State Makes Itself a Haven on Abortion, Trans Care

Colorado enacts laws protecting health care access
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 14, 2023 4:30 PM CDT
State Makes Itself a Haven on Abortion, Trans Care
FILE - Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks on Nov. 8, 2022, in downtown Denver. Polis is scheduled to sign a set of health care bills Friday, April 14, 2023, that enshrine protections for abortion and gender-affirming care procedures and medications.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Friday signed a set of health care bills enshrining access to abortion and gender-affirming procedures and medications, as the Democrat-led state tries to make itself a safe haven for its neighbors, whose Republican leaders are restricting care. The goal of the legislation is to ensure people in surrounding states and beyond can go to Colorado to have an abortion, begin puberty blockers, or receive gender-affirming surgery without fear of prosecution, the AP reports. Bordering states of Wyoming and Oklahoma have passed abortion bans, and Utah has severely restricted transgender care for minors. Many states with abortion or transgender care bans are also criminalizing traveling to states for the purpose of accessing legal health care.

The contradicting laws are setting the stage for interstate disputes comparable to the patchwork of same-sex marriage laws that existed until 2015, or the 19th-century legal conflict over whether fugitive enslaved people in free states remained the property of slaveholders when they escaped north. With the new laws, Colorado joins Illinois as a progressive peninsula offering reproductive rights to residents of conservative states on three sides. Illinois abortion clinics now serve people living in an 1,800-mile stretch of 11 Southern states that have largely banned abortion. Polis added the first layer of abortion protection a year ago, signing an executive order that bars state agencies from cooperating with out-of-state investigations regarding reproductive health care. One of the bills he signed Friday codifies that order into law.

It blocks court summons, subpoenas, and search warrants from states that decide to prosecute someone for having an abortion. And it extends those protections to transgender patients dodging restrictions in their own states. Also on Friday, Polis signed a measure that outlaws deceptive practices by anti-abortion centers, which are known to market themselves as abortion clinics but don't offer the procedure. Instead, they attempt to persuade patients to not terminate their pregnancies. The bill also prohibits sites from offering to reverse a medical abortion. A third bill signed Friday requires large employers to offer coverage for the total cost of an abortion, with an exception for those who object on religious grounds. It exempts public employees because Colorado's constitution prohibits the use of public funds for abortions.

(More Colorado stories.)

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