The progressive State Innovation Exchange (SiX) unveiled the Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council (RFLC) last week with a series of videos, one of which featured Colorado State Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-Commerce City) in which she explains how her abortion experience informs her commitment to fighting for reproductive justice.
Michaelson Jenet is one of 14 state lawmakers in Colorado and hundreds across the country who are joining the RFLC, thereby pledging to promote a bold stance in favor of abortion rights and use their roles as legislators to push for policies that advance reproductive freedom.
The fight against reproductive freedom has been primarily waged in the country’s statehouses in recent years, made evident by the whopping 401 new abortion restrictions that have been written into state law since 2011.
In 2017, Colorado was one of six states where Republican lawmakers introduced legislation that would have imposed a total ban on abortion.
Michaelson Jenet was one of five state lawmakers across the nation who took part in the RFLC video series, which featured personal stories regarding reproductive health, including one Georgia lawmaker who spoke publicly about her abortion experience for the first time.
Michaelson Jenet explains in the video that her decision to run for office was solidified by the 2015 shooting that resulted in three deaths at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. She went on to defeat Republican incumbent JoAnn Windholz in 2016, who stated in a Facebook post after the shooting that Planned Parenthood was the “true instigator” of the violence.
Michaelson Jenet says she wanted to fight for access to the full range of reproductive healthcare, but didn’t expect to personally rely on that healthcare until she experienced complications with a pregnancy.
ICYMI: Check out Colorado Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet talk about her story and why we need laws to protect women's reproductive rights.
Posted by State Innovation Exchange on Friday, 12 January 2018
In the video, Michaelson Jenet explains that her doctor detected a heart defect that eventually destroyed the fetus, and that she made the decision to have an abortion rather than carry through with a pregnancy that wasn’t viable. But she says because she was more than 20 weeks along in her pregnancy, her doctor was unable to perform the procedure, forcing her to go to a clinic that was licensed to perform the late-term abortion.
“All of a sudden I understood, in a way that I had never understood before, how laws that we are creating to deny access to abortion care could have cost me my life,” Michaelson Jenet explained. “This is not up for discussion anymore. We understand that women need to be able to make decisions to take care of their bodies.”
Jenet first spoke about this experience in a Denver Post op-ed in October of last year, just after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.
“We need everybody,” Michaelson Jenet says, “and I’m glad to be a part of that everybody”.
To read more about the vision and values of the RFLC, go here.
Updated 1/19 to reflect a condensed version of the video