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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs law to codify 'fundamental right' to abortion

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed into law legislation Monday to codify the right to abortion in the state. Photo courtesy of Colorado House Democrats/Twitter
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed into law legislation Monday to codify the right to abortion in the state. Photo courtesy of Colorado House Democrats/Twitter

April 4 (UPI) -- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed into law legislation that aims to protect access to abortion in the state amid Republican efforts nationwide to prohibit the medical procedure.

The Democratic governor signed House Bill 22-1279, better known as the Reproductive Health Equity Act, into law Monday to codify a pregnant person's "fundamental right to continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion and to make decisions about how to exercise that right."

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It also enshrines that a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus "does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state" and that people have the right to use or refuse contraception.

Protections are also included to prevent public entities from implementing their own restrictions against abortion.

The bill was fashioned to protect Colorado citizens' access to abortion as several Republican-controlled states have passed legislation to restrict or essentially ban the medical procedure with laws that seek to challenge the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized the reproductive health measure.

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"Roe Vs. Wade has been eroded in the last few years ... and many legal pundits conclude that it's likely a matter of time until the federal protections of the Supreme Court simply cease to exits," Polis said Monday during a press conference. "We in Colorado simply don't want to take that risk."

"What does that mean? It means that no mater what the Supreme Court does in the future, women in Colorado will be able to choose when and if they have children," he said. "That includes assisted reproduction like IVF and it includes the legal ability to terminate a pregnancy without having to worry about being jailed or without having to worry about their provider facing legal consequences."

In a written statement accompanying the bill's signing, Polis explained the law does not change the status quo but only codifies the rights as the "federal legal landscape surrounding reproductive healthcare evolves."

The bill specifically highlights the threat to the medical procedure posed by a Mississippi law currently before the Supreme Court to ban abortions after 15 weeks of gestation as it challenges the Roe Vs. Wade ruling that established a right to abortion before fetal viability at around 23 or 24 weeks.

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The abortion protections bill was passed by the Colorado legislature along party lines 20-15 last month while several Republican states this year have passed legislation to limit access to abortion or to essentially ban it.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive policy advocate organization, 529 abortion restrictions have been introduced in 41 states this year, with 48 restrictions passing at least one chamber in more than a dozen states.

Nine abortions restrictions have so far been enacted in Arizona, Idaho, Indiana South Dakota and Wyoming.

The organization said 2021 set "an alarming record" of 108 abortion restrictions enacted in 19 states with this year "shaping up to be even more devastating for abortion rights and access."

With the signing of the law, Colorado joins the 15 other states and the District of Columbia that have laws in place to protect abortion access.

"This landmark bill enshrines the fundamental right to abortion into Colorado law, and we sincerely hope other states choose to follow our lead," state Sen. Julie Gonzales, one of the bill's Democratic sponsors, said in a statement. "The health and well-being of millions of Americans depends on it."

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