Colorado Affirms and Expands Abortion Rights

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The Planned Parenthood that is located at 3487-B W 10th St in Greeley. Protesters frequently are outside the building holding up signs that have pro-life stances.

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 with the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, many Americans have questions about the laws pertaining to abortions in their state and the changes being made across the country. Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision for the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 that made abortion a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment stating there is a fundamental right to privacy.

“Roe doesn’t protect your access to getting an abortion,” said Chris Talbot, a University of Colorado professor of gender studies. “The logic of the case is that protects the privacy of the choice. It has nothing to do with access. So, you can choose to get an abortion and not actually be able to get an abortion.”

The Supreme Court has left the decision to the legislatures of each state to decide the laws regarding abortions. Twenty-one states have banned abortions in almost all circumstances, have restrictions put in place where a person cannot receive an abortion after a certain gestation period, or it must be medically necessary. Sixteen of the 21 states having abortion restrictions or bans are in the Southern United States.

Oklahoma was the first state to enact a trigger ban on June 24, 2022, after the Dobbs decision was announced. Laws within the state allow women to have abortions only when it saves the mother’s life. The strictest abortion ban in the country went into effect for residents of North Dakota in April 2023. Abortions will be prohibited at all stages of pregnancy besides for cases of serious health risks and death. Survivors of rape and incest can only obtain an abortion up to the six-week gestation period.

Other states have passed different laws to protect access to abortion. On Nov. 7, voters made Ohio the seventh state to pass a constitutional amendment that ensures access to abortion and other reproductive healthcare. Ohio was the only state to have abortion issues on the ballot for this election cycle. Colorado is one of the states to have laws allowing individuals access to abortions and one of seven states that allow a pregnancy to be terminated at any stage.

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“I do believe that abortion is healthcare,” said Macy Lasher, a junior psychology major. “Women or human beings will find ways to do what they need to do so I don’t think that the government should be able to tell you what you can do with your body.”

In April 2022 when the fate of Roe v. Wade was still being decided, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed the House Bill 22-1279, also known as the “Reproductive Health Equity Act” into action. The act does not change any of the previous protections for people accessing reproductive health care in Colorado, but it codifies the existing protections. Early Democratic supporters of the bill wanted this to be enacted so if the overturning of Roe v. Wade happened, Coloradans would still be protected under state law.

The bill declared that every individual has the fundamental right to use or refuse contraception, an individual has the choice to continue a pregnancy or have an abortion and a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have rights under Colorado state laws. This act also prohibits state and local public entities from impeding or discriminating against one’s reproductive health care choices. Depriving an individual through prosecution, punishment, or other means for having the right to choose from acting as they see fit during someone’s own pregnancy based on impact of a pregnancy, the outcomes, or the person’s health.

Most states surrounding Colorado have a gestational limit for abortion. In Kansas, abortion is legal in the state constitution, but women can only have an abortion up to 22 weeks and has limited access to the procedure. Utah has a limit of 18 weeks and has other separate abortion bans blocked indefinitely. Arizona’s gestational limit is 15 weeks and has a separate abortion ban blocked by an appeals court. Nebraska has a gestational limit of 12 week that went into effect in March. Wyoming is currently having their abortion bans temporarily blocked by a judge and is allowing abortions up until the fetus is viable. New Mexico has no gestational limit, and it is likely to stay accessible within the state even with abortion not protected by state law.

In April 2023, Polis signed three new bills because of our surrounding states rising efforts to ban or restrict abortions and gender-affirming health care. These bills were in favor of protecting reproductive health care for not only Colorado residents, but for others seeking medical help from other states.

Senate Bill 23-188 is a shield law that protects people who travel to Colorado for an abortion or gender-affirming care from lawsuits or criminal charges initiated from other states. The bill also protects health care providers from prosecution. This stems from states like Texas, who restrict abortion, that have “bounty laws” in effect to prosecute people who seek medical care in another state where it is legal, such as Colorado.

Senate Bill 23-189 requires large-employer health insurance plans to start covering the cost of abortions in 2025. One exception is for government employers, and another is for employers in which abortion is against religious beliefs.

Lastly, Senate Bill 23-190 focuses on anti-abortion centers, also known as crisis pregnancy centers. The bill declared these centers will be prohibited from false and deceptive advertising such as claiming to provide abortion services or emergency contraceptives when they do not. It also declares that promoting, prescribing, administering, or attempts to give abortion reversal medication is unprofessional conduct. The reversal medication are doses of progesterone, a pregnancy hormone. The legislation specifically targets medical professionals from giving this hormone to patients after they take medication for inducing abortions. Colorado is the first state to try to pass a law on these practices.

By Oct 1., the Colorado Medical Board, State Board of Pharmacy and the State Board of Nursing had to come to a consensus that abortion reversal medication is an acceptable standard of practice. The Colorado Medical Board was the only one to release a statement on the reversal medication and stated it, “does not consider administering, dispensing, distributing, or delivering progesterone with the intent to interfere with, reverse, or halt a medication abortion undertaken through the use of mifepristone and/or misoprostol to meet generally accepted standards of medical practice”. Mifepristone and misoprostol are abortion pills that block progesterone that can terminate a pregnancy that is less than 10 weeks. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists maintains that this practice is not based in science. However, all three Colorado boards decided to review abortion reversal on a case-by-case basis.

When SB-23-189 was signed, Bella Health and Wellness, a Catholic health clinic with locations in Denver and Englewood, filed a lawsuit saying the bill violated their religious freedom. It was originally denied in April by a federal judge since Colorado decided to push back the enforcement of the new rules regarding progesterone until Oct. 23, but the clinic renewed its request on Sept. 22. The lawsuit states that the clinic has provided help to individuals seeking abortion reversal. The judge stated on Oct. 21 that Colorado cannot prohibit the Catholic clinic, or anyone affiliated to the clinic, from using the controversial reversal medication. Colorado had 30 days to appeal this decision.

While there have been numerous laws passed in Colorado to protect people seeking reproductive health care, Greeley, at large, does not support the measures taken by the state. Some residents of Greeley do not know where to get access to this type of health care because of the stigma around abortion. There are many advertisements around Greeley that show inaccurate medical representation of abortions or there are only crisis pregnancy centers readily available. These types of centers advertise that they are impartial but lean towards pro-life stances.

“I would not point them to the Pregnancy Resource Center or sometimes just called the Resource Center,” Talbot said. “The Resource Center does have medical personnel on staff, so it technically doesn’t qualify as what we call a “fake clinic”, but it’s very clear they give out a fair bit of false information. It’s a dangerous place to go to for accurate information.”

Specifically in Greeley, there are very few places to obtain abortion services or for others looking for other options such as adoption or support in bringing the pregnancy to full term. There is one Planned Parenthood and the next nearest clinic is in Fort Collins or Boulder. Healthcare systems that are known to provide abortion services within Colorado are UCHealth and Kaiser Permanente, which have locations in Greeley. Both healthcare systems made this decision with the influx of people from out-of-state wanting to receive reproductive care. The influx has caused longer wait times for patients to receive reproductive care.

“One interesting thing about Planned Parenthood and other organizations like it is that particularly for people without healthcare insurance and marginalized people tend to get most of their reproductive health care such as mammograms, pap smears and gynecological exams from organizations like Planned Parenthood because that’s the way they can afford it,” Talbot said.

UNC does offer help for those in need and provides resources such as condoms, dental dams and pregnancy tests to help with avoiding contraception and sexually transmitted diseases. There have been little resources advertised to students in providing help after conception has happened.

“I don’t feel comfortable reaching out to the student health offices or anything on campus,” said Rylee Vilhauer, a sophomore business major. “I don’t think there’s any resources for pregnancy here that I would personally feel comfortable reaching out to. I do know there are some pregnancy places in Greeley that are advertised around campus that are definitely pro-life. They’re not pro-choice so I would not reach out to them either, but Planned Parenthood is who I would go to first.”

Two organizations that were supporters of the bills Polis signed in the past two years were Cobalt and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights.

Cobalt, a non-profit organization that is not a healthcare provider or social justice reproductive organization, is based in Colorado and is inclusive to all identities. The organization works towards reproductive rights for all and advocates for choice regarding an individual seeking out birth control options or advice on birthing and parenting. There is a Cobalt Abortion Fund that provides financial assistance to individuals seeking abortion care whether it is for the procedure or to help with transportation, lodging and food expenses for people farther away.

For the Latinx community, COLOR provides help to immigrants seeking reproductive healthcare. There are toolkits they provide and educate Spanish-speaking individuals with free sex education, so it is accessible to all. The organization also travels around Colorado to advocate for the Latinx community in multiple aspects such as reproductive, immigration and environmental justice. Another activity they do is host discussions with different communities to better understand and help the state with various issues that need addressing.

Another service that can be used for not only Coloradans, but for residents in Minnesota, Montana and Wyoming is Just The Pill, a non-profit organization that provides medication abortions, contraceptives, and sexual and reproductive health services. They treat patients within four states, but people who travel to these states can obtain the organization’s services. There are in-person and virtual appointments for those seeking information about their services. Patients can have birth control and the abortion pill shipped directly to their home if they are in a state where there are no mobile clinics to pick up their medication. This helps rural communities have access to reproductive healthcare. The organization cannot accept insurance currently, so abortion pill services are $350, but all patients are offered financial assistance.

For other resources that do not include abortion services, go to Standing With You to find clinics and funds that can help parents.

While there are protections for residents of Colorado to receive reproductive healthcare, many people do not have that luxury because their state representatives are pushing for restrictions and bans on abortions.

“I think abortion should be able to be accessed by all women and I think they should be free and safe,” Vilhauer said. “I do think we can look back at history and see that abortion isn’t a brand-new thing that has been created. There’s always been abortions, but it’s just the matter of fact of how they’re being done.”

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