DENVER (AP) — Colorado joined a handful of other states Monday in codifying the right to abortion in statute, a party-line response to efforts across the country to limit abortion access in anticipation of a pending U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a challenge to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that banned states from outlawing abortion.
Gov. Jared Polis signed into law the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which passed the Democratic-led Legislature after dozens of hours of testimony by residents and fierce opposition by minority Republicans. The law guarantees access to reproductive care before and after pregnancy and bans local governments from imposing their own restrictions.
It also declares that fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses have no independent rights. That’s a response to failed ballot initiatives that sought to restrict abortion by giving embryos the rights of born humans. In 2014, voters rejected a proposal to add unborn human beings to the state’s criminal code, allowing prosecutors to charge anyone who kills a fetus with a crime.
“Colorado has been, is and will be a pro-choice state,” Polis said, calling increasing abortion restrictions elsewhere “an enormous government overreach, an enormous government infringement” of individual rights. “No matter what the Supreme Court does in the future, people in Colorado will be able to choose when and if they have children.”
Colorado was the first state to decriminalize abortion in most cases in 1967, and it allows access to abortion but had nothing in state law guaranteeing it. New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont had previously codified the right to abortion throughout pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.
Republicans would still be able to introduce legislation and ballot measures to reverse the new law. For that reason, abortion rights groups are weighing a 2024 constitutional ballot measure, much like Nevada did in 1990.
Colorado Democrats cited the high court’s consideration of a Mississippi case that could overrule Roe v. Wade, as well as a new Texas law banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. If Roe is overturned fully, at least 26 states are likely to either ban abortion outright or severely limit access, the Guttmacher Institute says.
“We don’t want to ever see what’s happening in Texas to happen in Colorado,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Daneya Esgar, a sponsor of the Colorado legislation.
Idaho has enacted a law modeled after the Texas statute. Missouri lawmakers have introduced a bill to make it illegal for the state’s residents to get abortions in other states. Arizona’s legislature has approved a ban on abortion after 15 weeks and, like other states, has a law that would automatically ban abortion if Roe is overturned.
In California, Democratic leaders are considering more than a dozen bills this year to prepare for a Roe reversal. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law last month to make abortions cheaper for people on private insurance plans. Washington state enacted a law banning legal action against people who aid or receive an abortion, responding to the Texas law’s provision allowing people to sue abortion providers or those who assist them.