Earlier this year, Gov. Polis signed the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) into law. This piece of legislation, which was co-led by local organizations like the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) and Cobalt Advocates, guarantees having access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion to ensure that people can control their own bodies, lives, and futures.
This law established that every individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse contraception; every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to choose to continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion; and that a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of the state.
This was a historic moment for Coloradans and thousands of people from other states who were seeking vital reproductive healthcare such as abortion. Many of those are people from communities here in Texas. When SB8 passed, the people in Texas could not access abortion in the state beyond the earliest weeks of pregnancy. The state’s extreme, privately-enforced abortion ban cut off health care for millions — and it did not have to be this way. SB8 wreaked havoc across our state, creating an atmosphere of confusion and fear about the legalities of abortion because the language of the bill made it difficult even for people in this movement, including lawyers, to interpret.
Our communities on the border have had to navigate numerous barriers to access care since SB8 came into effect in Texas. Only those who are able to afford the cost of childcare, travel, time off work, and lodging are able to access abortion care out of the state, but for many in our community with a lower income it just isn’t feasible.
Beyond economic barriers, many who are without documentation are also unable to leave our region due to internal border patrol checkpoints within 100 miles of the border. Traveling to access care is simply impossible without the risk of detainment or deportation.
Now that SB8 has been the reality of millions for over a year, many states that currently have abortion protections are facing a similar battle that we did here in Texas: municipal ordinances that are trying to divide local representatives and put your fundamental freedom in danger by targeting abortion providers.
In 2021, Mark Lee Dickson with Texas Right to Life attempted to pass a “sanctuary city” ordinance in the City of Edinburg and failed because people on the border recognized that abortion is essential health care. The decision made in Pueblo this week will cause a ripple effect that even south Texans will feel. We must show solidarity with communities facing this battle because abortion bans impact us all.
Abortion is a safe, legal, procedure that should be accessible in our community. Do not let what happened in Texas happen in Colorado.
Now we’re seeing members of conservative organizations coming to confuse and intimidate Pueblo in order to have the council vote on making the city a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” These sorts of ordinances are not enforced until federal law is changed but are used as a fearmongering technique by conservative groups to deter patients and community members who are in dire need of reproductive healthcare. Additionally, these ordinances also deter physicians from practicing obstetrics and gynecology in the community, leaving people already marginalized by the healthcare system are now left without access to even basic reproductive healthcare, fertility treatments, and standard obstetrical care.
Coloradans — including Puebloans — overwhelmingly support abortion access and reject abortion bans like this. Our voters rejected the most recent abortion ban in 2020 by a strong margin. The majority of constituents don’t want this.
The freedom to control our bodies, lives, and futures is vital to all of us, and we know that Puebloans are willing to fight for it. We need to look out for ourselves and our families, friends, and communities. Someone you love may need an abortion someday – and they deserve support and care, not judgment or punishment.
The Pueblo council has approved moving the ordinance forward on Monday, December 12, for a formal vote. Healthcare professionals, advocates, and community members must continue to appeal Pueblo City council and urge them to protect Puebloan’s right to abortion access and care.