Action at the State Level on National Position

POSITION IN BRIEF:

Protect the constitutional right of privacy of the individual to make reproductive choices.

POSITION: (Adopted 1983)

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that public policy in a pluralistic society must affirm the constitutional right of privacy of the individual to make reproductive choices.

HISTORY

In 1984 LWVCO opposed an initiative passed by the voters to prohibit the use of state funds (Medicaid) for abortions for poor women because it was seen as discrimination against economically disadvantaged women. Since then, many anti-abortion initiatives and legislative bills have come up in Colorado which would have made abortions impossible or very difficult for different groups of women, and made it dangerous for doctors and their practices to offer the service of abortion.

LWVCO has joined with other organizations to oppose parental notification, late-term abortion restrictions, protection of the viable child, and the so-called women’s right to know.

In 1998 an initiative passed in Colorado that would have required notification to a parent that a minor child was seeking an abortion. The measure was struck down as unconstitutional by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on the basis of failing to provide an adequate health exception. In the 2003 legislature, a similar bill, only slightly revised, passed on the last day of the legislative session.

In 2000 Governor Bill Owens removed funding for 14 rural health clinics run by Planned Parenthood because the organization provided abortions. These clinics were not providing abortions, but this loss, combined with reduced federal funding, meant that by 2002 many medical services previously free were now being charged on a sliding scale, beyond the reach of many.

LWVCO opposed a bill in 2003 that would increase regulatory burdens on abortion providers, which failed. Also in 2003 LWVCO supported a bill that would give sexual assault victims information about emergency contraception. It failed, but was passed in 2005 only to be vetoed by Governor Owens, and eventually passed and signed by Governor Ritter in 2007.

In 2008 LWVCO supported a successful bill that increased the poverty level for Medicaid recipients, which enabled previously uncovered Coloradans to receive assistance with reproductive services – but not abortions.

In 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2015, several bills concerned with murder or violence committed against the unborn failed. LWVCO opposed them because they would have added fetal personhood language to Colorado statute. HB 1021, supported by LWVCO, was signed by Governor Ritter to assure that reproductive services are included in insurance coverage.

In 2008, 2010 and 2014 initiatives appeared on the ballot to define when life begins and assert fetal personhood. All failed by large margins.
Between 2012 and 2013 LWVCO opposed two bills that both failed in committee. One was a proposed memorial to be sent to the President that would put Colorado on record as opposing required health insurance coverage for any health service to which employers have religious objection. The second would have prohibited almost all abortions except when performed to save the life of the mother.

Two other bills relating to reproductive choice were supported by LWVCO and were signed into law. Offenses Against Unborn Child increases penalties against criminal conduct, intentional or accidental, causing death of a fetus. This bill does not confer “Personhood” on the fetus, and a woman’s right to a legal abortion and a doctor’s right to perform an abortion are protected. The second bill, Concerning Human Sexuality Education, provides for the use of state and federal grant money for school districts that wish to include comprehensive, accurate sex education in their curriculum, and need financial help in doing so.

A 2014 bill would have allowed felony charges against abortion providers. It was opposed by League and failed. A measure supported by League to ensure women’s unencumbered access to reproductive health care, the Reproductive Health Freedom Act, also failed.

In 2015 several bills made unsuccessful attempts to restrict reproductive choice. Three of the bills would have placed onerous restrictions on doctors, clinics and clinical practice by threats of felony charges, ultrasound requirements, and a licensing mandate. A fourth bill would have outlawed abortions for the purpose of sex selection, allegedly practiced as part of a cultural pattern of son preference. This bill was a nearly exact copy of a failed 2013 federal measure. LWVCO opposed them all.

In the area of birth control, a 2015 bill would have authorized state monies to continue a grant-funded program providing long-acting reversible contraception and related services to low-income women in the state. The League was disappointed in the bill’s failure, as the program, administered through the state health department and begun in 2008 as a demonstration grant, was so successful in reducing unwanted pregnancies among teens that it was a model around the country. The initiative reduced teen pregnancies by 40% among those receiving the devices, saving tens of millions of dollars in Medicaid costs.