COLORADO SPRINGS — This week, a package of three bills were heard in two state senate committees, and they were all focusing on abortion rights.
One of the bills would offer shield protections so that Colorado cannot cooperate with other states in civil or criminal investigations for those seeking abortions here.
The second bill would require large companies to include abortion care coverage in their insurance plans, and solidify a 1971 statute that states there is no age restriction to access contraception and other programs.
The third bill would make it a deceptive trade practice for a person to advertise that they provide abortion care when they do not. The bill would also punish doctors who provide abortion reversal medication.
The second bill introduced, Senate Bill 23-189, requires insurance plans to cover women’s preventative health care services, including abortion and the prevention and treatment of STIs. Large employer insurance plans would provide coverage for the total cost of abortion care without deductibles, co-payments, or coinsurance. The legislation has an exemption for employers with, "sincerely held religious beliefs." The bill also updates the type of provider that can provide care for minors. As it currently stands language in previous bills only allows physicians to provide care to minors with the new language to include for example a family nurse practitioner.
Jack Teter, the regional director of government affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountain, says this bill will close the gaps in accessing care related to abortions and STIs.
“I think we've all had the experience of our insurance not paying for something that we need, and it's a terrible feeling,” said Teter. “We pay our premiums every month, and when we need health care, we want our insurance to be able to cover that care.”
Nicole Hunt is a Life Issues Analyst and spokesperson for Focus on the Family. The organization is a global Christian ministry that provides resources to families. She testified in front of lawmakers in Denver on Wednesday. One of her arguments is that it’s concerning that parents would not be a part of their child’s decision-making if this bill passes.
“Abortion, it can be a very traumatic experience, and it can last a lifetime. And so these are decisions that parents should be making with their kids or at least be involved in the process,” said Hunt.
Hunt also argues that the exemptions for religious organizations are weak. She added the bill attempts to find a way around Colorado’s prohibition on public funding for abortion in the state constitution. Meanwhile, Teter argues that no taxpayer funds are spent on abortion care.
The third bill introduced, stops the use of deceptive advertising from anti-abortion centers. These centers are often run by faith-based organizations. Sponsors of the bill say these centers lure patients in and steer them away from health services.
“If you google, ‘Where can I get an abortion in Colorado, some of the first rankings you'll see on that website are from clinics that don't provide abortion care. It’s not appropriate to mislead them,” said Teter.
Teter said they know of patients who have shown up to health centers, thinking they had appointments for an abortion, only to arrive and find out the provider doesn’t provide services or is wanting to change the person’s mind on having an abortion.
However, those against the bill say it restricts a woman’s ability to access pregnancy resource centers.
“When a caller calls in, and they’re asking about abortion, we tell them, ‘We don’t provide abortions at this facility. But we’d be more than happy to talk with you about what all of your options are.’ And that’s the truth,” said Hunt.
Hunt said this bill would restrict, limit and censor the work of pregnancy resource centers that are meeting the needs of pregnant women. She also said the language and definition of what is considered “deceptive” is confusing.
Hunt also worries that lawmakers are pushing the bills too quickly, and they want the bills amended or voted down.
“They were just introduced last Thursday night and on Wednesday night, not even a week later, and we were hearing testimony on all three of them,” said Hunt.
Teter said Colorado has become a safe haven for many who are looking for access to abortion care and reproductive rights. He added that 37% of the abortion care patients they see at their centers, are from out of state. Before the Texas law that banned abortion, that number was around 10%.
Hunt also said if Colorado banned the abortion reversal pill, Colorado would be the first in the country to do so. While Teter said, claims about abortion reversal are unsupported by scientific evidence.
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