engaging [and] mobilizing the parishes and lobbying hard against these bills and for amendments that make them moderately better for Coloradans,” Vessely said. 

The Colorado Catholic Conference is also partnering with state pro-life groups and crisis pregnancy centers to organize efforts to counter the state’s increasingly pro-abortion political landscape. 

Vessely said they will be holding a pro-life rally on April 4, when they will announce their partnership with the National March for Life to put on the inaugural Colorado March for Life in 2024.

“Now that Roe and Casey are overturned, the question of pre-viability abortion has returned to the states. For some state[s] that means a culture of life will flourish. For other progressive-dominated states such as Colorado, that means laws will be introduced that go far beyond Roe and incite a culture of death,” Vessely said. 

“But as Lincoln famously argued regarding another violation of human rights in the 19th century [slavery], our nation cannot stand ‘half pro-abortion and half pro-life,’ it must become one or the other,” she said.

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“We know justice will prevail — we just don’t want more babies to be murdered by abortion in the meantime, so as Catholics we are called to advocate for life at all levels of government and in society,”Vessely said. 

Meanwhile, the Safe Access to Protected Health Care package’s sponsors say that the bills will help more women, from both Colorado and states that have banned abortion, to access the procedure. 

“Abortion is legal in Colorado, but legality does not equal accessibility,” one of the bill sponsors, Democratic state Rep. Elisabeth Epps, said in a March 9 press conference. “Our lower-income communities and Coloradans of color face larger barriers and a disproportionate lack of access to protected health care.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is likely to sign the Safe Access to Protected Health Care package given that he has supported previous abortion legislation. 

In July 2022, Polis signed an executive order giving legal protection to abortionists who perform abortions on women from states where the procedure is illegal. 

Besides Democrats, who hold majorities in both houses of the Legislature, the abortion package has the backing of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, the ACLU of Colorado, and the Cobalt Abortion Fund, all of which hold significant influence in Colorado politics. 

With many states restricting or banning abortion after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Colorado is the closest abortion access point for 1.2 million women, according to Cobalt.

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