The Denver Post’s Saja Hindi published before Chirstmas a very good long-form story on the changing politics of reproductive choice in Colorado, an issue long disparaged by local political reporters as irrelevant given the state’s solid Democratic control of the levers of power, but no longer as the rightward lurch of the federal judiciary up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court under President Donald Trump makes the previously unthinkable in terms of weakening abortion rights an increasing likelihood:
“It’s a moment where we have to decide what kind of society we want to have looking forward and who gets to decide who gets to control our access to information about reproductive health care,” said Karen Middleton, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado executive director. “It’s information and access, and both of those are being limited by policies at the federal level and the Supreme Court. And ultimately, it could be a Supreme Court decision that could overturn a lot of this.”
What’s happening in the rest of the country is setting off major alarms for Colorado advocates who want to protect the state from reduced access both on behalf of residents and for women traveling from other parts of the country.
“In Colorado, it’s imperative that we hold our ground on this issue and continue being a safe haven for folks who must bear the burden of travel for their abortion care, while also continuing to expand access and affordability to reproductive health care for folks who already live in our state,” said Fawn Bolak, Keep Abortion Safe co-founder.
In the last fifteen years, Colorado voters have repeatedly and soundly rejected “Personhood” abortion ban ballot measures. Perennial Republican legislative attempts to both make abortion a felony as well as impose the full range of “targeted restrictions on abortion providers,” a.k.a. TRAP laws, like those making their way through the court system after passage in other states have all failed. In 2020, local Republicans are promising to introduce another round of anti-abortion legislation, and in the context of a right-leaning Supreme Court ready to uphold such laws these efforts can no longer simply be written off–despite a strong Democratic majority in the legislature to ensure the bills don’t get far in Colorado. Colorado is only one election away from abortion laws that would have been unimaginable a decade ago.
Although the prevalent conventional wisdom is that abortion doesn’t itself decide elections, being an issue that according to polls contributes to but does not dominate the agenda of left-breaking unaffiliated voters who represent a plurality in Colorado, the likely presence of another abortion restriction ballot measure on the 2020 ballot will ensure abortion factors in voters’ choices up and down the ballot. Anti-abortion Republicans hope the sidestep of banning abortions later in pregnancy will draw greater support, but it’s still an arbitrary unscientific limit on a personal medical decision.
Coloradans vote no on those, and Republicans historically suffer collateral damage from the attempt. Sen. Cory Gardner’s 2014 victory, in which his opposition to abortion rights became a counterintuitive asset by persuading jaded reporters Mark Udall’s warnings about Gardner on the issue were “too shrill,” runs counter to that historic trend. In 2020, Gardner’s personal role in shifting the federal judiciary toward hostility to abortion and this latest state-level assault on abortion rights will both face the ultimate test.
We don’t foresee this ticket splitting.