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Colorado senators co-sponsor bill to protect interstate travel for abortion

Bill would codify right to cross state lines for reproductive care
Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet

Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper have co-sponsored a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate to protect a pregnant person’s right to travel across state lines to receive an abortion and protect abortion providers performing the procedure for out-of-state patients in states where abortion is legal.

The bill, called the Freedom to Travel for Healthcare Act, was introduced by Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto on Wednesday. It would make it illegal for states with abortion bans to limit travel to have an abortion. Additionally, the bill would allow the attorney general to bring civil action to those who restrict someone’s ability to cross state lines to receive an abortion.

The right to an abortion is protected by Colorado law, but the state sees a significant number of out-of-state patients who travel to Colorado for abortions. In 2021, 13.5% of abortions in Colorado were performed on people who had traveled from other states. The Freedom to Travel for Healthcare Act would protect those people and would protect abortion providers from being prosecuted or facing lawsuits for providing such services to out-of-state patients.

In some states, such as Missouri, legislation has been drafted or introduced targeting interstate travel for abortion care. In Texas, the state’s abortion ban allows private citizens to sue those who perform abortions as well as people who assist those seeking abortions. In 2021, 25% of people who came to Colorado for abortions were from Texas.

Earlier this month, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order saying that Colorado will not cooperate with civil or criminal investigations against people who provide, assist with or receive abortions in the state, including people who have traveled from other states.

“Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, millions of Americans will be forced to cross state lines to access the reproductive care they need,” Bennet said in a news release Wednesday. “This legislation will protect women who go out of state for reproductive care from prosecution, along with the providers who support them.”

On June 30, Hickenlooper and Bennet signed on to a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, which called on the Department of Defense to support and protect service members seeking abortions. Additionally, they joined 31 other Democratic senators on a letter to President Joe Biden calling for “bold action” to protect abortion access.

Both Colorado senators have called on Congress to take action to protect abortion access. Bennet and Hickenlooper were co-sponsors of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which failed to pass the Senate in May. The House is expected to introduce a new version of the bill this week.

“I’m obviously from a school that believes that a woman should have absolute authority over the decisions affecting her body and her health,” Hickenlooper told The Durango Herald on Tuesday.

Hickenlooper said some Republicans may be willing to vote for a scaled-back bill to protect abortion access at a federal level, but with the current makeup of the Senate, it is unlikely a comprehensive bill can be passed. He said Democrats must win Senate races in the midterms to move the needle on passing legislation nationwide.

“The real issue here is, how do you elect a Senate that can codify Roe versus Wade? That was settled law.” 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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