Testimony on HB 1279, the Reproductive Health Equity Act
Colorado House Health and Insurance Committee
Hon. Karen S. Middleton, Cobalt
March 9, 2022
I am testifying in person but will provide a shorter presentation given the time limit. This is my full testimony.
My name is Karen Middleton, and I am President of Cobalt, the statewide abortion rights and advocacy organization here in Colorado.
I am testifying in support of the Reproductive Health Equity Act because quite simply we are at a crisis point in access to abortion care, and we need to put access to abortion and contraception in Colorado law. Although Colorado does not have many of the politically driven restrictions we’ve seen in other states, we don’t have anything expressly protective of abortion access in Colorado, either.
But the question remains, how did we get here? How, in the year 2022, are we still debating what so many of us assumed was settled law and a Constitutional right?
Because abortion access is about power. And this bill, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, is also about power – it is about the power of each person to decide for themselves whether to become pregnant, whether to continue a pregnancy, and whether to give birth. There is nothing more economically, emotionally, and physically determinative to someone’s life than the power of the decision if, how, or when to become a parent.
As Coloradans, we have long believed that power belongs to individuals, not the state. It’s why we became the first state to decriminalize abortion, in 1967 – six years before Roe v Wade. We believe that these decisions belong between individuals and their medical providers, not with politicians or the government.
Those views have remained consistent for more than fifty years. And until now, we have relied on the power of the Supreme Court and the federal courts to enforce them. But as we have seen, those who would take away that individual power will never stop, to the point that the Supreme Court is poised to gut or overturn Roe v. Wade in the case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.
That case was argued on December 1, 2021, and a decision is expected between now and the end of June. It is in entirely like that abortion access could be returned to the states, in which case abortion would become illegal in about half the US, including many around Colorado.
But even with the protection of Roe v. Wade, the attacks on abortion access and reproductive rights in Colorad have been relentless.
I started at Cobalt in 2013. Since 2010, and as of two weeks ago, Colorado has seen 44 attempts to restrict abortion access with bills at the General Assembly and FOUR attempts to ban abortion on the ballot since 2008. These attacks have escalated and grown more extreme in recent years as abortion opponents have seen the Supreme Court grow more and more hostile to the Consitutional right to abortion established in Roe. We’ve also seen attempts at municipal bans, something RHEA would pre-empt.
They include everything from ‘personhood bills’ making a fertilized egg a person under Colorado law to flat out abortion bans that would put doctors and patients in jail. The most recent attempts have included abortion surveillance and the junk science notion of ‘abortion reversal’, which is so dangerous the one valid medical study on it had to be halted after three women went to the hospital with severe bleeding.
We have defeated these bills and ballot measures in Colorado by landslide margins, because Coloradans agree with us on access to abortion care. We know this not just from polls but from actual votes.
But as states around us have enacted bans and restrictions, the pressure on Colorado as a haven state for abortion care has increased. Our Cobalt abortion fund has seen patients needing help from all over the country, including as far away as Ohio, Texas, and Florida. We have heard heartbreaking stories from Colorado providers helping patients in desperate circumstances who literally had nowhere else to go.
We need the Reproductive Health Equity Act to ensure abortion and contraception access remains available in Colorado, no matter what happens at the Supreme Court.
We need the Reproductive Health Equity Act because abortion care must remain accessible for everyone, regardless of circumstances, without shame, stigma, cost barriers, or politicians getting in the way.
We need the Reproductive Health Equity Act to ensure that each of us has the power to make our own decisions about abortion and contraception and determine the course of our own lives.
Thank you and I welcome your questions.