Landmark bill protecting the right to an abortion in Colorado law is heading to the governor

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Abortion rights supporters including, from left, ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Deborah Richardson, state Sen. Julie Gonzales, state Rep. Lisa Cutter, state Sen. Faith Winter, state Rep. Meg Froelich, and Adams County Commissioner Emma Pinter on the state Capitol steps after a rally on Wednesday, December 1, 2021. Froelich said Wednesday she will sponsor state legislation in the upcoming session to guarantee a woman’s right to abortion access.

The Reproductive Health Equity Act, which would enshrine the right to an abortion in Colorado law, cleared the Democratic-controlled state legislature on Wednesday. The bill’s next stop is Gov. Jared Polis, who has said he will sign it.

Supporters say it’s important for Colorado to codify protections in the law because the U.S. Supreme court could overturn or significantly weaken Roe v. Wade this summer and some Republican-led states like Texas already have near-total abortion bans in place.

“We're seeing conservative state legislatures across the country move forward bills that will lead to more people dying, quite frankly,” said one of the sponsors of HB-1279, state Sen. Julie Gonzales. “And this is our opportunity to ensure that we respect an individual's reproductive healthcare decision.”

On the same day the bill passed, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains announced it has received its largest single donation ever — a $20 million dollar donation from MacKenzie Scott, the philanthropist ex-wife of Amazon owner Jeff Bezos.

The organization said the money will allow it to provide abortion care to people who travel to Colorado from states where the procedure has become unavailable.

The bill’s passage through the legislature unfolded on completely partisan lines, without a single Democrat opposing it and not one Republican voting for it. It also prompted some of the longest debates in recent decades, with the two chambers devoting more than 40 hours to arguing over it.

Republicans have said the measure is morally wrong and would make Colorado the nation’s most “abortion-friendly” state. Colorado is among the few states without any restrictions on when an abortion can be performed during pregnancy.

Colorado GOP state party chair Kristi Burton Brown called the bill’s passage a “dark day” for the state.

“The Democrats have chosen to spend weeks of this session pushing a barbaric abortion bill, instead of fighting for issues that would help Colorado families,” said Burton Brown in a statement. “Republicans know every child deserves to be protected in love and in law. We will never stop standing up for life."

The bill also says no public entity can restrict access to contraception and affirms that embryos and fetuses have no legal standing under Colorado law.