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Colorado advocates talk next steps in fight for abortion healthcare after Supreme Court leak

May 6, 2022 | main feature, News | 0 comments

//Sitting on top of another protestor’s shoulders, Arum Jefferson holds a “pro-choice” sign on May 3 in Denver, to rally against the leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Photo by Esteban Fernandez | efernandez@msmayhem.com

Abortion rights advocates and supporters have collectively braced themselves as the Supreme Court prepares to unveil its final ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case brought Roe v. Wade, and its 50 years of constitutional protection for reproductive healthcare, back to the highest court in the nation.

On May 2, a leaked draft majority opinion obtained and published by Politico revealed that the Court has voted to overturn constitutional protections for abortion rights should it be finalized. The court will release its final ruling around late June or early July before its summer recess. 

“The sense of urgency that you all feel is exactly what politicians, the courts and anti-abortion proponents need to see in order to take us and our movement seriously,” said Aurea Bolaños Perea, strategic communications manager for Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, or COLOR. 

The outrage this week is palpable, and supporters in Denver were quick to respond Tuesday, meeting on the steps of the Colorado Capitol for the largest gathering since the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, 9News reported.

Politico noted that no draft decision in the court’s modern history had been disclosed publicly while a case is still pending, and the leak itself could even intensify court debates around continuing to protect abortion access.

Though, the uncertainty and potential backpedaling leaves Coloradans and supporters around the country wondering: What’s next?

COLOR and Cobalt have been at the forefront of this new threat to abortion access. The two organizations co-sponsored the Reproductive Health Equity Act, or RHEA, which ensures access to contraceptives and abortion by codifying protections for the full range of reproductive healthcare into Colorado state law. 

While Gov. Jared Polis passed the law in early April, that doesn’t mean the fight is over. In fact, the advocacy organizations were prepared for the potential overturning of Roe. Cobalt has added to its networks, both monetarily and with more workers, to increase the state’s capacity for abortion care.

“We fully intend to turn up the volume on our political outreach to let folks know which legislators support abortion rights and access and which don’t—and hold them accountable at the midterms and beyond,” said Cobalt President Karen Middleton.

The passing of Senate Bill 8 in Texas last year, which banned abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, “sounded the alarm” with its ratification on Sept. 1, 2021, according to Bolaños Perea. However, COLOR has always structured its organization knowing that Roe could be overturned and the precedent in itself is not enough to protect communities of color.

“Access does not look the same for everyone, and this means that we must go beyond Roe as a strategy,” Bolaños Perea said. “Protecting the legality of abortion is important, but the future we’re building is bigger than that—It’s about taking control of our own bodies, lives and futures.”

Abortion is still legal and accessible in Colorado, and because it doesn’t have gestational limits on abortion care, the state has been a safe haven prior to RHEA’s passing. Should more neighboring states limit or ban access to abortion, Middleton said the influx of out-of-state patients in Colorado seeking care would continue to increase.

Bolaños Perea said Colorado is poised to be the blueprint for other states looking to pass similar policies to RHEA. She noted that COLOR will ensure it supports its partners and organizations across the country to uplift all communities affected should Roe be overturned.

While it’s easy to feel powerless during moments like this, Middleton and Bolaños Perea said supporters can’t quiet down now.

“Stay mad and vote,” Middleton said. “We passed RHEA in Colorado because we had a pro-choice majority at the state legislature in down-ballot races.”

In the meantime, she suggested supporters channel their energy into supporting local abortion rights organizations, donating to abortion funds and staying engaged for the upcoming midterms.

Now is the moment supporters shift community power to action, Bolaños Perea said. Rather than sitting still and staying silent, she said supporters must continue organizing together with their communities, normalizing conversations about abortion access and funding, and resisting the assumption that abortion is polarizing and can only fit into “pro-choice” and “pro-life” boxes.

Looking ahead, Middleton said that Cobalt is working on adding the right to abortion to the Colorado Constitution via a 2024 ballot measure and overturning the state funding ban. The Colorado Abortion Funding Prohibition Amendment was approved in 1984, prohibiting the use of public funds, directly or indirectly for abortion. It’s a constitutional ban, and the only way to overturn it is to run a ballot measure to repeal that part of the Constitution.

“Even if abortion is legal here, it must be accessible without a cost barrier. And we will need everyone’s help to make that happen,” she said.

COLOR is focused on ensuring that Colorado’s Latinx community and those most impacted by the potential fall of Roe will continue to access reproductive healthcare resources in Colorado. The road ahead looks like it has for the past 24 years, Bolaños Perea said, noting COLOR’s instrumental role in changing the political infrastructure in Colorado.

“Our community, specifically Latinas, are leading the charge for reproductive justice, and now that the Supreme Court is poised to clear the way for bans across the country, we’ll continue to lead in building a future where reproductive healthcare is safe, accessible and without shame,” she said.

Bolaños Perea pointed to Democrats across the country who she said must lead this moment and not allow the co-opting of conversations about abortion access. She said new voices at the state or federal level could help lead the way, or reproductive justice organizers could be allowed to inform the decision-makers. Looking at the current reality, she questioned how our communities can have faith in democracy if the leaders making the choices are disregarding these decades-old calls to action.

“Abortion is a fundamental right and must be protected,” she concluded. “Advocating for abortion access is a winning strategy. Enacting policy change to protect reproductive healthcare resources is a winning strategy. Our communities have been asking for this, so if our representatives don’t act now, then when? We’re not waiting. We’re reclaiming our time and power.”

 

To keep up and get involved, find COLOR on Facebook, Instagram, and their official website; find Cobalt on Facebook, Instagram, and their official website.

 

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