Colorado Democrats rejected three Republican abortion bills late Wednesday and early Thursday as the nation’s highest court considers the future of federal protections for the procedure.
Two of the Republican proposals would have outright criminalized abortion in the state. The third would have forced doctors to report more information about patients who terminate their pregnancies to the state to better understand the reason for the procedure, which opponents have called invasive and intimidating for patients.
The Colorado debates came as Democratic leaders prepare a bill to enshrine the right to abortion in state law in the event the US Supreme Court overturns its previous rulings listing the right . The court is national, several Republican-led state legislatures have recently passed or are considering new restrictions on access to abortion.
The Supreme Court is currently reviewing such a Mississippi law, which bans abortions after 15 weeks. This delay is at odds with the precedent set in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, who established a constitutional right to abortion until fetal viability, which is generally considered to be around 23 weeks of pregnancy.
In Arizona, Florida and West Virginia, a proposal to ban abortions after 15 weeks’ gestation has passed at least one legislative chamber, according to online news service The 19th. In the fall, Texas enacted a six-week abortion ban and delegated citizens to file civil lawsuits to enforce it. Colorado providers testified late Wednesday that they have seen an increase in the number of patients from Texas since the law was enacted.
In Colorado, the bills went through an annual Capitol ritual of abortion restrictions, with hours of sometimes emotional, impassioned and grim testimony before falling to almost predetermined and partisan results. Democrats hold a 17-seat advantage in the House and a 7-4 advantage in the committees that determine whether a bill makes it to the full house.
“With the Supreme Court likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, it’s more important than ever that we defeat these extreme Republican bills that would ban abortion in Colorado,” says Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver and President of Health and Insurance. Committee, said in a statement after the hearing. “The people of Colorado have said time and time again that we trust women to make their own decisions and that we don’t want to jail doctors or ban abortion. We won’t let Republican politicians take us back to a time when women were dying trying to seek the care they needed.
State Rep. Patrick Neville’s bill, titled “Protecting Human Life By Design,” shares a name with bills introduced — and voted on in committee — every year since 2016. The iteration introduced this year would make a person who performs an abortion guilty of a crime.
State Rep. David Williams’ bill, titled “Abolition of Abortion in Colorado,” would include “an unborn child at every stage of gestation, from fertilization to birth,” as defined by who could be a victim of homicide or assault under state law.
He introduced a bill in 2020 to ban most abortions after 22 weeks’ gestation, which also failed in committee. Colorado voters rejected a similar proposal at the polls the same year, with 59% opposing it and 41% supporting it. It was the fourth time voters had said no to abortion restrictions since 2008.
For the second year in a row, State Representative Stephanie Luck has proposed a bill titled “Induced Termination Of Pregnancy State Registrar” with the stated goal of improving and expanding data collection from health care providers. abortion to better understand why people get the procedure. The version she introduced would require providers to report their patients’ demographics, any history of abortion and why they received the treatment. If providers fail to do so, they could face repercussions to their license to practice medicine.
In her opening remarks, she called it a “boring bill” on collecting anonymous, aggregated data to help guide policymakers. Opponents called it an abortion watch bill. He’s met with Democrats asking, among other things, why is a personal healthcare decision anyone’s business but the patient’s?
“Patients have a right to expect privacy and confidentiality when seeking medical care,” said State Representative Emily Sirota, D-Denver. “It’s not the government’s job to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship with three pages of intrusive questions and judgment.”
Luck said she had no intention of making people seeking abortions feel ashamed or intimidated. She argued that medical professionals were already reporting sensitive and anonymous information and that she wanted to make abortion data more uniform.
“If we change the name of this bill, to basically any other piece of data, would you have any objection?” Luck asked. “If you don’t mind, is it more about this broader conversation about abortion than the data itself?”
Both Neville and Williams presented their bills as being explicitly rooted in conservative Christian values regarding the protection of human life. As Williams’ bill headed for rejection, Neville said his fellow Republican would be ‘on the right side of history’ and compared him to Colorado Governor Ralph Carr, who opposed the camps internment for Japanese Americans during World War II.