April 8, 2022 | NEWS | By Evan Arvizu | Illustration by Emmaline Hawley
Reproductive rights are now guaranteed for all Colorado residents. On Monday, April 4, 2022, Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill that codifies reproductive rights and adequate access to resources into law.
This bill, known as the Reproductive Health Equity Act, or HB22-1279, states that every individual in Colorado has the fundamental right to use or refuse contraception, and the right to continue pregnancy and give birth or have an abortion. It prohibits state and local public entities from interfering with or restricting these rights, as well as from depriving individuals of the option to make decisions pertaining to their pregnancy.
The Colorado House of Representatives approved the bill in early March. Its sponsors say it was written because of the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade this summer. The historic Roe v. Wade case, which federally banned the outlawing of abortion in 1973, is being challenged by a Mississippi case attempting to ban abortion after 15 weeks.
Mississippi is not the only state enacting restrictive abortion laws. In recent years, several states have significantly limited abortion access. In 2021, Texas passed Senate Bill 8, a law banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy. Idaho recently modeled a law after that Texas statute.
Arizona has banned abortion after 15 weeks and Missouri is attempting to ban residents from going out of state to access abortions and other reproductive care. The Oklahoma State House recently passed a near total ban on abortion.
Since the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court in 2020, which led to a 6-3 conservative majority on the bench, anti-abortion sentiment among justices has strengthened. Because of this, the Mississippi case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has the potential to find success where similar attempts in the past have failed.
“The possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned scares me. You just never know when you or someone you care about might need these resources. Not having that option is daunting,” Iza Mesa ’25 said.
Should the freedoms granted by Roe v. Wade be limited, there are likely 26 states that will fully ban abortion or implement extreme limitations. In anticipation of this possible change, states with Democratic leadership, such as Colorado, have started proposing and enacting laws, ones like the Reproductive Health Equity Act, that protect reproductive rights.
On March 14, 2022, the Colorado House of Representatives passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act in a 40-24 vote along party lines. This vote happened after a historic 24-hour debate where Republicans attempted and failed to pass a series of amendments to the bill.
The bill moved onto the Senate and passed on March 23, 2022, again along party lines, this time in a 20-15 vote, after more than 24 hours of debate on the floor and in committee sessions.
During discussions, Democratic senators argued that it is crucial women have the ability to choose what they want to do with their bodies. State senator Jessie Danielson emphasized the importance of acting now to protect these rights instead of simply standing by in the face of threats.
In response, many Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, cited their faith and personal convictions as the main reasons why they were voting in opposition.
The bill was sent to the Governor’s desk and signed into law on Monday. In the press conference following the signing, Polis discussed his decision, emphasizing that the bill doesn’t actually change current laws, but rather protects them in case of federal changes.
“In the State of Colorado, the serious decision to start or end a pregnancy with medical assistance will remain between a person, their doctor, and their faith,” Polis said. “This bill maintains this status quo regardless of what happens at the federal level and preserves all existing constitutional rights and obligations.”
With the signing of this bill, Colorado joins 15 other states and Washington D.C. in the push to protect reproductive rights and access to resources.
“What the state of Colorado is doing is really important,” Mesa said. “It sets a precedent for others to follow in which states aim to protect their women and their reproductive rights despite what may happen nationwide.”