Dec 12, 2022 - News

Pueblo's abortion battle reverberates across Colorado and the nation

Illustration of a boarded-up window; the boards form a red cross.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Pueblo is the new frontier in the nation's battle over abortion.

Driving the news: Pueblo City Council is set to vote Monday on an ordinance drafted with help from anti-abortion advocates in Colorado and Texas that would essentially prohibit abortions in city limits.

Why it matters: The move is a stark reminder that abortion access is threatened even in states like Colorado where lawmakers codified unrestricted access to reproductive rights into law after the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade.

  • The proposed measure echoes one approved recently in a New Mexico town, and if successfully passed, could be replicated elsewhere in Colorado.

Details: The ordinance β€” which cleared a procedural vote in November β€” comes in response to plans by Clinics for Abortion and Reproductive Excellence to build a facility in Pueblo, the Chieftain reports. The company operates locations in Nebraska and Maryland.

  • The closest abortion clinic to Pueblo is 50 miles away in Colorado Springs. A Planned Parenthood facility closed in 2015.

Zoom in: Regina Maestri, the councilwoman who drafted the proposal, has advocated for Pueblo to be a "sanctuary city for the unborn" and consulted with Mark Lee Dickson, an abortion opponent from Texas who supported that state's "heartbeat" bill banning most abortions after six weeks.

  • The language seeks to prevent the clinic from opening by citing an 1873 federal law that prohibits mailing abortion-related materials.
  • The measure would provide exceptions for ectopic pregnancies, fertility treatments, Plan B pills, removing a dead "unborn child," and saving the life of a baby.

The other side: Legal experts dispute that use of the centuries-old law will withstand judicial scrutiny, and even the city's attorneys objected to the measure. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser says his office will challenge "any local ordinance that violates [state] law."

  • Doctors say the measure would prevent necessary services for women β€” and possibly infringe on broader medical care at local hospitals.

What they're saying: Jaki Lawrence at Cobalt, a Colorado reproductive rights organization, called it a "well-coordinated effort by out-of-state extremists … to quietly undermine the legal protections for abortion in Colorado."


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