Mar 9, 2022 - News

Democratic bill would ensure unrestricted abortion access in Colorado

Illustration of a megaphone made out of the dome of the Colorado State Capitol.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Colorado wants to make a national statement when it comes to abortion: It is legal here at all times.

Driving the news: The General Assembly will hold its first hearing Wednesday on a bill to enshrine unrestricted access to the medical procedure into state law.

Why it matters: The Democratic lawmakers who authored the legislation say it's a direct response to new laws in Texas and Florida that add restrictions on abortion in anticipation of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade this year.

  • The move is a first step toward asking Colorado voters to approve a constitutional protection on the 2024 ballot.

State of play: Right now, Colorado is one of a few states that doesn't restrict abortion. And even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, it would remain legal.

  • But it's not expressly protected in state law, so Democratic lawmakers want to act while they control the lawmaking process and hold the governor's office.

What they're saying: "In a world in which Roe v. Wade falls we want to make it clear … that access to abortion care in Colorado is protected," said state Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver).

Details: The legislation — House Bill 1279 — states that every individual has "a fundamental right" to make decisions about reproductive health care and contraception.

  • The bill's language explicitly says a person has a right to decide to "continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion."
  • It also declares a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus "does not have independent or derivative rights" under state law.

By the numbers: Democratic legislative leaders are confident they have statewide support for the measure.

  • A February poll, conducted by a Democratic firm, found two-thirds of registered voters in the state believe "all women in Colorado should have access to abortion care" and a similar number support a state constitutional protection.

The other side: Earlier this year, Democrats defeated three Republican bills on abortion, including two that would have criminalized the procedure.

  • One would have restricted abortions after 22 weeks, echoing a ballot measure that failed in 2020.

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