DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Wednesday announced Colorado will not cooperate with criminal and civil investigations into people who provide or obtain legal reproductive health care, including abortions, within the state.
Through an executive order, Polis said other states may try to infringe on rights protected in Colorado because of the U.S. Supreme Court's "wrong and misguided decision" to overturn Roe v. Wade. Abortion access is protected in Colorado because of the Reproductive Health Equity Act that Polis signed into law in 2022.
"[Polis] is signaling to other states he's here to support individuals for their reproductive rights," said attorney Andrew Ho. "Yes, it is necessary. He's letting them know he's going to be exercising his discretion not to honor any laws that prohibit abortion."
The order dictates that Colorado agencies will not provide anyone's personal information to other states, unless ordered by a court, regarding actions that are legal in this state.
The Colorado Dept. of Regulatory Agencies will also work to ensure no provider would lose their license or be otherwise disciplined because of an abortion.
Additionally, Polis said he will decline other states' requests for arrests or extradition.
That last part did not need to be explicitly stated in the executive order because state law gives the governor discretion on extradition when someone is accused of doing something in Colorado that is illegal in another state.
"There are times when the governor can exercise his discretion and not make an arrest and times when he has to make an arrest. The difference is, can the receiving state or the requesting state, make it illegal to make a plan or to come to Colorado to have an abortion," Ho said.
If someone commits a crime in another state and is found in Colorado, state law limits the governor's discretion in preventing extradition.
What does Polis' executive order do?
States like Missouri, Arkansas and Wyoming already approved trigger laws set to restrict or ban abortion once Roe was overturned. If a state were to create a law banning the planning of an abortion or crossing state lines for an abortion, that person seeking an abortion could be seen as violating that state's law. In that instance, the governor's discretion could be limited, but it would likely take a court case to determine that.
When asked how often the Governor has used his discretion to decline extradition, and for what crimes, a spokesperson for Polis responded by email: "The Governor would hesitate to assist any other state with a criminal investigation for an activity that is legal within the borders of Colorado. Another example would be possession of a small amount of marijuana."
Cobalt is an abortion and reproductive rights organization in Colorado that also runs an abortion fund to help patients afford the procedure and travel costs. Political Director Selina Najar said abortion providers and patients were anxious about "legal gray areas" even before the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe.
"When Texas' six-week abortion ban went into effect, that caused a ripple effect across country of abortion providers, abortion rights advocacy groups figuring out what the legal ramifications for other states, for other case laws, could be," she said.
"In short, it's confusing. It's really confusing and folks are scared."
As more states consider or pass laws restricting abortion, abortion providers -- or support organizations like Cobalt -- expect more people traveling to Colorado to seek abortion care.
Group dedicated to reproductive rights helping people travel to Colorado for abortion
"The uptick in clients coming to Cobalt's abortion fund for assistance has tripled in past 12 days since Roe was overturned. That’s not even including all the states anticipated to outlaw abortion in the coming year," Najar said.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser (D) and seven other district attorneys in the state have already said they will not prosecute abortion cases following the Court's decision.
Polis’ Republican opponent in the 2022 election, Heidi Ganahl, has declined has suggested in interviews with other outlets that she’d seek to restrict abortion access but has not provided specifics.
Democrats want to enhance Colorado reproductive rights, but they have to get through November
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