As a state legislator who supports abortion rights, I have been asked many times over the past month, “What can we do to protect Roe v. Wade and ensure abortion remains legal?”
It’s not only because Texas passed the most extreme abortion ban in the nation. It’s also because of the approach of today’s date, Dec. 1, the day the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case that has the potential to undermine much of Roe, the 1973 decision that ensured legal abortion in all 50 states.
The question is understandable, as Coloradans are worried about what a court full of Trump appointees will do.
Here is my answer: I am not going to wait and see what the court does next, and neither should you.
Colorado can act to do more than just ensuring that abortion remains legal. We can build communities where our loved ones can receive the abortion care they need — whenever they need it — and decide if, when, and how to grow their families. We can protect all decisions, from access to birth control, to prenatal care, to birthing options and parenting support. We can do more than just the bare minimum.
After nearly 50 years, we’ve learned that Roe doesn’t do what people think it does, which is ensure that people can get an abortion when they need it. That is far from the reality. People face barriers to abortion care: violence, judgment, needing to travel long distances for care, and politicians who put obstacles in their way —obstacles that don’t impact us all equally.
If this last year has made one thing crystal clear, it’s that Black, Indigenous, and people of color do not have equal access to health care because of white supremacy, racism, and structural inequities. Our concerns are often ignored or not taken seriously, which leads to worse outcomes from COVID-related health issues, and higher rates of maternal and infant death.
Ensuring maternal and infant health is deeply important to me, and the connection to abortion access isn’t always clear to people. Reducing maternal mortality is as much about supporting prenatal care and birthing choices as it is about ensuring that abortion is available when someone also decides to end a pregnancy. Abortion allows people to make the decision that is right for them so they can thrive.
What would Colorado look like if we invested in people thriving? We can’t ignore the fact that Black and Indigenous women are disproportionately harmed because they are denied equal access to pregnancy care. But what if we also talked about how we could thrive with health and joy if we were treated equitably and with dignity?
We owe it to every Coloradan to do as much as we can, whenever possible, to reaffirm human rights and that requires the hard work of dismantling the structures that oppress our Black, Indigenous and people of color. This will take continuous work, but I serve the 8th district of Denver because I know that it can be done.
We took a bold step this year when we passed laws that provide solutions to reduce and end maternal mortality and expand birth control coverage for immigrants. We can end qualified immunity for police and provide adequate menstrual supplies for people who are incarcerated. We are changing the game.
When the Supreme Court allowed Texas to keep its 6-week abortion ban, several “copycat” bills sprang up in other states. Thankfully, Colorado is not one. But when we look back on this moment, I don’t want to say we just didn’t pass a similar ban, or we did the bare minimum to defend abortion access. I want this to be a time when we center communities that are most impacted and have been denied access in so many ways.
We need to change laws and policies across the board. We are making progress and I am filled with hope that we can and will do more.
State Rep. Leslie Herod, of Denver, represents Colorado’s 8th District
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