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The Colorado Senate debate House Bill 1279 on Tuesday, March 22, 2022. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Democrats in the state legislature on Wednesday sent Gov. Jared Polis a bill affirming access to abortion and contraception in Colorado.

Polis has said he will sign the measure, House Bill 1279, into law. 

The legislation passed the Senate on a 20-15, party-line vote after it was debated on the floor for about 13 hours on Tuesday and then more than two hours on Wednesday as Republicans fought the measure’s passage. 

The bill was debated in the House earlier this month for 24 consecutive hours in what was one of the longest debates in the legislature’s history.

Democrats introduced the legislation in response to questions about the future of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision protecting the right to an abortion without excessive government restriction. The court could overturn the precedent in the coming months in a ruling in a case out of Mississippi, potentially opening the door for abortion restrictions in Colorado at the county or municipal level. 

Colorado, which in 1967 became the first state to loosen its abortion laws, is among the states with the fewest abortion restrictions in the nation. 

Abortion access wouldn’t be immediately affected in Colorado if Roe v. Wade is overturned, but abortion rights advocates warn there could still be threats. 

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The concern among abortion rights groups is that conservative Colorado counties or municipalities could try to pass local measures banning or significantly limiting abortion access. Without the protections in Roe v. Wade, those local measures may not be challengeable in court without the passage of affirmative abortion-access legislation at the Capitol.

But because House Bill 1279 changes only state law, Republicans would still be able to introduce bills and ballot measures seeking to limit abortion access. Only a constitutional amendment, which would require approval by 55% of voters, could more permanently settle the question.

Colorado voters have consistently rejected ballot measures seeking to restrict abortion access.

Abortion rights groups are considering whether to pursue a ballot measure in 2024 enshrining abortion access in Colorado’s constitution.

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...