Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order today to protect abortion providers and patients in Colorado. The order prohibits state agencies and departments, unless “pursuant to a court order,” from providing “information or data, including patient medical records, patient-level data, or related billing information, or expend time, money, facilities, property, equipment, personnel, or other resources to assist or further any investigation or proceeding initiated in or by another state that seeks to impose criminal or civil liability or professional sanction upon a person or entity for conduct that would be legal in Colorado related to providing, assisting, seeking, or obtaining reproductive health care.”

Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, 26 states are poised to ban abortion. In states like Oklahoma and Texas, there are criminal penalties for performing or receiving an abortion. Abortion advocates worry that overzealous prosecutors in anti-abortion states could attempt to charge or prosecute providers in states where abortion is legal.

“We are taking needed action to protect and defend individual freedom and protect the privacy of Coloradans,” said Polis in a news release. “This important step will ensure that Colorado’s thriving economy and workforce are not impacted based on personal health decisions that are wrongly being criminalized in other states.”

Polis’ executive order will help protect the privacy of both abortion providers and clinic staff, as well as abortion patients, many of whom are now forced to travel out of state for abortions. In Colorado, Planned Parenthood has already seen an influx of patients from Texas and other states where abortion is banned or restricted. “Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) is so proud to provide care in states that take decisive action to secure reproductive freedom,” said Adrienne Mansanares, President and CEO of PPRM, in a news release. “Today’s executive order makes two things very clear: If you are a patient seeking abortion care, you are safe and welcome in Colorado. If you are a health care provider serving local patients and those forced to travel here for access to this essential health care, you are safe and welcome in Colorado. We’ve long been known as a safe state for access to abortion care, and we’re grateful for this order which reinforces that important message.”

The order expands on Colorado’s Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA), the landmark legislation passed in April that enshrines the right to an abortion under Colorado law. “I sponsored the Reproductive Health Equity Act to codify reproductive rights into Colorado law because the government should never interfere in a patient’s private medical decision,” said Majority Leader Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo) in a news release. “Governor Polis’ action today will protect patients and providers from actions taken by Republican state legislatures to criminalize abortion, force rape victims and children to give birth, and prosecute patients who travel out of their states to access an abortion. With more people traveling to our state to get the care they need, Colorado is taking a stand to protect patients’ rights and their private medical information.”

Sen. Julie Gonzales during a rally following the leaked Dobbs decision in May.

Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver) and Rep. Meg Froelich (D-Greenwood Village), both RHEA sponsors, announced the filing of a new bill title to further enhance abortion protections legislatively, but such a bill will not be heard, short of a special session, until the 2023 legislative session.

“As a doctor, I am appalled that GOP politicians in Republican-led states are limiting women’s freedom to choose and providers’ ability to provide care,” said Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D-Thornton), a primary-care physician currently running for U.S. Congress, in a news release. “It is a doctor’s responsibility to care for their patient, but five Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court have allowed nearly half of all states to imprison doctors for providing life-saving medical care. The executive order Governor Polis issued today will protect doctors and pregnant women seeking life saving care from the state and local governments wanting to use their private medical information to put them in prison. Congress must follow Colorado’s lead and protect women’s ability to choose their own reproductive futures.”

Colorado joins Connecticut and New York, which have both passed legislation to protect abortion providers and patients in recent months. “This means that Colorado will not cooperate with any criminalization attempt for a right that is protected under law in our state,” Christina Soliz, Political Director of COLOR said in a news release. “We’re keeping our promise to go beyond the Reproductive Health Equity Act and expand access and protections for all — regardless of who you are and where you come from.”