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Bennet, Hickenlooper join legislation to protect abortion access

Bill would legally ensure the right to choose
Abortion rights supporters rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on March 2, 2016. (Associated Press file)

Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper joined more than 200 congressional colleagues Wednesday to reintroduce the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect abortion access across the United States.

As individual states continue to pass an unprecedented amount of restrictions, the bicameral legislation would legally ensure the right to obtain and perform abortions even if Roe v. Wade is weakened or overturned.

The Women’s Health Protection Act has been introduced in every congressional session since 2013.

“For over 50 years, the law has supported a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions,” Hickenlooper said in a news release. “But state legislatures and conservative groups are still working nonstop to strip that right away. We must protect Roe v. Wade now and forever.”

The Supreme Court is poised to hear a case challenging Roe v. Wade concerning a Mississippi law seeking to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which is about two months earlier than Roe and other cases allow.

“Every person deserves the right to make their own health care decisions, but across the country, politicians are attempting to strip away reproductive rights," Bennet said in a news release. "In the face of challenges to Roe v. Wade, it is more important than ever for Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine access to reproductive care into law once and for all.”

Abortions are available in Colorado up to 26 weeks of pregnancy – near the end of the second trimester. Medically necessary abortions are available until 34 weeks, which includes conditions such as fetal anomalies and genetic disorders.

But abortions remain inaccessible in some locations. In 2017, 89% of counties in the United States had no clinics providing abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute. That means 38% of reproductive-age women must travel elsewhere to obtain an abortion if needed.

“Coloradans overwhelmingly support abortion rights, whether they’re Democrats, Republicans or unaffiliated,” said Karen Middleton, the president of Cobalt, a reproductive health care nonprofit in Colorado. “If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade next June (2022), 24 states could immediately prohibit abortion entirely. Colorado is not one of them – but we also don’t have anything protective of abortion access in state law, which is why we need the Women’s Health Protection Act.”

The bill has 45 co-sponsors in the Senate and 171 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.

Kaela Roeder is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a 2021 graduate of American University in Washington, D.C.

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