A nearly half-century law which granted women across the United States the right to have an abortion was overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States Friday. While the ruling will not affect Colorado, more than a dozen states are likely to effectively outlaw abortion in the wake of the court’s decision, with some already having done so.
In this 360 In-Depth report, we’ll dive deep into:
Why is Colorado exempt from the SCOTUS ruling?
Colorado Democrats foresaw what could happen if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, so in March, they introduced the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which guarantees abortion access and other reproductive rights in state statute.
The law reads that state and local public entities are prohibited from interfering with a person’s right to continue a pregnancy, give birth, or have an abortion. This also included the fundamental right to use or refuse contraception.
The act also stated that "a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state."
A month later, on April 4, Gov. Jared Polis signed HB22-1279 into law.
“In the state of Colorado, the very serious decision to start a pregnancy or end a pregnancy with medical assistance remains between a person, their doctor and their faith,” he said during the bill signing in April. “…As the federal legal landscape further evolves, Colorado can now continue to assure our residents that the very intimate right to choose how and whether to proceed with family planning and pregnancy can continue as it has been protected at the state level. Because in Colorado, we truly respect individual rights and freedom.”
Abortion rights advocates are planning a 2024 ballot initiative to add abortion rights to the state constitution and repeal a 1980s constitutional amendment that bans public funding for abortion, according to the Associated Press.
While Coloradans will continue to have legal and safe options to abortions, the overturning of Roe v. Wade will put pressure on Colorado clinics offering abortions in the coming months. Colorado has already seen an uptick in people from out-of-state traveling in for the service.
Data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) shows people receiving abortions in Colorado jumped to a five-year high in 2021.
Nearly 14% of people who received abortions here last year came from out of state, up from 13% in 2020 and 11.3% in 2017. The AP reported that more than 900 of those people who came to Colorado for an abortion in 2021 were from Texas, Wyoming and Nebraska.
After Polis signed the Reproductive Health Equity Act in April, Colorado reported seeing an influx of people from Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, New Mexico and Wyoming seeking abortion care in our state.
Physicians say they’re already bracing for a tsunami of additional patients; those from out-of-state who face significant costs for the travel, time off work and hotel stay will be prioritized by some clinics, which will delay less urgent cases in Colorado.
As previously mentioned, abortions in Colorado saw a fairly large increase in 2021, not only in the number of people who were getting them, but also in the number of people coming from other states to get them.
There were 11,580 abortions performed in Colorado in 2021 – 1,711 more than the year prior. The number of abortions in Colorado has increased every year since 2016, when 8,333 abortions were performed – the lowest number since 2002.
The last time as many abortions were performed in Colorado was in 2009, when 11,598 got abortions.
But those numbers are still far lower than the number of abortions performed in the 1970s and ‘80s after the Roe v. Wade decision was made in January 1973.
By 1979, more than 16,000 abortions were performed every year in Colorado – a trend that continued until 1985, when it dipped to 15,533 and continued to drop until 2002, bottoming out at 4,215 abortions performed in the year 2000 in Colorado.
Colorado decriminalized abortion care in 1967, six years before the Roe v. Wade decision, and 13,898 abortions were performed in the state from 1967 through 1972.
Over the last five years, Colorado has seen the share of abortions performed on people coming from out of state increased nearly every year:
The vast majority of abortions for Colorado residents take place along the Front Range metro areas, which correlates with the state’s population concentrations. Following the Front Range were the largest population centers in northern, southern and western Colorado.
In 2021, the counties where the most abortions were performed were: Denver (1,176), El Paso (1,030), Arapahoe (944), Adams (722), Jefferson (628), Weld (406), Boulder (367), Larimer (361), Douglas (213), Pueblo (160), Garfield (128) and Mesa (112).
Nearly 87% of abortions performed in Colorado last year involved pregnancies that were estimated at 10 weeks or less of gestation. Another 8.3% were performed between 11-15 gestational weeks. Just 1.5% of abortions in Colorado were performed after 20 weeks of gestation.
Even though abortion rights have now been left to states to decide, the majority of the U.S. population believe abortions should be legal.
Data from the Pew Research Center even shows the share who believe they should be illegal is at its slowest since the mid-90s.
In a survey conducted from March 7-13, 2022, 61% of the respondents believed abortions should be legal in all or most cases — the highest percentage of Americans in polling data collected since 1995 — while 37% said abortions should be illegal in all or most cases.
Public support for abortions has fluctuated over the last 27 years, dipping as low as 47% in 2009, while support for making abortions illegal has never been the majority opinion in the same timeframe.
Eighty percent of Democratic voters believe abortion should be legal, while 60% of Republican voters believe it should be illegal.
Broken down even further, moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats and liberal Democrats all believe abortion should be legal at 60%, 72% and 90%, respectively. Seventy-two percent of conservative Republicans believe abortion should be illegal.
When looking at the data from what people of different religious affiliations believed, there are some stark contrasts:
Here’s how some Colorado leaders and heads of organizations are reacting to the Roe v. Wade ruling on June 24:
Gov. Jared Polis, D-Colo.
“Coloradans do not want politicians making their healthcare decisions. Because of my administration and Democratic leadership in the legislature, Coloradans don’t have to worry because our rights are still protected today despite the unfortunate reality that the U.S. Supreme just rolled those freedoms back for millions of Americans in other states. In Colorado, we will continue to choose freedom and we stand against government control over our bodies. State leadership matters now more than ever and in Colorado we will not retreat to an archaic era where the powerful few controlled the freedoms over our bodies and health decisions.”
U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.
“The Supreme Court made the right decision in overturning Roe v. Wade, a tragic abortion mandate that has cost over 73 million unborn babies their lives. The power to decide this profound moral question has officially returned to the states, where it will be debated and settled in the way it should be in our democratic society—by the people.”
Adrienne Mansanares, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains
“Let me be clear: Today, just like yesterday and tomorrow as well, our doors are open. In the Rocky Mountain region, access is safe and abortion care is legal. As we process the vast and devastating implications of this unprecedented reversal of our liberties, know that PPRM will do everything we can to care for all who need us. Our story doesn’t end today. The Supreme Court won’t have the last word on access to abortion care. We will.”
Jim Daley, President and CEO of Focus on the Family
"It was Thomas Jefferson who once observed, 'God is just' and 'His justice cannot sleep forever.'"
"After nearly a half-century and over 60 million deaths, the horrifying and tragic ruling of Roe has finally been overturned. It was a bad law then—and a majority of the Supreme Court has affirmed it is bad law now. No court has the right to deprive a child of the right to live. We celebrate this milestone today and applaud the five justices who have courageously and correctly interpreted the United States Constitution."
"This is a day to give thanks to God. It’s also a day to give thanks to the tens of millions who have marched in the show and cold on the anniversary of Roe these last fifty years as faithful witnesses to the value of human life. It’s a day, as well, to give thanks to those who have committed their lives and their resources to serving mothers and protecting innocent children."
"We remain dedicated to fostering and furthering a culture of life, which recognizes the dignity of each and every person. This should not be a political cause of only a few—but the cause of all who care and support the preservation and protection of human rights."