On the eve of what’s expected to be a massive Women’s March in Denver, Republican state lawmakers once again introduced a bill that seeks to limit abortions in a variety of ways, including imposing a waiting period and mandatory ultrasounds–and forcing doctors to describe scientifically shaky concepts, like fetal pain and abortion reversal, to women seeking to terminate their pregnancies.
Republicans have unsuccessfully pushed the so-called Women’s Reproductive Information Guarantee for Health and Transparency (RIGHT) Act every year since 2015, continuing to devote time and taxpayer dollars to a bill that has been repeatedly struck down by Democrats.
The language surrounding the ultrasound requirement is murky, stating that the woman “has the opportunity to see or forgo seeing her ultrasound,” presumably meaning that the procedure itself is required, but that the woman has the option of refusing to look at the results. In the past, Republicans have argued that the bill doesn’t include an ultrasound mandate, and yet the language does leave ample room for interpretation.
Many of the requirements are based on shaky science. For example, the bill would force doctors to describe the fetus’ ability to feel pain, for which there is no scientific consensus. Most scientists agree, however, that there’s no possibility of fetal pain until the latest stages of a pregnancy, when very few abortions occur.
The bill also requires abortion providers to tell women that if they regret their abortion following the procedure, there are abortion reversal methods available, despite the fact that those methods haven’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has warned that in addition to being just as effective as doing nothing at all to reverse an abortion, these methods pose a variety of health risks.
And in an apparent attempt to point women toward pro-life Crisis Pregnancy Centers, the bill would require doctors to refer women to ultrasound providers in the area “with particular mention of those who perform ultrasounds at no cost.” Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which tend to offer free ultrasounds, have been found to mislead and guilt-trip women away from seeking abortions.
All this information must be delivered to the patient at least 24 hours before the procedure, resulting in a mandatory waiting period for the patient.
Reproductive rights advocates have pointed out that waiting periods, which force women to make multiple trips to their healthcare provider when only one is truly necessary, pose logistical challenges and extra costs for women, like those related to child care and taking time off work. This disproportionately affects low-income women and women of color, in addition to women who live in rural communities, who must travel long distances and potentially pay for lodging to get the care they need.
On top of all this, the bill repeatedly refers to the fetus as a child. Pro-choice advocates have sounded the alarm to this detail in the past, which they say creates a backdoor for “personhood”, or the conferring of individual human rights to a fetus.
The bill is the first of the 2018 legislative session to threaten reproductive rights, but is sure not to be the last.
In recent years, national anti-choice organizations that craft model legislation for statehouses have zeroed in on Colorado, resulting in an onslaught of legislative proposals seeking to curtail abortion in the state. The Democratic majority in the state House of Representatives continually renders these efforts unsuccessful.
This year, Colorado’s proposed RIGHT Act is sponsored by state Rep. Lori Saine (R-Firestone) and state Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins).