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At town hall, Hickenlooper talks reproductive rights, climate change

Inflation, health care and gun control also among concerns of constituents
U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper spoke to a small crowd March 14, 2021, before a rafting trip on the Animas River in Durango. (BCI Media file)

U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper discussed reproductive rights, climate change, health care costs, inflation and gun violence prevention during a virtual town hall Wednesday.

“I don’t think the federal government, or any government, should get between a woman and her doctor,” he said. “Colorado has already acted to protect abortion rights, but women from across the country are now coming to Colorado for appointments.

“Even though Americans have always taken for granted the right to travel wherever they desire, now even that freedom is in jeopardy for women seeking reproductive health care,” he said. “Congress needs to act to protect women who cross state lines for reproductive health care, as well as protecting the doctors who treat them.”

Hickenlooper is a co-sponsor of the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act, which was introduced last week and would protect people who cross state lines to get abortions, as well as the providers performing them.

He also spoke about the Inflation Reduction Act, which was announced earlier Wednesday by Sens. Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The bill provides $369 billion for climate change programs and would be the most ambitious action taken by the federal government to try to tackle climate change.

“There will be energy tax credits that we’ve been fighting for a long time. There’ll be a new minimum corporate tax on big companies to help pay for it,” he said. “There will certainly be more to do and more that we will push to do, but make no mistake, this is a big step in our fight against climate change and really does mark a hinge point in what I call climate rescue.”

The Senate is scheduled to leave for its five-week August recess on Aug. 8. However, Hickenlooper said he is pushing to delay the start of recess until the bill makes it through the Senate for “as long as it takes.”

Constituents also asked about some of the environmental issues facing Colorado, including the drought affecting the Colorado River and renegotiating the Colorado River Compact. The Colorado River Compact is an agreement among the seven states in the Colorado River basin about the usage and allocation of water from the river.

“We can no longer look at this just as a drought. There is a very real possibility that this is a new reality and that we’re going to have lower precipitation on a regular basis,” Hickenlooper said.

On inflation, he said an event like the coronavirus pandemic shutting down the global economy has never happened during his lifetime and when global supply chains shut down, they haven’t all come back at the same time or pace.

He answered questions about Congress passing new gun violence prevention measures and emphasized the need for further legislation. Hickenlooper was a supporter of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was passed in June and signed into law by President Joe Biden in early July. It was Congress’ most significant effort to prevent gun violence in almost three decades.

“I do want to find ways that we can get to a universal background check, I want to make sure that we can find some new ways to change the culture of ‘us versus them,’ and both sides fighting for something they deeply care about when fatalities from guns are now up to 45,000 a year,” he said. “Two decades ago it was 10,000 or 15,000 a year. This is something that is going to take everyone working together, and we’re trying to figure out how do we get everybody working together on this to find a common solution.”

After a question about how abortion rights have changed in Colorado since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Hickenlooper reiterated the state’s protections for those seeking abortions and emphasized the need to be able to support those coming to Colorado for reproductive care.

“We are a state that is deeply pro-choice. Gov. Polis signed a bill into law protecting the right of access to abortion in Colorado that still stands regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling, so we didn’t have to do anything after it passed,” he said.

He also discussed lowering the costs of prescription drugs from Medicare through the Affordable Care Act, which is also being included in the Inflation Reduction Act, which he said will in turn end up lowering drug prices for everyone.

“This is one component of, I think, what we need to really push back on. It’s kind of been open season on patients in terms of how they pay for their health care,” he said.

​​Nina Heller is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at nheller@durangoherald.com.

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