As we reflect on another state legislative session in the books and what Democrats were able to accomplish with their majorities in Colorado state government, it’s also worth taking a look at what Republicans would have accomplished if they had the chance.
Republican lawmakers in Colorado introduce extreme anti-abortion bills year after year that are designed to shame and stigmatize people who get abortions and ban abortion altogether. Each year, the proposed laws get unanimous support from Republicans in committee hearings before being killed by Democrats, who have a majority in both the state Senate and House of Representatives.
And while people who care about reproductive rights can rest easy knowing that Democrats are in control at the Colorado Capitol now, they should know that if Republicans were to ever take power in Colorado again, abortion rights would almost certainly be on the chopping block.
Unlike several states that have passed laws and constitutional amendments that affirm the right to an abortion, Colorado does not actively protect the right to an abortion in state statute or the state constitution – it simply doesn’t have anything on the books restricting it.
That means that Republican lawmakers could move to ban abortion immediately in Colorado if they won some elections here.
That, combined with the strong conservative majority on the Supreme Court and last month’s announcement that the court would hear a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade, means abortion rights are on unstable ground.
During this year’s legislative session, which wrapped up last week, Republicans pushed two pieces of anti-abortion legislation, one of which would have banned abortion under essentially any circumstances, including for victims of rape and incest.
In years past, the bill would have made performing an abortion punishable by the death penalty, but Democrats in Colorado banned the death penalty last year. This year, the maximum punishment was life in prison.
The second bill was one we’ve never seen in Colorado before. Introduced by freshman lawmaker Rep. Stephanie Luck, a Republican from Penrose, the so-called “abortion surveillance” bill would have required providers to collect detailed information about patients, including their reasons for getting an abortion, how many abortions they’ve had, how they’re paying for the abortion, to be compiled in a public registry.
Luck is, in fact, cut from the same cloth as Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett: like Barret, she’s a graduate of the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a training program for conservative Christian law students run by the powerful religious right group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The program, which teaches students “how God can use them as judges, law professors and practicing attorneys to help keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel in America,” is essentially a legal training ground for anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ zealots.
With this background, Luck appears poised to bring fresh attacks on abortion rights to Colorado.
But for now, Democrats are able to block bills that would infringe on reproductive rights and pass bills that give Coloradans more of an ability to use those rights, from providing contraceptive coverage to immigrants to expanding abortion access for low-income survivors of sexual assault.
With that, Colorado served as a stark contrast to other states, including many in the Rocky Mountain region, that successfully enacted at least 81 restrictions on abortion since January.