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Colorado lawmakers consider more protections for abortion providers, visiting patients

Abortion is already legal in Colorado. This bill would protect patients who travel to Colorado for services, and their providers, from outside legal threats.

DENVER — Colorado is in an interesting legal spot.

As one of the more progressive states when it comes to abortion laws, Colorado could be a target for outside legal threats from anti-abortion activists. Now some Democratic lawmakers are trying to play defense, with a new bill to protect patients and providers.

SB23-188 was introduced on Thursday, as part of a bigger package of reproductive healthcare access bills.

It would extend legal protections to Colorado providers and their patients who come to Colorado seeking abortion care or gender-affirming treatment, and also prevent Colorado from recognizing investigations or lawsuits by other states or insurance providers.

Last year, state lawmakers codified abortion law in Colorado.

Months later, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, it turned the U.S. into a patchwork of varying abortion laws, and turned Colorado into a sort of “island” for abortion services.

“And of course, what we have is a huge influx of people coming here for that very reason, because their state is denying them the care they need,” said State Representative Meg Froelich (D-Greenwood Village), who is a sponsor of the bill.

“Our doctors and providers are treating patients from a whole host of states, we want to make sure someone from those states can’t reach into Colorado and sue, remove licensure, put out a business, invade privacy, a whole host of tactics that are being deployed to make sure that these services are not provided.”

“There was a proposed bill in Missouri last year that was looking to allow for lawsuits for individuals leaving the state,” said JoVanni Allen, a Colorado attorney with expertise in public policy and politics.

“Those type of legislative steps forward do create a situation where it’s definitely not a hypothetical, and it is something to legitimately contend with, with states passing laws, or even creating causes of action in which doctors or individuals seeking abortion or medical procedures are potentially at risk in other states. That’s where our landscape finds us now."

That legal landscape, Allen said, is pretty new territory.

“It’s kind of unprecedented, at least in our lifetimes, we haven’t seen something akin to it,” he said.

“There’s a disparate way of legislating on the abortion issue that is now potentially setting itself up to come to a head, where states are dealing with -– what can one do, what can the other do – and what are the recourses?”

This bill's protections extend to any healthcare that is legal and protected in Colorado, including gender-affirming care.

Other reproductive rights bills introduced this week, as part of a “safe access to protected healthcare” package, include:

Republicans have called it "extreme."


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