Colorado reproductive justice advocates help secure additional protections through Safe Access to Protected Health Care Package


Boram Kim


Rep. Meg Froelich (D–Greenwood Village), Cobalt Abortion Fund, and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) led efforts to pass the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) last year, which codified statewide access to reproductive healthcare. 

Froelich continued to work with reproductive health advocates and fellow lawmakers to build upon expanding that access during this year’s session, which culminated in the passage of Senate Bills 188, 189, and 190 on April 4th. These bills, also known as the Safe Access to Protected Health Care Package, now await the governor’s signature to become law. 

Senate Bill 188 would shield abortion patients and providers receiving or administering care in Colorado from interstate criminal or civil investigation and prosecution. In an interview with State of Reform, Froelich explained the need to develop and sponsor the bill. 

“With the Dobbs decision [happening] less than a month after signing RHEA … then we really were glad that we had set up protection in advance,” Froelich said. “But there were still a whole host of access issues within Colorado, which we always knew because 87% of our counties don’t have a [reproductive healthcare] provider.” 

Froelich said the state witnessed a 33% increase in out-of-state residents coming to Colorado to seek healthcare due to the bans and restrictions implemented after the Supreme Court decision. The additional burden on the system and the escalating political rhetoric around interstate access to conservative-targeted channels of healthcare prompted her to address the threats to and psychological strains on local physicians and providers. 

“It just all seemed to be amped up after Dobbs so that’s really what ended up being the healthcare package,” Froelich said. “[Bills like SB 188] have come to be called ‘shield laws,’ protecting our providers and patients from actions from other states.” 

COLOR, the only Latina-led reproductive justice organization in Colorado, has worked closely with Froelich on these issues since last legislative session. The group led campaigning and organizing efforts around reproductive rights during the midterm elections that resulted in a Democratic supermajority in both chambers of the state legislature this session.

Aurea Bolaños Perea, COLOR’s strategic communications director, told State of Reform the recent legislation represented another win in the organization’s work around justice, which encompass gender-affirming care, immigration justice, LGBTQ+ issues, and more.

“Obviously [Texas’s abortion ban] sounded an alarm because the first people that are going to be impacted by removing or obstructing access to fundamental reproductive healthcare are people that look like us—people from the Latino community,” Perea said. “[We] have already been denied access to any other form of healthcare for decades. And this is why for COLOR it was imperative to be at the forefront of RHEA and to work with partners like Cobalt, an abortion fund which is something that COLOR isn’t.

So joining forces led COLOR to be at a national landscape now, instead of just state. With the ‘Safe Access to Protected Health Care Package,’ we knew we couldn’t just [stop at protecting] abortion—that’s what reproductive justice is about. It’s what makes a person lead a safe, healthy, self-determined life. [Justice] isn’t just bodily autonomy, it isn’t just access to reproductive healthcare. It is access to gender-affirming care and protecting patients and providers.”

COLOR helped inform the drafting of SB 190, which would prohibit crisis pregnancy centers from deceptive trade practices and advertising. 

At the time of the Dobbs decision, COLOR and its community partners discovered pro-life groups and politicians were funneling capital into anti-abortion communication strategies that specifically targeted the Latino community. 

COLOR helped bring attention to the deceptive practices crisis pregnancy centers were employing to lure pregnant women. Women were targeted through ads on Spanish media falsely advertising services for abortion, referrals for abortion, and the provision of emergency contraception and other reproductive healthcare that was nonexistent. 

These centers outnumber abortion clinics 51 to 20 in Colorado and used that prominence to take advantage of young, vulnerable women, according to advocates. Community members had come forward with stories of being shamed and steered away from the procedure through a variety of tactics to extend the pregnancy term, Perea said. 

“When we went to the sponsors [of SB 190], it started with presenting these ideas to people that we knew were reproductive justice champions,” Perea said. “They believe in the intersectionality of not only the individual but that none of us lead single-issue lives. I’m not just a Latina, first-generation immigrant that cares about reproductive justice. I also care about being able to afford rent, I also care about being able to go to school—so that is reproductive justice.

Because if I get pregnant and then I go to a clinic that’s near my campus, and then they tell me that I can reverse something or that maybe look at other options, they’re not actually giving me any [of the] information that I need—that will change the rest of my life.”

Reproductive justice advocates also saw the need to expand insurance coverage for reproductive healthcare. SB 189 would require large employer health plans to cover abortions without deductibles, copays, or coinsurance. Small group and individual market plans would also be required to cover the procedure pending a review and determination by CMS on how the coverage mandate would overall affect marketplace premiums. 

“[SB] 189 was based on the premise that if [reproductive health] is a fundamental right, it isn’t reserved for the wealthy and privileged and that we needed to knock down as many financial barriers as possible given our constitutional prohibition on Medicaid-funded abortion,” Froelich said. “But there was a lot we could do in that space with private insurance and with Medicaid paying for absolutely everything other than an abortion …

I think that we have a long history in Colorado, because of our constitutional amendment that limits our funding abilities, to be just incredibly creative and proactive in providing all kinds of access to healthcare. We also are at the same time expanding as best we can within the limited resources, as much mental and behavioral health supports as we can, and also working with our insurance companies to make sure that they’re providing coverage in alignment with what we’re trying to pass in terms of policy. So that’s really what [SB] 189 was trying to do in the [reproductive] healthcare world.”