Editor’s note: This article was originally published in March after a Colorado Republican lawmaker introduced a bill that would have required abortion providers to interrogate patients and collect deeply personal information about them to be compiled in a public report. We’re republishing it now in light of Texas’ Senate Bill 8 going into effect, which deputizes private citizens to enforce a ban on abortion, effectively creating an abortion surveillance state. Now, the notion of a public registrar with personal details about the lives of abortion seekers takes on new meaning as private citizens are incentivized to sue anyone who provides or aids and abets an abortion in Texas.
Over the last dozen years, anti-abortion advocates have tried just about everything in their power to enact major restrictions on abortion in Colorado, from banning the procedure altogether to imposing gestational cutoffs.
Those efforts have proved fruitless thanks to Democratic state lawmakers and voters who have soundly rejected a series of anti-abortion measures at the ballot box.
Most recently, in 2020, voters rejected Proposition 115, a measure that would have banned abortions after 22 weeks, by a whopping 18-point margin. The measure even performed poorly in districts where President Donald Trump was popular among voters, something abortion foes characterized as a “wake up call.”
Whether you call it perseverance or callousness toward the will of Colorado voters, anti-abortion advocates in the state simply refuse to give up.
In an effort that one abortion foe called “the first step” toward regrouping following the failure of Prop. 115, Republican lawmakers are pushing an abortion surveillance bill that would force abortion providers to collect personal information from patients to be compiled in a public report.
That information includes the number of abortions the patient has had previously, their reasons for terminating the pregnancy, the patient’s educational background, their marital status, and much more.
While collecting general data regarding abortion, just as with any medical procedure, is part of sound public health practice, collecting the highly detailed and personal information outlined in this legislation serves no public health purpose, and opponents of the legislation say it risks patient confidentiality and privacy.
Currently, the state of Colorado collects general data on abortion incidence and produces a public report that contains no personal details.
“HB21-1183 would mandate state surveillance of additional data that is neither necessary for public health nor the patient’s care,” said Denver area OB/GYN Aaron Lazorwitz, pointing out that the data that abortion providers would be required to collect isn’t required for other medical procedures.
In addition to forcing providers to interrogate patients, opponents of the legislation are concerned that the data collected could be used to target providers, who are already prone to harassment and violence.
Lazorwitz said the bill “represents an invasion of privacy for my patients and a professional threat to me as a doctor.”
“Abortion providers are under constant threat because the health care we offer has been stigmatized and politicized,” he said.
Advocates of the legislation have clearly stated that the intent is to use the data collected to bolster their attempts to impose restrictions on abortion in Colorado.
“I believe it can lead to the development of private/public policies and programs that address abortion demand and refine our services to women to reduce their perceived need for abortion,” wrote Tom Perille, a key advocate for Prop. 115, in a blog post for Denver Catholic. “This bill is the first step in our effort to regroup and educate the people of Colorado after the failure of Prop 115.”
A bill of this kind has never before been introduced in Colorado, but similar legislation has been introduced in other states based on model bills from organizations like Americans United for Life, which aims to wipe out abortion rights across the nation.
The bill’s lead sponsor, state Rep. Stephanie Luck (R-Penrose), is 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). Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett is also a graduate of the program.
A hearing for the bill is scheduled for Wednesday in the House Health and Insurance committee.
Colorado Republican lawmakers are also pushing a bill that would make it a class one felony to perform an abortion under essentially any circumstances.
UPDATE: The bill has been defeated by Democrats in Colorado’s legislature.