News Law and Policy

Proposed Abortion Regulations Could Hurt GOP in Moderate Colorado Districts

Jason Salzman

Pro-choice activists, some wearing pink shoes Thursday under Colorado’s gold-domed Capitol, spoke out against a proposed law that would add burdensome licensing requirements for abortion clinics across the state.

Pro-choice activists, some wearing pink shoes Thursday under Colorado’s gold-domed Capitol, spoke out against a proposed law that would add burdensome licensing requirements for abortion clinics across the state.

To obtain its annual license, an abortion clinic would have to meet a set of standards outlined in the bill, including the requirement that “the clinic employ at least one doctor with admitting privileges at a hospital within the state within 30 miles of the abortion clinic.”

There is no medical or scientific research that shows abortion care needs to be provided in ambulatory surgical centers or by hospital-affiliated physicians. Pro-choice advocates refer to bills like Colorado’s “Women’s Health Protection Act” as targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP).

“You will notice some of us are wearing pink running sneakers,” said Corrine Rivera-Fowler, deputy director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights. “We do this in solidarity with Sen. Wendy Davis of Texas, who wore them while opposing similar legislation there.”

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The Texas legislature passed a law in 2013 requiring abortion clinics to operate like hospitals, after a 13-hour filibuster by Davis.

The Colorado legislation is based on the incorrect premise that abortion is dangerous. The bill states that “abortion is an invasive, surgical procedure that can lead to numerous short- and long-term medical complications,” including “an increased risk of breast cancer, fertility problems, emotional problems, and even death.”

In fact, there is little dispute that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, which is why the vast majority of abortions are performed in outpatient clinics or doctors’ offices. This has been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Still, anti-choice legislators push admitting privilege requirements with language indicating care for women’s safety.

The Women’s Health Protection Act has little or no chance of becoming law in Colorado. Pro-choice Democrats control the state house, where the bill was introduced, and the governor’s office; Republicans hold a one-seat majority in Colorado’s senate.

Political observers say anti-choice legislation may help Colorado Democrats as they work to take back control of the entire state legislature next year. They lost control of the senate in 2014.

“Republican politicians in the House should focus on issues important to voters like jobs and the economy instead of incessantly attacking women’s access to reproductive healthcare,” said Cathy Alderman, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado.

State Sen. Laura Woods, who is listed as a senate sponsor of the bill, is widely seen as one of the most vulnerable members of the Colorado legislature. She represents a moderate district in the Denver suburb of Westminster, and her association with extreme anti-choice legislation could hurt her chances of re-election next year, political analysts say.

“Twenty-four states have laws or policies that regulate abortion providers and go beyond what is necessary to ensure patients’ safety; all apply to clinics that perform surgical abortion,” according to a Guttmacher Institute fact sheet.

Colorado’s proposed law is modeled after bills that “have been introduced across the country” and “create a false regulatory environment,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Executive Director Karen Middleton. She pointed out that the “very dangerous” bill would also codify “personhood” in Colorado law, insofar as the legislation defines a person as beginning at the zygote, or fertilized egg, stage of human development.

Colorado’s proposed law contains passages that are identical to portions of a bill introduced last year in West Virginia.

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