Colorado prepares to take out-of-state patients as Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

By Annie Burky

Jun 24, 2022 | Featured six, News | 0 comments

//Madison Schosid cheers on one of the speakers at a rally organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation on May 3, a day after the draft opinion was leaked. Photo by Esteban Fernandez | efernandez@msmayhem.com

On June 24, after nearly 50 years, the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to an abortion through an overruling of Roe v. Wade. Colorado, along with 17 other states, still protects access to the medical procedure. It is expected that in a matter of months, the ruling will lead to an all but total ban on abortion in half of the states. 

“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

The 6-3 ruling in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a 2018 Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks, followed a leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito in May. The effects of the decision will slowly unfurl, as 13 states have trigger laws in effect with timelines varying from within hours or days to a month after the decision. In addition to the remaining conservative-leaning states hanging in the balance, comes the question of the right to travel across state lines. 

The future of abortion in Arizona and Kansas is yet undetermined, but both states are expected to tightly restrict the procedure along with Utah and Wyoming, which have trigger laws in place. Wyoming House Bill-92 will go into effect five days after the governor certifies the ruling and would ban abortions except in cases of rape, incest and serious risk of death to the pregnant person. Utah Senate Bill-174 would allow abortions in the same circumstances, but the timeline for its enactment is undetermined. Colorado already saw an influx of people seeking abortions following the ratification of Texas Senate Bill-8, which banned abortion after a “heartbeat” is detected. 

“Clinics in Colorado are already seeing a 500% increase in people coming from Texas,” said Lorenne Gavish, deputy director of the Denver-based project Keep Abortion Safe, to Ms. Mayhem on Dec. 21, 2021. “One-third of people seeking support from the Colorado abortion fund Cobalt Advocates are people from Texas. What happens is, we are less able to serve people in our own state, so we then have this huge pressure and constraint on our care system and capacity.”

Colorado organizations including Keep Abortion Safe and Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, or COLOR, have been preparing for the possible overturn of Roe. Along with Cobolt, COLOR co-sponsored the Reproductive Health Equity Act, or RHEA, which became law in April and codifies access to contraceptives and abortion under Colorado law. Gov. Jared Polis, who signed the bill into law, said in a statement Friday morning that Coloradans will continue to choose freedom and fight government control of their bodies. “State leadership matters now more than ever and in Colorado, we will not retreat to an archaic era where the powerful few controlled the freedoms over our bodies and health decisions,“ he said.

A sense of urgency is being met on all sides of the debate. Texas lawmakers are seeking to ban companies such as Starbucks, Netflix and Patagonia from covering the cost of travel expenses for their employees obtaining an abortion across state borders. Missouri lawmakers are seeking to expand its abortion ban to citizens who obtain an abortion in another state. Citizens are taking to the streets in all corners of the country. 

“Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens,” wrote Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kegan in a dissenting opinion. “Yesterday, the Constitution guaranteed that a woman confronted with an unplanned pregnancy could (within reasonable limits) make her own decision about whether to bear a child, with all the life-transforming consequences that act involves.” 

Some analysts believed the verdict to be all but secured following the appointment of Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett by President Donald Trump, who vowed to overthrow the precedent of Roe. Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Coney Baret were joined in the majority opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote that related rights that have held precedent for decades should be reviewed including the right to contraception, and LGBTQ+ sex and marriage. 

The 14th Amendment was cited in defending these rights along with abortion via Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and promises that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the majority but wrote a concurring opinion stating that he would have taken “a more measured course” by upholding Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban without overturning Roe

Abortion advocates within Colorado and throughout the country are also emphasizing that, although the decision will affect all Americans, the already marginalized will be hit the hardest. Even if states cannot prosecute those who travel across borders, only some individuals have the practical ability to seek abortions in another state. 

“[Those are] the people that have a working car, that can get time off, who have somebody who can take care of their kids,” said Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which oversees New Mexico, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada. “There are going to be thousands of individuals who don’t have that wherewithal, and it’s really particularly going to impact women of color, young women, rural women.”




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