Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, signed a bill into law on Monday that made seeking an abortion in the state a fundamental right, solidifying legal access to the procedure in the event that the Supreme Court weakens Roe v. Wade.

Here are the facts about the new law.


The law does not change abortion policies in Colorado

The Reproductive Health Equity Act, which passed along party lines, will not alter abortion law in Colorado, where women can legally undergo the procedure at any point during pregnancy. It put into state statute that the legal access to an abortion shall not be denied or restricted regardless of federal actions to weaken it.

“This important bill simply codifies existing protections in statute,” Polis said on Monday upon signing the bill into law.

The state has a record of supporting access to abortion, having been the first state to decriminalize the procedure in 1967. The populace has largely been on the side of abortion rights activists. In 2020, Colorado voters struck down a ballot proposal to ban abortions after 22 weeks by a margin of more than half a million votes.

Colorado permits abortion throughout pregnancy

Colorado is one of only a handful of states including Alaska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia, that do not restrict abortions after a certain gestational age. This opens the door to legal abortions beyond the point at which the fetus can live outside the womb, between 22 to 24 weeks, which have also been referred to as "late-term abortions."

Abortions at or after 21 weeks, which is considered late, are relatively rare. They represented less than 1% of abortions performed in the U.S., or 4,882 of 491,901 in total, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2019, the most recent year for which numbers are available. The majority of abortions, nearly 93%, occur within the first 13 weeks of gestation.

Relatively few providers will perform abortions later in pregnancy even if their states permit them. Planned Parenthood in D.C., for instance, will not perform in-clinic abortions after 20 weeks.

Still, Colorado is home to one of only a handful of abortion providers that will perform the procedure beyond 28 weeks. The Boulder Abortion Clinic, run by Dr. Warren Hern for over four decades, is the state's only late-term abortion provider. Hern's own reporting for procedures performed between 1992 and 2012 at his clinic included those performed as late as 39 weeks into pregnancy.

Colorado and the handful of other states are global outliers

The U.S. has relatively liberal abortion laws compared to most other countries, which generally require a reason for the abortion, such as saving the woman's life or a foreseeable lack of resources to care for the unborn child. In more than 65 countries, including the U.S., abortions are broadly legal during some part of pregnancy. The most common gestational limit is 12 weeks, and fewer than a dozen other countries allow abortions for any reason beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. In 24 countries, meanwhile, abortion is banned altogether.

The law does not eliminate the parental notification requirement

The act does not rescind a requirement that minors inform parents or guardians of their intention to get an abortion. Under the law, the final decision to get an abortion rests with the minor, though, regardless of what their parent or guardian says.

“The bill does not make any changes to the current legal framework for parental notification that exists in state law,” Polis said.

The law is part of a push to make Colorado an abortion safe haven as neighboring states pass bans

Colorado has positioned itself alongside several other blue states as being a sanctuary for women seeking abortions from nearby states that have restrictions in place. The state's move to codify abortion access means that it would be the destination for abortions in its part of the country if the Supreme Court decides to weaken Roe.

Neighbor states Wyoming and Utah have "trigger" laws on the books, which would automatically ban abortions outright if the Supreme Court overturns the landmark court decision. Colorado also has more abortion providers than neighboring states and has seen an increase already in women coming from other states to obtain an abortion. For example, of the nearly 10,300 abortions performed in Colorado in 2020, 13% of them were on women from other states.

The new law in Colorado was followed Tuesday by the passage of a near-total abortion ban in Oklahoma. The bill would make performing an abortion a felony in the state. The provider found guilty of performing the procedure would face up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The bill now awaits Gov. Kevin Stitt's signature, which is expected.

The act aligns Colorado with California, Illinois, and Oregon, which have all taken steps to ensure access to the procedure for women from other states. In Oregon, for instance, the Legislature set aside $15 million of the state’s budget to establish the Oregon Reproductive Equity Fund, which will help offset the costs of obtaining abortion services for women from other states.


Guaranteed access to legal abortion is up for debate in the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. The court is expected to decide in June whether to uphold a 2018 Mississippi law effectively banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The ban flouted the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to allow abortions up to the point of viability. The question is if pre-viability abortion bans are unconstitutional, but the term viability has been a controversial one because it is not a set point during gestation but rather is dependent on the developmental progression of the fetus.