Health Care

Abortion, gender-affirming care protections sought in Colorado legislation

One of the three bills announced would block civil and criminal actions originating in other states against patients and health care providers.
Colorado State Sen. Julie Gonzales speaks before the signing into law of the reproductive health equity act Monday, April 4, 2022, in a ceremony outside the governor’s mansion in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Colorado Democrats on Thursday unveiled a legislative package to protect access to abortion and gender-affirming care, issues that are increasingly splitting the country along partisan lines.

Three bills, set to be filed in the Democratic-controlled state House and Senate, would block civil and criminal actions originating in other states against patients and health care providers, prohibit crisis pregnancy centers from “deceptive marketing” of procedures to reverse medication abortions, and provide new financial protections for reproductive health care.

“The bills we are introducing today will protect the rights and privacy of patients and providers who seek abortion or gender affirming care, prohibit deliberate health care misinformation in our communities, and make it easier and more affordable for folks to access the health care they need to thrive,” Sen. Julie Gonzales (D) said in a statement.

Other state legislatures with Democratic majorities have taken similar measures as the battle over abortion rights moved to the states in the lead-up and aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.

The bill prohibiting abortion reversal counseling, for example, is modeled after a law passed in Connecticut in 2021. Illinois enacted legislation this year that expands abortion coverage in Medicaid and private insurance plans.

Several blue states are considering legislation that would shield abortion and gender-affirming care providers from prosecution, following California’s lead. The Colorado measure would codify protections that Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) put in place in a July executive order.

States controlled by Republicans have moved in opposite and sometimes conflicting directions, directing taxpayer money to crisis pregnancy centers and stepping up attempts to enforce abortion bans. Some with abortion restrictions have also moved to increase support for pregnant and postpartum women, which Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) called part of a “new pro-life agenda.”

Here is a closer look at the measures included in the Colorado “Safe Access to Protected Health Care” package:

  • Establishes that criminal prosecutions for receiving, providing, or assisting legally-protected health care, including abortion and gender-affirming care, would not be recognized by the state. The bill would also prevent Colorado from recognizing or enforcing civil lawsuits concerning protected health care “that are penal in nature or without jurisdiction,” and prevent state employees from participating in or assisting with interstate investigations or divulging information concerning protected health care.
  • Limits surprise medical billing and removes patient cost sharing for reproductive health care services and treatment, including but not limited to sterilization, sexually transmitted infections and abortion care. The bill would also expand access to contraception and related information, and allow patients to utilize Medicaid’s non-emergent medical transportation service to get to and from abortion services. It would also create a state fund that providers can bill directly for their reproductive health care services and prioritize access to HIV medication by allowing any authorized provider, not only pharmacists, to offer the treatment.
  • Prohibits the use of “deceptive advertising” by anti-abortion centers. The bill declares prescribing, offering, or facilitating a “medication abortion reversal” unprofessional conduct for licensed or certified health care providers. Some anti-abortion advocates claim that patients can “reverse” the effects of a two-drug regimen by taking another pill, a procedure that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists condemns as “not supported by science.”