Since its introduction, the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) has been the subject of baseless accusations — that it allows for “post natal abortions” or that it stops parents from being notified if their child has an abortion.
A March 7 blog post from the Archdiocese of Denver, calling for witnesses to oppose RHEA, claimed the bill would, “Remove the requirement that parents of minors be notified if their child receives an abortion.”
Coming as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to weaken or eliminate the federally protected abortion rights, RHEA codifies the right to an abortion in Colorado at any stage in pregnancy.
In a March 11 Facebook post, Rep. Kevin Van Winkle (R-Highlands Ranch) wrote, “HB1279 would make Margaret Sanger blush. It guards abortion by law in all cases, for anyone, of any age (without parental consent for parents of young teenage moms), at any time (3rd trimester +), for any reason, and also allows for ‘post-natal’ abortion (meaning babies successfully born alive who can cry, recognize familiar voices, etc.).”
The text of RHEA doesn’t mention parental notification at all, but opponents of abortion have raised concerns that giving people of all ages a legal right to on-demand abortion would violate Colorado’s 2003 Parental Notification Act.
According to Planned Parenthood, “The Colorado Parental Notification Law, also cited and known as the ‘Colorado Parental Notification Act’, was passed by the Colorado Legislature in 2003. The law requires physicians or healthcare providers to notify a parent or guardian of a minor’s scheduled abortion procedure. There are exceptions to the notification rule, such as the formal emancipation of a minor or the minor has obtained a Judicial Bypass of the parental notification requirement. This notification must occur at least 48 hours in advance of a scheduled abortion procedure. The minor patient should be told their parent or guardian does not have to ‘consent’ [approve] the abortion procedure, but the law mandates a health care provider must notify a parent or guardian via written notice at least 48 hours prior to a scheduled abortion procedure.”
According to Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), the Supreme Court case Belotti v. Baird set the legal standard for parental involvement laws. That case holds that minors have the right to choose pre-viability abortions, subject to state laws regarding parental involvement. The court held that if a state has parental involvement laws, there must be a legal mechanism for a minor to bypass parental involvement so that the state does not serve as an absolute bar on choice for minors seeking abortions.
Katherine Riley, policy director for COLOR, notes the bill would only affirm a minor’s legal right to access an abortion, not the notification process.
“RHEA is about protecting our fundamental right to choose,” she says. “Parental notification is a barrier to access, but not a barrier to choice because even if a parent is notified of their child’s choice to pursue an abortion in Colorado, they legally cannot prevent the abortion from happening.”