DENVER—Colorado House Democrats passed a sweeping pro-choice measure after about 24 hours on Saturday as minority Republicans sought to stall the legislation in what was billed as one of the longest floor debates in state history.
House Bill 1279, known as the Reproductive Health Equity Act, passed the House by 37-20 on second reading at about 11 a.m. Saturday after legislators pulled an all-nighter, fueled by Republicans fighting what they decried as the nation’s most radical abortion bill.
“I’m so proud of our Colorado Republicans who fought ALL night and set a record for the longest legislative debate in state history to try and stop the most extreme abortion bill in the nation,” said Colorado Republican Party chair Kristi Burton Brown in a Saturday statement.
Abortion access in Colorado is already virtually unfettered, but the bill would affirm those rights in statute ahead of an anticipated Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of state pre-viability restrictions.
“We’re protecting abortion rights in Colorado, and we’re not backing down,” said Democratic state Rep. Meg Froelich in a statement after the vote. “Extreme GOP ideologies, some of which were previewed in the debate tonight, would put the government in control of personal medical decisions. This bill protects our right to safe reproductive care for generations to come.”
Pro-life groups held a rally at the state capitol shortly after the vote Saturday that drew hundreds, but there is little GOP lawmakers can do to stop the measure in a state where Democrats hold both legislative chambers and the governor’s office.
According to the summary, the bill “declares that every individual has a fundamental right to use or refuse contraception; every pregnant individual has a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion; and a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state.”
Colorado law does require healthcare providers to inform parents ahead of a minor’s abortion procedure, but the legislation makes no reference to parental notification.
Republican state Rep. Kevin Van Winkle said that the measure would “make Margaret Sanger blush,” referring to the founder of Planned Parenthood.
“It guards abortion by law in all cases, for anyone, of any age (without parental consent for parents of young teenage moms), at any time (3rd trimester +), for any reason, and also allows for ‘post-natal’ abortion (meaning babies successfully born alive who can cry, recognize familiar voices, etc.),” said Mr. Van Winkle on Facebook.
Centennial Institute’s @jeffhunt recaps today’s pro-life rally at the Capitol and historic efforts by Republican legislators and activists to stop Democratic legislation from advancing #copolitics pic.twitter.com/dt7t5DEW1f— Campfire Colorado (@CampfireColo) March 12, 2022
House Democrats defeated a dozen amendments offered by GOP legislators during the marathon session.
“Reproductive health care is vital health care,” said House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar after the vote. “Politicians, neighbors or complete strangers have no business controlling personal medical decisions – that should be between patients and their doctors. While our rights are under attack across the country, with the advancement of the Reproductive Health Equity Act, we’re closer to solidifying access to abortion and fundamental reproductive health care rights into Colorado law.”
Mr. Van Winkle said debate began at about 9 a.m. Friday and ended at about 11 a.m. Saturday, although there was a short break Friday night, according to the Colorado Sun.
“[B]ecause House Bill 1279 changes only state law, Republicans would still be able to introduce bills and ballot measures seeking to limit abortion access,” said the Sun. “Only a constitutional amendment, which would require approval by 55% of voters, could more permanently settle the question.”
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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