Colorado Republicans introduce anti-abortion bills despite being minority

Colorado Democrats look to further enshrine abortion access into law
colorado state capitol
Posted at 8:00 PM, Feb 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-17 22:00:40-05

DENVER — A Colorado House committee listened to hours of testimony Friday on three bills that aimed to limit abortions in the state.

The first would have required abortion providers to administer painkillers during abortions if the fetus has reached 20-weeks of gestation with certain exemptions.

The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Luck, R-Penrose, faced two forms of opposition Friday.

The first came from those who oppose abortions altogether and who argue this could further encourage abortions. The other form of opposition came from those who support abortion access, who said this would add significant dangers to the pregnant person and could limit abortions if providers are not able to administer the painkillers in utero.

A second bill aimed to abolish abortions altogether in Colorado by defining an unborn child at all stages of gestation as a person. It would have also added homicide and assault provisions into state law for providing an abortion, and authorized the state to disregard any federal court decision to void that requirement.

A third bill would have required information on abortion pill reversals to be prepared by the state and provided by clinicians to patients. The bill stipulated that the information must be provided within 24 hours before a clinician administers an abortion and levies civil penalties against those who refuse.

“I don't understand a people that think that killing their own babies is a good thing. I just don't understand that. It goes beyond my, my rational thinking,” said Rep. Scott Bottoms, R-Colorado Springs, the sponsor of the two bills.

Bottoms and Luck have no co-sponsors on the bill. Before Friday’s committee hearing, Bottoms admitted that the bills had practically no chance of passing in a Democratically controlled House. Still, he said it’s important to move the conversation forward.

“I am going to move the conversation because anytime you speak truth to that darkness, you actually push that darkness backwards,” he said.

Democrats on the committee said while they plan to respect and listen to every person who wants to publicly speak on the legislation, they are firm in their stance to protect abortion access.

“We know that Colorado voters have said time and time again that they want to make sure that we have increased access to health care, that women have a right to choose, and that a doctor patient relationship is something that should be between the patient and the doctor, and not legislators at the state Capitol,” said Rep. Lindsey Daugherty, D-Arvada.

Roughly 170 people signed up to testify either for or against the three bills Friday, though the committee room and Capitol were not nearly as packed as they have previously been when abortion bills were brought forward in years past.

Year after year, anti-abortion bills are brought up at the Colorado State Capitol, and year after year, they result in long hearings and late nights. Democrats say they bring the legislature to a halt and prevent other bills from being discussed.

“Quite frankly, the more time we spend on something like this that isn't going to pass, the less time we have on doing things that actually help the rest of Colorado,” said Rep. Lindsey Daugherty, D-Arvada.

Meanwhile, after passing the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) last year, Democrats are planning on introducing three more bills this year to further enshrine abortion access into law.

The first will codify protections and privacy for abortion providers as well as their patients, regardless of whether they came from out of state. It will also offer the same protections for gender-affirming care. The bill aims to protect patients and providers from any lawsuits or criminal charges stemming from those services.

A second bill would require commercial insurers to cover abortions, as well as treatments for sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV prevention.

A third bill would put more rules in place around crisis pregnancy centers that are aimed at dissuading women away from getting an abortion.

“Anti-abortion clinics actually outnumber abortion clinics in the state approximately three to one. A majority of counties in Colorado have an anti-abortion center, but they don't have an actual abortion clinic,” said Selina Najar, the political director for COBALT.

The bill would also add more rules around deceptive advertising practices for these clinics.

“They're very deceptive. Oftentimes, they intentionally open up shop right next to an actual abortion clinic,” Najar said.

These bills are set to be introduced in the state Senate within the next couple of weeks.

However, abortion rights groups say they don’t plan on stopping there. Next year, they plan to bring two ballot questions to voters that would further protect abortion rights.

The first would enshrine the RHEA in the state constitution, making it more difficult for future legislatures to overturn.

“We always knew that the Reproductive Health Equity Act was a two-step process. Step one, put it into state law, put it into statute. And then step two, put it into the state constitution,” Najar said.

Fifty five percent of Colorado voters would need to support the ballot question in order for it to pass.

The second ballot question aims to repeal the state funding ban for abortion access so that insurance providers would be required to pay for the procedure.

While the fate of Friday’s bills were more or less set, the real battle over abortions in the state could still be ahead for state lawmakers.

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