Gov. Polis issues order protecting women coming to Colorado for abortion services — and health care workers

FILE – Community members gather to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and Kentucky’s trigger law to ban abortion, at Circus Square Park in Bowling Green, Ky., on Saturday, June 25, 2022. A judge cleared the way Thursday, June 30, for abortions to resume in Kentucky, temporarily blocking the state’s near-total ban on the procedure that was triggered by the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. (Grace Ramey/Daily News via AP, File)

AURORA | Gov. Jared Polis ordered Colorado to join a growing number of states protecting not only women who come from other states seeking abortion healthcare but Colorado health care workers as well.

“We are taking needed action to protect and defend individual freedom and protect the privacy of Coloradans,” Polis said Wednesday in a statement.

Polis issued an executive order preventing state employees from cooperating with other state officials seeking information or data about women who travel here seeking abortion health care services.

Some states outlawing or limiting abortion health care have proposed prosecuting women who obtain abortion services in other states, along with the health care providers in states like Colorado who help them.

After the seismic U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs vs Jackson decision in June, overturning the decades-old Roe vs Wade precedent, several states have banned or severely restricted abortion, or plan to so in the coming weeks or months.

“This impending loss of freedom for people around the country poses a threat to the people of Colorado to the extent that other states may seek to infringe on essential rights protected by Colorado law, and impose criminal penalties or civil liability for conduct that is now outlawed in other states, but remains legal in Colorado,” Polis’ order states.

Colorado legislators passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act earlier this year, protecting women’s reproductive and contraception rights in the state.

Polis’ executive order measure prohibits providing information or extradition assistance demanded by states criminalizing abortion and seeking to implicate Colorado patients or health care providers. The order also prevents health care providers accused by other states from suffering any legal or employment consequences stemming from such allegations or indictments. The order seeks to protect accused health care workers of losing their medical licenses or jobs because of anti-abortion rights allegations from other state governments.

“We are taking needed action to protect and defend individual freedom and protect the privacy of Coloradans,” Polis said. “This important step will ensure that Colorado’s thriving economy and workforce are not impacted based on personal health decisions that are wrongly being criminalized in other states.”

The move drew immediate approval from abortion and women’s rights advocates.

“We thank Gov. Polis for his leadership and for putting our Colorado values on abortion rights and access into action,” Cobalt President Karen Middleton said in a statement. “This executive order is so important because it ensures providers and patients both living in and coming to Colorado for abortion care will be protected. It is a sign of hope and optimism at a time we all need one.”

Polis joined a few other Democratic governors seeking to protect patients and providers.

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday also issued an executive order to protect abortion providers and patients from extradition to states that have banned the practice.

Abortions are legal in North Carolina until fetal viability or in certain medical emergencies, making the state an outlier in the Southeast.

“This order will help protect North Carolina doctors and nurses and their patients from cruel right-wing criminal laws passed by other states,” Cooper said in announcing the order.

The governors of Rhode Island and Maine also signed executive orders late Tuesday, stating that they will not cooperate with other states’ investigations into people who seek abortions or health care providers that perform them.

The specific fears of Democratic officials are rooted in a Texas law adopted last year to ban abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected. The law lets any person other than a government official or employee sue anyone who performs an abortion or “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets” obtaining one.

The person filing the claim would be entitled to $10,000 for every abortion the subject was involved with — plus legal costs.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear challenges to the Texas law so far.

Bernadette Meyler, a professor at Stanford Law School, said it’s not clear whether judgments against out-of-state abortion providers would hold up in courts, especially if they are not advertising their services in states with bans.

But she also said it’s not clear that the liberal states are on firm legal ground to protect their residents from any out-of-state litigation.

“Probably, they assume that some of the laws that they’re passing won’t be upheld or may not be upheld, and they’re trying to come up with as much as possible in order to resist the effects of the Dobbs decision,” Meyler said.

The resistance to cooperating with abortion-related investigations could hold up, though, she said. Places that declared themselves “sanctuary cities” and refused to cooperate with federal immigration investigations during former president Donald Trump’s presidency were able to carry out similar policies.

Connecticut was the first state to pass a law to protect abortion providers, patients and others from legal action taken by other states. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont signed it in May, before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The Democratic governors of Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, California and Washington and the moderate Republican governor in liberal Massachusetts all signed executive orders within days of the ruling to prohibit cooperation with other states that might interfere with abortion access.

“Residents seeking access will be protected, providers will be protected, and abortion is and will continue to be legal, safe and accessible, period,” said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has described the order as a preventative measure.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
2 months ago

THank you Governor Polis.

Trebor Cadeau
Trebor Cadeau
2 months ago

Bravo, Governor Polis!
Thank you.

Also need to include Mother Nature who causes countless spontaneous abortions (miscarriages).

2 months ago

I am a strong supporter of the the separation of the three branches of government so I have no opinion on Roe vs Wade. I do think what Gov Polis is doing is apropriate and logical. I don’t think we should demonize the courts for sending this issue back to the states where in my opinion it should have stayed. I am glad our Governor is doing what he thinks is correct for Colorado.

Brent G Taylor
Brent G Taylor
2 months ago

Wrong. Laws concerning abortion are now decided by each, individual 50 states. That is all SCOTUS did was to take something away from the federal government something that should never been mandated nationally or tied Constitutionally.

To be “united” as states we need to honor and support the right of other states to make their own laws and not be an adversarial sanctuary to circumvent those laws. Colorado legalized recreational marijuana; and yet we don’t set out (it happens) specific invitation and facilitation of residents of other states to cross our borders and purchase. This is no different.