A trailblazing bill that would offer birth control to undocumented immigrants in Colorado cleared a critical legislative hurdle yesterday in passing out of the state Senate.

The legislation would provide contraceptive coverage to undocumented immigrants through Colorado’s Medicaid program.

Due to citizenship requirements and cost barriers, many undocumented immigrants are unable to access basic health care, including reproductive health care. Undocumented immigrants are ineligible to enroll in Medicaid in Colorado, except for emergency care during pregnancy for delivery and several weeks postpartum, and they’re also ineligible to purchase coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces.

Immigrant advocates hope that the legislation will pave the way toward offering a full range of reproductive health services for undocumented people through the state’s Medicaid program.

Aside from citizenship status, the bill also increases contraceptive access for all Medicaid users by allowing them to get a full year’s supply of contraceptives at their first doctor’s visit, a policy that’s been shown to lead to more consistent birth control use and fewer unplanned pregnancies.

If it passes through the Colorado House of Representatives and is signed into law by Governor Jared Polis, Colorado would become one of just a few states that offer affordable reproductive health services to undocumented immigrants.

Advocates say the bill is a critical first step toward addressing the health care disparities immigrant populations face, particularly when it comes to reproductive care.

“Right now thousands of women in our state are facing structural barriers to obtaining an affordable, reliable contraception method to ensure they can manage their health and plan their families and futures,” said Karla Gonzales Garcia, Policy Director for the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), in a press release. “Sometimes the obstacles come from how much money someone has and that they cannot afford to pay for care out of pocket. Sometimes the gaps are a result of immigration status, which is made even more infuriating by the fact that the immigration system is broken and already causing so much harm to our families and our communities.” 

“Senate Bill 9 is ambitious, forward thinking and the right thing to do,” Garcia continued. “It builds on the legacy we have set forth as a state of working to close gaps in care, of being a place where all people are treated with respect, and of actively striving to advance racial and reproductive justice. This bill is a first step, but certainly a very important one.”

The bill passed on a party-line vote with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposing.