Ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could strike down Roe v. Wade, there are rumblings that Colorado lawmakers may attempt to cement abortion access into the state constitution as early as 2024 — a move that would require a constitutional amendment and the support of 55% of voters.
Right now, Colorado lawmakers are slated to introduce the Reproductive Health Equity Act, or RHEA, to the Colorado General Assembly, which would enshrine the “right” to abortion into state law. The prime sponsors are State Sen. Julie Gonzales and State Rep. Meg Froelich, along with Colorado House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar.
Pro-abortion lawmakers intend to use RHEA to set the stage for a constitutional amendment on abortion. However, the law could be repealed if the GOP were to take back control of the statehouse, though it wouldn’t be easy. Knowing this, abortion activists are pushing to codify abortion access into the state constitution.
For now, members of the GOP have vowed to continue to move forward with legislation that would significantly limit abortion and require abortionists to report information about their patients to the state. Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown told The Colorado Sun, “The Republican Party will always work to protect every child in love and in law.”
If Colorado ultimately codifies abortion access into the constitution, the GOP would no longer be able to ban or place restrictions on abortion without amending the constitution.
Karen Middleton, president of the Colorado abortion rights group Cobalt, said the ultimate focus of her group will be on lifting the ban on state funding of abortion and that a constitutional amendment on abortion would help make that happen. However, polling has consistently found that Americans do not support taxpayer-funded abortion.
The timing of this push by abortion activists is no coincidence. This year, there is a strong possibility that Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in all 50 states, will be overturned. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a pending Supreme Court case in which Mississippi’s sole abortion provider is challenging a law that limits abortion to before 15 weeks gestation. A decision is expected around June 2022.
Sadly, however, Colorado has a long pro-abortion history. In 1967, Colorado became the first state to decriminalize abortion. More recently, while many states temporarily suspended non-urgent and elective medical procedures, including abortion, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado continued to allow abortion procedures.
If the Supreme Court does reconsider Roe v. Wade, states will be free to set their own abortion laws. But some states, like Texas, have enacted “trigger” laws that would ban abortion if Roe is overturned. Women in states that protect the lives of preborn children may travel to more permissive states, like Colorado, to obtain abortions. This serves as an important reminder that even if Roe is struck down, the pro-life fight will not be over.
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