Colorado Senate passes Reproductive Health Equity Act

After two days of debate in the Senate chamber, Colorado lawmakers passed House Bill 1279 on a 20-15 vote along party lines. The bill will now make its way to the governor’s desk where Gov. Jared Polis is expected to approve and sign it into law.

 

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The legislation codifies the right to abortion ahead of conservative majority rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court in two ongoing abortion law cases that could potentially weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade. Lawmakers made hours of passionate and personal appeals on the Senate floor, arguing both sides of the contentious issue leading up to the vote.

As the first Latina elected from District 17, Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis argued banning abortion would disproportionately impact Latinas and their health. She shared a personal story about her three sisters who had all experienced unexpected pregnancies in their youth and the difficult choices each of them had to make.

“Two of my sisters decided that they wanted to have the medical procedure of an abortion. They wanted to stay in school. They wanted to further their education,” said Senator Jaquez Lewis. “They could not tell my mother and could not tell my father …”

The Reproductive Health Equity Act declares abortion is an individual’s “fundamental right” and that a “fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state.” It also contains a provision that would protect abortion regardless of the high court’s decisions from state and local interference.

With passage in both chambers, groups on both sides of the political debate are now planning to take further action on abortion.

Conservative groups including the Colorado Right to Life have announced intentions to sue if the bill becomes law.  Meanwhile, Democrats plan to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution with a ballot measure that will be put forth to voters in 2024.