"Attacks on Women's Health Will Not Be Tolerated": Reflections on the 2016 Colorado General Assembly

05/20/2016 04:32 pm ET Updated May 20, 2017

As a former Member of the Colorado House of Representatives from Aurora, it was my distinct honor to accompany Colorado's Speaker of the House, Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, onto the floor for the 2016 General Assembly Opening Day in January. And she made her priorities very clear in her Opening Day speech:

"Ideologues and opportunists will try to impose their views on the woman who isn't ready to have a family. They will try to rob her of the choice to make her own private medical decisions.

We will defeat these ideologues and opportunists."

And we did.

Every bill in the 2016 Colorado General Assembly that didn't reflect our Colorado values and our shared belief in women making their own private, personal medical decisions was defeated. It's proof that having women lead, as we did with Speaker Hullinghorst, House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran, and Senate Democratic Leader Lucía Guzmán, matters.

Here in Colorado, unlike in Congress, we actually have women legislators voting on women's health care. Every Democrat on the House Health Committee, all seven of them, were women. So thanks to women's leadership, and the strength of male allies, these bills - most of which came from the national anti-choice groups profiled in our opposition report, ("Against Our Will: How National Anti-Choice Groups are Targeting the Pro-Choice Majority in Colorado") " - failed.

The bills were drafted to introduce personhood into our state laws, even though voters have repeatedly and loudly said no. It included legislation to dictate the conversations between doctors and their patients, and bills to force women to have unnecessary medical procedures like transvaginal ultrasounds against their will. We defeated unconstitutional abortion bans and attempts to restrict access to birth control.

And we successfully included public funding in the FY 2016-17 for Colorado's award-winning program providing free long-acting reversible for young, low-income women. That program cut the teen birth and abortion rate almost in half over 5 years, as well as saving Colorado taxpayers millions in the cost of unintended pregnancy.

We also saw a bill pass that provides workplace accommodation for pregnant women, a cornerstone of our reproductive freedom agenda.

But that's not enough. Seven in 10 Americans support the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision affirming abortion as a private matter, and that number is even higher in Colorado. Strong majorities in our state support abortion rights and have proven that at the ballot box by defeating personhood and electing pro-choice legislators. This state supports abortion rights. A majority of voters want our elected officials to focus on other issues instead of attempting to roll back current law.

Our laws need to better reflect that majority. We need to not just defeat anti-women's health care bills, we can and must have our right to reproductive freedom reflected in our state laws. Doctors should be able to practice medicine without harassment or fear or political meddling, and patients should be able to access health care without threats or coercion.

We need to be pro-active about protecting our rights, not just defeating bad bills.

So as we look forward to the 2016 election and beyond, we need laws and legislators who reflect our pro-choice values - in Colorado, in Congress, and in the White House. Ask before you cast your ballot - are they solidly pro-choice candidates? Do they affirm a reproductive freedom agenda? We need Congress to stop attacking abortion providers and women's health care, overturn the Hyde amendment that prevents poor women from accessing abortion care, and pass the Women's Health Protection Act. We need a Supreme Court full of Elena Kagans, Ruth Bader Ginsburgs and Sonya Sotomayors.

As the political voice for reproductive rights in the Centennial State, you can be assured NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado will be talking to Colorado voters to make that happen.