AP

Colorado governor signs bills protecting abortion and gender-affirming care

Apr 15, 2023, 4:06 PM | Updated: 4:08 pm

BOULDER, CO - MARCH 22: Colorado Governor Jared Polis speaks at a day of remembrance event on March...

BOULDER, CO - MARCH 22: Colorado Governor Jared Polis speaks at a day of remembrance event on March 22, 2022 in Boulder, Colorado. The event took place on the anniversary of a mass shooting at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder that left ten people dead. (Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)

DENVER (AP) — A trio of health care bills enshrining access in Colorado to abortion and gender-affirming procedures and medications became law Friday as the Democrat-led state tries to make itself a safe haven for its neighbors, whose Republican leaders are restricting care.

The main goal of the legislation signed by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis is to ensure people in surrounding states and beyond can go to Colorado to have an abortion, begin puberty blockers or receive gender-affirming surgery without fear of prosecution. Bordering states of Wyoming and Oklahoma have passed abortion bans, and Utah has severely restricted transgender care for minors.

Many states with abortion or transgender care bans are also criminalizing traveling to states for the purpose of accessing legal health care.

The contradicting laws are setting the stage for interstate disputes comparable to the patchwork of same-sex marriage laws that existed until 2015, or the 19th-century legal conflict over whether fugitive enslaved people in free states remained the property of slaveholders when they escaped.

The governor’s office was packed with lawmakers, advocates and health care providers, many of them women, for a ceremony with a celebratory feel that resembled a rally at times with loud applause and call-and-response chants.

“We see you and in Colorado, we’ve got your back,” Democratic state Sen. Julie Gonzales said during the ceremony.

With the new laws, Colorado joins Illinois as a progressive peninsula offering reproductive rights to residents of conservative states on three sides. Illinois abortion clinics now serve people living in a 1,800-mile (2,900-kilometer) stretch of 11 Southern states that have largely banned abortion.

Florida, temporarily a haven for abortion seekers in those states, outlawed abortions after 6 weeks. The bill, signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday in a closed-door ceremony doesn’t go into effect right away.

California and New York are considering similar bills after the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down Roe. v. Wade, putting abortion laws in the hands of state legislatures.

Colorado’s southern neighbor, New Mexico, is also controlled by Democrats and signed a similar abortion protection bill earlier this year. It legally shields those who seek abortions or gender-affirming care, and those who provide the treatments, from interstate investigations.

Ashley Blinkhorn, a graduate student and activist who testified in favor of the bills during legislative hearings, said they will help people across the country, including possibly her recently married friends in their 30s and her queer friends in her former homes of Texas and Florida.

“It’s a real comfort to know that Colorado both will provide health care to them if they visit or if they move here,” she said.

Visits to Colorado’s abortion clinics have increased by about a third since the Supreme Court ruling and wait times for an appointment have increased from one or two days up to three weeks, according to state lawmakers. They also expect an increase in wait times for gender-affirming care.

Colorado House Minority Leader Mike Lynch said he feared the legislation would make Colorado an abortion destination that will attract “the vulnerable, the indigent and frightened minors from all over the country” and said the package of laws does not protect choice.

“They deny a new mother the choice to consider alternative options other than to end her pregnancy,” Lynch, a Republican from Wellington, said in a statement.

Karen Middleton, president of Cobalt Advocates, a Denver-based organization that pushes for abortion access, said most of the women traveling to Colorado since the Supreme Court ruling have come from Texas and Wyoming. The organization spent $220,000 to help women travel for abortions in Colorado last year, most of them from other states, up from $6,000 in 2021, she said. That is on top of money spent for the actual procedures.

Polis added the first layer of abortion protection a year ago, signing an executive order that bars state agencies from cooperating with out-of-state investigations regarding reproductive healthcare. One of the bills he signed Friday codifies that order into law. Like the New Mexico law, it blocks court summons, subpoenas and search warrants from states that decide to prosecute someone for having an abortion.

Colorado’s abortion law extends the protections to transgender patients dodging restrictions in their own states. Gender-affirming health care has been available for decades, but some states have recently barred minors from accessing it, even with parental consent. Hospitals in some of those states say gender-affirming surgeries are rarely recommended for minors anyway. Puberty blockers are more common.

Conservative states are pushing back. Idaho passed a bill that outlaws providing a minor with abortion pills and helping them leave the state to terminate a pregnancy without their parents’ consent.

The Colorado law comes as medication abortions are in limbo across the U.S. and mail-order prescriptions of a crucial abortion drug are virtually banned pending the outcome of a federal court case.

Also on Friday, Polis signed a measure that outlaws “deceptive practices” by anti-abortion centers, which are known to market themselves as abortion clinics but don’t actually offer the procedure. Instead, they attempt to convince patients to not terminate their pregnancies. The bill also prohibits sites from offering what’s called an abortion pill reversal — and unproven practice to reverse a medical abortion.

A third bill signed Friday requires large employers to offer coverage for the total cost of an abortion, with an exception for those who object on religious grounds. It exempts public employees because Colorado’s constitution forbids the use of public funds for abortions. ____

Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Associated Press writer Thomas Peipert in Denver also contributed to this report.

___

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the last name of state Sen. Julie Gonzales.

KSL 5 TV Live

AP

FILE - The 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., is seen, Oct. 2...

Terry Spencer, Associated Press

Six years after the Parkland school massacre, the bloodstained building will finally be demolished

The demolition of the building where 17 people died in the 2018 Parkland school shooting is set to begin. Crews will begin tearing down the three-story building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Friday.

3 hours ago

File - Workers install lighting on an "X" sign atop the company headquarters, formerly known as Twi...

Associated Press

What happened to the likes? X is now hiding which posts you like from other users

Social media platform X is now hiding your likes.

10 hours ago

Police say they arrested a man Friday in the investigation of a violent murder in West Valley City....

Teresa Crawford, Associated Press

3 deputies shot while responding to northern Illinois home, suspect also wounded, official says

Authorities say three sheriff’s deputies have been shot while responding to a northern Illinois home.

10 hours ago

A rare white buffalo calf, reportedly born in Yellowstone National Park's Lamar Valley, is shown on...

Amy Beth Hanson, The Associated Press

Reported birth of rare white buffalo calf in Yellowstone National Park fulfills Lakota prophecy

The reported birth of a rare white buffalo in Yellowstone National Park fulfills a Lakota prophecy that portends better times, according to members of the American Indian tribe who cautioned that it’s also a signal that more must be done to protect the earth and its animals.

11 hours ago

FILE - Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference at the Federal Res...

Christopher Rugaber, AP Economics Writer

Federal Reserve is likely to scale back plans for rate cuts because of still-elevated inflation

Federal Reserve officials on Wednesday will likely make official what’s been clear for many weeks: With inflation sticking at a level above their 2% target, they’re downgrading their outlook for interest rate cuts.

16 hours ago

FILE - Los Angeles Lakers coach Jerry West sits on the Lakers' bench in Los Angeles, Jan. 28, 1977....

TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer

Jerry West, a 3-time Hall of Fame selection and the inspiration for the NBA logo, dies at 86

Jerry West, who was selected to the Basketball Hall of Fame three times in a storied career as a player and executive, and whose silhouette is considered to be the basis of the NBA logo, died Wednesday morning, the Los Angeles Clippers announced.

17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Colorado governor signs bills protecting abortion and gender-affirming care