Abortion advocates, lawmakers and activists gathered at the Capitol today for a Pro-Abortion Rally following the leak of a draft opinion that showed the Supreme Court will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. The noon event was one of three events scheduled for the Capitol steps — Planned Parenthood will hold a rally at 5 p.m. and Denver’s Party for Socialism and Liberation will hold an event at 6:30 p.m.
“I’m actually kind of livid,” said Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver), one of the sponsors of Colorado’s Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA), which enshrines the right to an abortion under Colorado law. “Should this Supreme Court decision stand in the way that it has been issued as a draft, the work that we have done and the work that we collectively will continue to do will matter more than ever.”
Speakers addressed the racial and economic disparities in abortion access. “We know that the majority of our clients are poor women and queer people of color from hostile states,” said Isabel Cruz, a board member of the Colorado Doula Project. “Even though we have protected abortion access and the fundamental right to bodily sovereignty through RHEA and our state, this is going to touch every single one of us. Even though our right is protected, funding isn’t there all the time. If you can’t afford your abortion you can’t get one. That’s why funds like ours, and funds like COBALT, and abortion funds all across the country exist.”
Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver), who was worked on legislation to improve maternal outcomes for Black mothers, said the Supreme Court’s decision would not end abortion. “These bans and these attacks on reproductive freedom — let me be clear — they will not stop abortion from happening, but they will decrease the number of safe abortions that happen,” she said. “They will push people into the shadows and they will harm people who look like me, who look like you disproportionately than [people who look like] those judges who decided to ban abortion. … I’m pretty sick of white men without medical degrees telling me what to do with my reproductive organs.”
Upcoming elections were a common topic. Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis (D-Boulder) encouraged people to vote. Elizabeth Epps, who founded the Colorado Freedom Fund and who is running for a seat in the Colorado House, said voters should elect people who have had abortion. Herod had a pointed message for fellow Democrats.
“We need to step up as Democrats and give a shit about our base again,” she said. “We have to own that, as Democrats. We have lost our base because we’re afraid to talk about the things that matter, but these type of bills, these types of laws, these types of rulings have impacts on each and every one of us. I will remind you that those folks in that building never vote for more money for education for our young people. … We allowed the courts to be taken over. We have allowed the conversation to go more and more to the right, because we’re worried about moderates, and we’ve lost our base. Folks like you — I don’t want to speak for y’all — probably think we ain’t doing shit for you.”
For many of the speakers, the leaked ruling was not exactly a surprise. “We’ve had years and years to protect abortion rights at the federal level,” said Hayley Banyai-Becker of New Era Colorado. “They just became state law in Colorado. Now that we’re facing the unimaginable it’s time to meet the moment. It’s time to hold every lawmaker accountable, not just for their actions, but inactions.”
Meanwhile, Colorado Republican leaders praised the draft Supreme Court ruling.
Kristi Burton Brown, Chair of the Colorado GOP and former FEC United president, supported the leaked draft. “If this report is true, then countless lives have been saved,” she said in the release. “Like the majority of Americans, Republicans believe that every single life is precious and that every child is worth saving. Equal rights are not equal until they extend to every human being. I pray that the Supreme Court releases an official decision that recognizes that fact. We must all choose to keep working until every child is protected, every woman is supported, and every family is strong.”
During this legislative session, Republicans introduced three unsuccessful bills to ban or otherwise restrict abortion access in Colorado. Colorado voters overwhelmingly support the right to an abortion. Ballot initiatives, which would ban all abortion, including for rape and incest, have consistently been proposed — and rejected — by voters in Colorado during election years since 2008, which saw Amendment 48, the nation’s first “fetal personhood” initiative. GOP Chair Burton Brown, then just 19 years old, was the face of that first campaign, which failed by a 3 to 1 margin. Signatures are currently being collected for Initiative 56, the sixth attempt at banning abortion in Colorado.
“This is a heavy, hard moment,” said Gonzales. “I’m a little tired of having to be this resilient, but we’ll be resilient because our ancestors have fought for us to be here in this moment so that our future generations can not only survive, but thrive.”