By Jesse Bedayn and Colleen Slevin
Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Friday signed a set of health care bills enshrining access to abortion and gender-affirming procedures and medications, as the Democrat-led state tries to make itself a safe haven for its neighbors, whose Republican leaders are restricting care.
The goal of the legislation is to ensure people in surrounding states and beyond can come to Colorado to have an abortion, begin puberty blockers or receive gender-affirming surgery without fear of prosecution. Bordering states of Wyoming and Oklahoma have passed abortion bans and Utah has severely restricted transgender care for minors.
California and New York are considering similar bills after the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down Roe. v. Wade, putting abortion laws in the hands of state legislatures.
Colorado’s southern neighbor, New Mexico, is also controlled by Democrats and signed a similar abortion bill earlier this year. It legally shields those who seek abortions or gender-affirming care, and those who provide the treatments, from interstate investigations.
Gov. Polis added the first layer of abortion protection a year ago, signing an executive order that bars state agencies from cooperating with out-of-state investigations regarding reproductive healthcare. One of the bills he’s signing Friday codifies that order into law. Like the New Mexico law, it blocks court summons, subpoenas and search warrants from states that decide to prosecute someone for having an abortion.
It extends those protections to transgender patients dodging restrictions in their own states. Gender-affirming health care has been available for decades, some states have recently barred minors from accessing it, even with parental consent. Hospitals in some of those states say gender-affirming surgeries are rarely recommended for minors anyway. Puberty blockers are more common.
Conservative states are pushing back. Idaho passed a bill that outlaws providing a minor with abortion pills and helping them leave the state to terminate a pregnancy without their parents’ consent.
The Colorado law comes as medication abortions are in limbo across the U.S. while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to overturn the FDA's two-decade old approval of one the drugs involved.
Also on Friday, Polis signed a measure that outlaws “deceptive practices” by 'pregnancy resource centers,' which critics argue market themselves in ways meant to confuse people searching for abortion clinics, and instead attempt to convince patients to not terminate their pregnancies. The bill also prohibits sites from offering to reverse a medical abortion, a scientifically-controversial procedure.
A third bill signed Friday requires large employers to offer coverage for the total cost of an abortion, with an exception for those who object on religious grounds. It exempts public employees because Colorado’s constitution forbids the use of public funds for abortions.
Jesse Bedayn contributed to this report. Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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