Gov. Jared Polis issues executive order protecting Colorado’s abortion providers and out-of-state patients

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis at a bill signing ceremony for free, universal preschool, on Monday, April 25, 2022, in Denver.

Governor Jared Polis has issued an executive order aimed at giving legal protection to people who come to Colorado for abortions, or to anyone who helps another person cross state lines to get the procedure.

The executive order says Colorado will not participate in any out-of-state investigations involving abortion providers or recipients, as long as the parties have followed Colorado state law. 

It also directs state agencies to use their authority to protect providers and patients — and to ensure that no Colorado medical workers suffer professional sanctions here, if they are found guilty of breaking another state's law banning abortion care.

“We are taking needed action to protect and defend individual freedom and protect the privacy of Coloradans,” said Polis in a statement announcing the executive order. “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.”

Polis' actions are meant to counter those states which may try to prosecute people who help their residents get abortions in places where the procedure remains legal. No state has gone as far as to ban their residents from seeking the procedure in another state, but at least one — Missouri — is considering allowing people to bring civil suits against anyone involved in helping a resident leave the state for the procedure.

Colorado joined North Carolina, Maine and Rhode Island in the move. Governors in all three states signed similar executive orders this week.

In a concurring opinion to the Dobbs ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the court might not look favorably upon laws that regulate freedom of movement between states, but no part of the Dobbs ruling clearly stated the constitutionality of such laws. 

Polis and legislative Democrats passed a law earlier this year cementing legal abortion in Coloado law, and advocates are likely to put a constitutional amendment before voters in two years. However, Democratic leaders nationally have been under pressure from party members eager to see them do more to push back on the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe ruling.

Polis is up for reelection this year. His Republican opponent, Heidi Ganahl, opposes the new state law and believes abortion should be banned except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother.