On March 3, Colorado House Majority Leader Rep. Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo), Rep. Meg Froelich (D-Greenwood Village), and Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver) introduced the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA), which would enshrine abortion access in Colorado law.
During a March 4 press briefing, Esgar said the RHEA was introduced in response to the restrictive Texas law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
In Colorado, Democrats in the state Legislature have defeated three anti-abortion bills this year alone, and activists have been given the green light to begin collecting signatures to place a personhood measure, banning most abortion, on the November ballot.
“When Senate Bill 8, in the state of Texas, was signed into law there was a rally on the west steps of the Capitol,” said Gonzales. “I joined, and I was surprised by the number of constituents who came up to me, who said, ‘Senator, I understand what’s happening in Texas, but I want to know, what are we going to do here?’ House Bill 1279 is the response. To my constituents, to Coloradoans who are watching the attacks that are happening to Roe v. Wade, this is the Colorado response. We are going to ensure access to the full range of contraception and reproductive healthcare, including access to abortion.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization as early as this Spring. Dobbs is a case about whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional, and has the justice’s decision may overturn or weaken Roe v. Wade.
The RHEA will prevent, “State and local public entities from: Denying, restricting, interfering with, or discriminating against an individual’s fundamental right to use or refuse contraception or to continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion in the regulation or provision of benefits, services, information, or facilities; and Depriving, through prosecution, punishment, or other means, an individual of the individual’s right to act or refrain from acting during the individual’s own pregnancy based on the potential, actual, or perceived impact on the pregnancy, the pregnancy’s outcomes, or on the pregnant individual’s health.”
A federal attempt at securing abortion access under the law, the Women’s Health Protection Act, failed to pass in the U.S. Senate Feb. 28.
Esgar, Froelich, and Gonzales are confident that RHEA, which has 40 sponsors in the Colorado House and 17 sponsors in the Colorado Senate, will not have a problem passing into law in Colorado.
“The time to act is now, and waiting is not an option,” said Dusti Gurule, President of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) in a news release. “Barriers to abortion access always fall heaviest on those with the least access to health care already – communities of color, low-income people, young people, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, rural Coloradans. RHEA would address that equity gap.”
While the RHEA will legally protect abortion access in Colorado should Roe be overturned, Esgar noted that an additional ballot measure would be needed to enshrine abortion protections under the Colorado Constitution. Voters likely won’t see an abortion access ballot measure until 2024.
“This may be the last year we have the protections of Roe v. Wade,” said Cobalt President Karen Middleton in a news release. “We simply cannot count on the federal courts to protect our Constitutional right to abortion in Colorado. And Roe has always been a floor, not a ceiling. We must ensure that abortion is not only legal but also accessible for anyone who wants it, without stigma, cost barriers, or political interference.”