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Colorado recently enacted a new abortion rights law


With the expected reversal of Roe vs. Wade by the Supreme Court, a handful of states are trying to protect that right. Connecticut enacted a new abortion rights law late yesterday and Colorado's Democratic governor, Jared Polis, recently did the same. I spoke with him yesterday.

JARED POLIS: A lot of folks, including us, saw the writing on the wall. So what we wanted to do is enshrine the Roe vs. Wade precedent in state law so that we didn't rely on the federal protections, but people would have the freedom here to make their own decisions.

FADEL: Could you describe what exactly this guarantee means in practical terms?

POLIS: It means that despite what happens with Roe vs. Wade at the national level - and obviously we all hope that what was leaked either changes or doesn't come to pass. But at this point, tragically, it looks likely, and the freedoms of millions of people will be taken away. Colorado residents will not experience a change. Women will still be empowered to make their own choices about when and how to have a family.

FADEL: I mean, how fragile is this protection? If you're no longer in office, if the makeup of the state legislature changes, how fragile are the protections?

POLIS: It's very fragile. Republicans in Colorado and nationally are obsessed with taking away freedoms, whether it's a Texas law that would arrest women and encourage vigilante attacks on women and doctors, the Florida law that infringes upon freedom of speech and bans the word gay. They're just obsessed about taking away freedoms. And, you know, when we put something in law, of course, that can be changed by future legislators and future governors. I think it's really important at this time that we focus on, of course, the United States Senate, President Biden and making sure that we can elect people that really stand for and protect this right across the country.

FADEL: So then this becomes an endless situation where, depending on if advocates for abortion rights or opponents to abortion rights are elected, that changes access.

POLIS: So we made it a law, which means it's not at the whim of just a future legislature or governor. It would take all three, both chambers of the legislature and the governor, to be won over by Republicans who want to take away the freedoms of people. You know, our state has a long history of pro-choice Republicans. In fact, the very first governor, John Love, who legalized abortion in Colorado, was Republican. And it wasn't even that long ago when I was younger in the early 2000s, you could always count on two or three pro-choice Republicans in the legislature - no more. To a person, they voted against this. And they really are increasingly obsessed with controlling how people live their lives, which is, frankly, not what most Colorado voters want, not what most Americans want. And we don't want to be in any way seen as using the state to make the most intimate decisions for Coloradans.

FADEL: Now, Colorado's neighbors Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, they've all moved towards limiting or banning abortion. Or they're actively trying to restrict abortion rights. Governor, is it your intention to actively invite people seeking access to abortions to come to Colorado?

POLIS: If there's one thing we know that when abortion is illegal, it doesn't necessarily reduce the number of abortions. It drives them underground, and it's very dangerous so-called back alley abortions, women going to people who - and turning to people who might not be fully qualified in a non- or less-than-medical setting. So, I mean, you know, beyond, of course, taking away freedom, there will be lives that are lost because of people who turn to underqualified services in states where it's no longer officially available.

FADEL: So is the message here, you can come to Colorado?

POLIS: Well, people can travel wherever they need to.

FADEL: If they can afford it.

POLIS: That's a big issue. I think the real answer here is do residents of these states really want the government intrusion into their personal lives about what decisions they make about when and how to have kids? I don't think most residents of Utah, of Texas want that, but that's exactly what they're getting.

FADEL: Now, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which you signed, guarantees access to reproductive care before and after pregnancy. Do you and others in your state envision scenarios in which care before pregnancy or in the early days of pregnancy, such as contraception or abortion medication, do those come into legal jeopardy?

POLIS: A lot will come into question following the repeal of Roe vs. Wade. And I think, you know, right now, you have Democratic governors across the country on the front lines of protecting this freedom in an uncertain world because we can no longer rely on Supreme Court protection. You know, I really grew up having a very positive view of the Supreme Court expanding freedom - Brown vs. Board of Education, Roe vs. Wade and affecting me personally, of course, Obergefell vs. Hodges that allowed same-sex marriage - and this really turns that on its head and goes the other way, stripping away freedoms from hundreds of millions of Americans who just happen to live in states that don't have elected officials that value those freedoms.

FADEL: Since you brought this up, I mean, the larger implications here that could impact you personally - I mean, people have talked about does this mean the next step is same-sex marriage? What other personal freedoms might be in jeopardy?

POLIS: Well, I think, you know, based on this dangerous precedent and the way the Supreme Court is going, it could be interracial marriage, same-sex marriage, integration of our schools. These are all steps that the Supreme Court took forward to expand our freedoms and support equality.

FADEL: But are you being alarmist here? I mean, because in Alito's...

POLIS: It's very alarmist that the Supreme Court is going to micromanage what a woman does with a fetus that's in her body. I mean, there's no more micromanaging than that. It's very scary.

FADEL: Democratic Governor Jared Polis of Colorado, thank you so much for your time.

POLIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.