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Coloradans react to end of federal abortion protections

 Dozens of people protested the Supreme Court's ruling outside the state Capitol on Friday.
Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage
Dozens of people protested the Supreme Court's ruling outside the state Capitol on Friday.

Coloradans are reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to let states ban abortions with a mix of fear, outrage and joy.

Abortion rights advocates have been bracing for the ruling for months. Democrats in the state legislature passed a law this yearaiming to stop cities and towns from trying to pass any restrictions themselves.

Abortion will remain legal in Colorado after the court’s decision, but providers are predicting a surge in the coming months of people traveling to get abortion care in the state as bans and restrictions go into effect in several neighboring states.

“Even though we knew this day was coming, it's still shocking,” Colorado House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, said after the ruling. “It's still nerve wrenching. It's heartbreaking to know that a fundamental right has been stripped away from millions of women across this country. I think it's scary. It's definitely scary. And I think some of us are afraid of what else can come next because of this.”

By early afternoon, dozens of people were gathering on the front steps of state Capitol to protest the decision. They chanted "my body, my choice."

"Shock, horror, and hopelessness," Gia Boscola said as she described her immediate reaction to the ruling. "We're now fighting for just basic human rights. I don't think we're asking for a lot. Being a state that is essentially a safe haven, I do think we'll start to see an influx from other states."

Gov. Jared Polis is vowing the state “will not retreat to an archaic era where the powerful few controlled the freedoms over our bodies and health decisions.”

“In Colorado, we will continue to choose freedom and we stand against government control over our bodies,” he said in a statement.

He also said Coloradans should not worry about access to abortions as long as he and Democrats remain in control of the state legislature. The Democrat is seeking reelection in November and will face either CU Regent Heidi Ganahl or former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez.

Both have very different views on abortion access than Polis.

Ganahl is praising the Supreme Court decision, saying states should be able to ban the procedure. Lopez said this spring that he would likely support a statewide abortion ban if the state legislature passes one.

Other groups are applauding the decision.

Mickie Nuffer of Loveland is the founder of NoCo Ladies for Liberty, a group that aims to preserve constitutional freedoms. They formed this past winter and have protested at the Capitol against Colorado's new abortion law.

"The states get their power derived from the people in that state is how it's supposed to work," Nuffer said. "So I'm excited about that. I wish that the law was not the way it was in Colorado right now."

Meanwhile, Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold said the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is an assault on individual rights.

“While Colorado remains a safe place, we must keep fighting,” she said. “For every Texan, for every Tennessean, for every woman in Louisiana whose medical decisions have just been stripped from them and criminalized, we must keep fighting.”

And Attorney General Phi Weiser is predicting the ruling will cause harm around the country.

“In many states, women who are raped will be forced to continue the pregnancy, causing untold mental anguish and distress,” he said in a written statement. “Doctors providing abortions will be arrested and jailed. Women who cannot access abortion care will resort to desperate and dangerous measures to end a pregnancy, even in ways that threaten their health. Women who experience life-threatening conditions during pregnancy will die. And women of color will be disproportionately impacted. These scenarios are now realities as laws in other states restricting abortion go into effect.”

With the court’s decision now final, some advocates in Colorado will turn their attention to permanently protecting access in the state through a ballot measure in 2024.

The law Polis signed guaranteeing access this year could be overturned by lawmakers in the future.

 Gov. Polis hands out commemorative pens at the signing ceremony for the Reproductive Health Equity Act on Monday.
Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage
Gov. Polis hands out commemorative pens at the signing ceremony for the Reproductive Health Equity Act on Monday.

But a change to the state constitution would be a more permanent protection if voters agree to it.

It’s unclear whether lawmakers will try to take any other action beyond enshrining access into state law.

In California, NPR reported earlier this month thatGov. Gavin Newsom pledged $125 million in state funds to support bills aimed at easing access to abortion and reducing the costs.

Democrats in Colorado say they have started having some conversations about abortion access bills in the next session that starts in January.

Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, toured abortion clinics in Mexico this summer and said a focus on using medicine for abortions in that country had helped to expand access.

Gonzales suggested it could eventually serve as a model for Colorado and other states that may see more people visiting the state to get care.

Copyright 2022 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.

Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado. His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings. Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.