Sara Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) Access to abortion and gender-affirming care is now further protected in Colorado after Gov. Jared Polis signed a trio of bills Friday afternoon to shield out-of-state patients, expand insurance coverage and crack down on deceptive advertising for anti-abortion centers.

“We celebrate freedom. Today is really about freedom, standing up to protect freedoms that are under attack, sadly, in many other states across the country,” Polis said during a bill signing ceremony in his office at the Capitol.

Dozens of lawmakers and advocates crowded into the office to celebrate the new laws, which build off of last year’s successful work to codify the right to abortion in state law. They are a response to rising efforts among surrounding states to restrict or outright ban abortion, which is leading to more patients traveling to Colorado for abortion care.

“We pass this legislation today in order to say ‘We see you in Colorado’ and ‘We’ve got your back,” said Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat and sponsor of one of the bills. “Let the passage of these three bills, as they are signed into law today, stand as a testament to folks in this state and across this country that Colorado is a beacon for care and that we will support you.”

‘It saved my life’

Senate Bill 23-188 is a shield law to protect people who travel to Colorado for abortion or gender-affirming care from lawsuits and criminal prosecution initiated in other states. It also protects providers and people who assist patients from that prosecution. Some conservative states, such as Texas, not only severely restrict abortion but also have so-called “bounty laws” in effect to go after people who seek care in states where it is legal.

The law will also apply to gender-affirming care. An amendment incorporated gender-affirming care into the definition of reproductive health care, to the chagrin of House Republicans who thought the bill was unconstitutional because it contained more than one subject.

The bill was sponsored by Democrats Gonzales, Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis of Boulder County, Rep. Meg Froelich of Englewood and Brianna Titone of Arvada.

Senate Bill 23-189 requires large-employer health insurance plans to cover the cost of abortions starting in 2025. There is an exception for government employers and employers for whom abortion is against religious beliefs.

“When the moment came in my life that I needed an abortion, I had a moment that we want no Coloradan to have. That was being told it would be $500 cash,” said bill sponsor Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet of Commerce City. “’I’m lucky. My husband was able to go down to the ATM and withdraw $500 and pay for my procedure in cash. It saved my life. We know that abortion care is reproductive health care and it is a part of pregnancy care that must be protected.”

The bill was sponsored by Democrats Michaelson Jenet, Rep. Lorena Garcia of Adams County, Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno of Commerce City and Sen. Lisa Cutter of Littleton.

Senate Bill 23-190 focuses on anti-abortion centers, referred to as “crisis pregnancy centers” by supporters. Those centers will be prohibited from false and deceptive advertising, such as claiming to provide abortion services or emergency contraceptives. The law also declares that promoting and prescribing anti-abortion reversal medication is unprofessional conduct, unless by Oct. 1 of this year the Colorado Medical Board, State Board of Pharmacy and the State Board of Nursing all agree it is an acceptable standard of practice.

The bill was sponsored by Democrats Sen. Faith Winter of Westminster and Sen. Janice Marchman of Loveland, Rep. Karen McCormick of Longmont and Rep. Elisabeth Epps of Denver.