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In a Democratic party-controlled House and Senate, the bills didn’t stand much of a chance, but that didn’t stop Colorado Republicans from trying this week to criminalize abortion, force the government to interfere in medical decisions, and spread disinformation about medical abortions.

The floor of the House of Representatives at the Colorado State Capitol

On Friday, Democrats on the House Health and Insurance Committee defeated three extreme Republican bills that would have criminalized abortion in Colorado and spread dangerous disinformation about a so-called abortion pill reversal. The Republican bills would have eliminated access to safe, legal reproductive healthcare in Colorado.

“We won’t let Republican politicians take away Coloradans’ right to an abortion,” said House Health and Insurance Chair, Lindsey Daugherty, D-Arvada. “Coloradans deserve the freedom to make their own healthcare decisions and choices about when to start a family.”

“Make no mistake,” she added. “If Republicans were in power, they would criminalize abortion in Colorado, throw physicians in jail and put politicians in control of your private medical decisions–we won’t allow this to happen.”

“Criminalizing abortion leads to higher maternal mortality rates, with the largest increases among Black women,” said Assistant Majority Leader Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver, who also happens to be the Chair of the Black Democratic Legislative Caucus. “Abortion bans add to the compounding systemic social, health, and economic disparities faced by people of color– often from a disproportionate lack of access to health insurance, reproductive and preventative health care, education and skills training, and job opportunities. The extreme bills presented in committee today are dangerous for women, and especially life-threatening for women of color.”

It’s not that the majority of Coloradans haven’t been absolutely clear that they support the right to an abortion and have repeatedly defeated ballot measures that sought to ban access to abortion.

In 2022, Colorado Democrats passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA), which Governor Polis signed into law. This landmark legislation updated Colorado’s laws to protect reproductive rights and established a fundamental right to choose to continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion. Given the federal instability on reproductive justice issues, RHEA importantly enshrines the right to an abortion and other critical health care services into state law.

As the 2023 session begins, every Colorado representative and senator is allowed to introduce up to five bills to begin the slow march through committees; some dying long before reaching the floor of the house or the senate. The Republican-sponsored bills below died in committee:

HB23-1119, sponsored by Representative Scott Bottoms, would have criminalized all abortions in Colorado with no exceptions. This bill would require the state to imprison providers for performing an abortion and would allow individuals to sue healthcare providers and potentially even patients.

Research by CU Boulder shows that banning abortion would lead to a 24 percent increase in maternal deaths. The data is even more distressing for Black people with the expected increase in maternal deaths jumping to 39 percent if abortion were to be banned in every state.

HB23-1097, sponsored by Representative Stephanie Luck, disregards the autonomy of the patient and would have forced providers to administer legislatively prescribed medical treatments. It also violates the patient-provider relationship and permits governmental control over private medical decisions.

HB23-1150, sponsored by Representative Bottoms, would have required physicians to spread misinformation about a so-called abortion pill reversal. Abortion reversals through the use of progesterone are not scientifically proven, do not meet clinical standards, and can be dangerous to recommend to a patient. This bill would have required the Department of Public Health and Environment to create and maintain misinformation about the effectiveness of this anti-abortion method.

Abortion providers, patients and Coloradans who support abortion rights testified for hours about the dangerous impact of these bills and how they would insert government into families’ private medical decisions. Democrats on the committee defeated each bill.