Three months after Colorado legislators passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA), which enshrines the right to an abortion in Colorado law, the Supreme Court today ruled 6-3 in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the majority opinion. “Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
The overruling of Roe has significant consequences for abortion providers and patients across the country. “The Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs case is abhorrent,” said Melissa Fowler, National Abortion Federation’s Chief Program Officer in a news release. “Today’s decision confirms the worst-case scenario that reproductive rights advocates have been bracing for and this is a heartbreaking day. This decision will gut abortion access in half of the states and have an absolutely devastating impact on those in need of essential abortion care in many parts of the country. We will not stay silent and we will not be deterred; we will continue to do everything in our power to help people access abortion care. While this ruling does not make abortion illegal, 26 states are poised to ban abortion quickly in the absence of Roe. At the same time, a number of states are working to protect and expand abortion access, and some abortion providers have been preparing for an influx of patients to these states.”
The lack of abortion access as a result of the Dobbs decision will disproportionately impact people of color and people in lower socioeconomic classes. “Overturning Roe v. Wade allows states to decide whether to protect, ban, or regulate access to abortion,” said Rebecca Reingold, associate director of the Health and Human Rights Initiative at the O’Neil Institute For National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law, in a news release. “Abortion rights now depend entirely on the state where a person resides. Many women who are living in poverty, in rural areas, who are women of color, who are young, who are undocumented, and who experience intimate partner violence will find it impossible to access abortion services. Ultimately, women who are already marginalized and underserved will bear the primary burden of this decision, with devastating consequences for their health, well-being, and dignity. Harsh penalties for providing abortions will undermine the patient-physician relationship and dissuade physicians from treating miscarriages and other obstetric emergencies, resulting in worse maternal and infant health outcomes.”
Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) also released a statement following the Dobbs ruling. “COLOR is grieving for the 36 million people, including 5.7 million Hispanics across the United States, who have lost access to abortion care because of this decision,” said COLOR’s Political Director, Christina Soliz. “We have been preparing for this moment since 2016. We know that the burden falls hardest on people who already face systemic racism and discrimination. This is why we protected our right to abortion here in the state by leading the passage of the Reproductive Health Equity Act, and now that the Supreme Court has cleared the way for bans across the country, we’ll continue to lead in building a future where reproductive healthcare is safe, accessible, and without shame.”
Leading up to the Dobbs decision, Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate attempted to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect abortion at the federal level, but were unable to get the votes needed in the Senate to pass the legislation.
“A lot this comes comes down to the filibuster, and now you know why I’m a proponent of abolishing the filibuster,” said U.S. Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO).” There are so many extremely important issues that are overwhelmingly supported by the American people that have gone to the Senate to die for that reason. I think the times are changing. We passed legislation in the house, and it has gone to the Senate to die, but we do have to look at opportunities through the NDAA and actually provide some information about some thing we’re working on, some letter efforts and other things, to encourage the Department of Defense — or require the Department of Defense, as the case may be — to provide protections for folks.”
Abortion has been a central issue for Colorado elections this year, and with Roe overturned it will continue to be a central issue. “Suppose Congress cannot break the filibuster and pass laws protecting voting rights and access to abortion,” said Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director at the National Black Justice Coalition, in a news release. “In that case, it will be up to the American people in November to ensure that the next Congress has the majorities it needs to do so. We, the people, rule this country – and together – we must vote to protect abortion rights and ensure that the radical conservative majority on the Supreme Court is depowered.”
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who is facing one of two anti-abortion Republicans, Colorado Rep. Ron Hanks (R-Cañon City) and businessman Joe O’Dea, has been endorsed by abortion rights groups COLOR and Cobalt. “COLOR Action Fund appreciates the leadership of Sen. Michael Bennet throughout the years, and his continued commitment and advocacy for reproductive justice issues and policy,” said Soliz, Political Director of COLOR Action Fund, in a news release. “We’re excited to work together and get him re-elected to the US Senate and continue our partnership together as he works to expand access and remove barriers to abortion care.”
Karen Middleton, President of Cobalt said of Bennet’s endorsement, “Cobalt endorsed Senator Bennet early because he has long been a champion for abortion access and reproductive rights. With Roe hanging in the balance, Colorado needs a Senator like Michael Bennet who will always be an advocate for our Colorado values on reproductive freedom. We are proud to support him and his re-election.”
Hanks has come out firmly in opposition to abortion, with limited exceptions to protect the life of the mother. O’Dea is slightly more moderate, opposing RHEA but not going as far as supporting the overturning of Roe.
Colorado’s Republican gubernatorial primary has also highlighted abortion. University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl is firmly anti-abortion and opposes RHEA. Ganahl also recently introduced a resolution to CU’s Board of Regents to consider limiting the use of stem cells and human fetal tissue in medical research. Ganahl’s primary opponent, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest. “Really evaluate how this might change for the positive,” was Lopez’s advice to people pregnant as a result of rape.
Colorado GOP Chair Kristi Burton Brown, who began her political career as the face of Colorado’s thrice-failed Personhood ballot initiative, celebrated this morning’s ruling on Twitter.
In contrast, Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll responded to the Dobbs decision with a warning about the upcoming election. “Voters are getting just a taste of what Republicans do when they have the opportunity to wield power,” she said in a news release. “They’ve burst the door wide open to a dangerous future in America where women will no longer have the power to make their own choice to get an abortion. Women and health care professionals can now be arrested, interrogated, prosecuted, and imprisoned in our country, and we need to be clear that people will die as a result of this decision. Republican control of the U.S. Senate will mean more justices who will curb personal freedoms, and we must do everything we can here in Colorado to ensure that we continue to elect pro-choice Democrats at every level. We are more determined than ever to make sure Colorado stays a refuge for legal and safe abortion access in the West.”
The Dobbs decision was based on the court’s interpretation of the 14th Amendment, which is also the basis for decisions like Griswold v. Connecticut, which addressed the right to access contraceptives, Lawrence v. Texas, which addressed the right to engage in consensual sexual acts, like sodomy, which was widely banned in many states, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which protects the right to same sex marriage. With the massive pushback against the existence of transgender Americans during the last year, many are concerned that LGBTQ rights could be the next on the Supreme Court’s chopping block.
With the conservative-controlled Supreme Court and the filibuster in place in the Senate, Crow says advocates should consider alternative approaches to affect change. “Ultimately if these states want to resort to bigotry or racism or misogyny, or anti-Democratic behavior, then companies should start leaving — that’s going to hurt their economy and hurt them hard — and move to states like Colorado, where we respect and protect their employees and families. That’s another important lever in how we influence the policy debate.”