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Polis: I’ll stand up for reproductive rights if elected governor

Author: Marianne Goodland - August 30, 2018 - Updated: August 30, 2018

Polis reproductive rightsDemocratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Jared Polis spoke with representatives ad volunteers for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Thursday. Vicki Cowart, president of PPRM, sits at rights.

There’s no “personhood’ amendment among the dozen measures voters will address on the November ballot. But according to U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, the Democratic party’s candidate for governor, reproductive rights are on the ballot in November in the form of who gets elected governor.

Polis, who spoke at a roundtable hosted by Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Thursday, outlined what he would do if a future conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing abortion rights nationwide.

The Senate is preparing to hold confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s latest pick for the U.S. Supreme Court. Kavanaugh reportedly told U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, when they met Aug. 21, that he considers Roe v. Wade to be settled law. Still, many abortion-rights advocates — including Polis — warn that those rights are in growing jeopardy, and some say they suspect that Kavanaugh could wind up joining a vote to strike down the ruling.

“The right to safe and legal abortion is on the line,” said Vicki Cowart, chief executive of Planned Parenthood of the Rockies. And things can get worse, she added, should Kavanaugh be confirmed.

Polis said if elected governor, he would work to put protections for women into state law. “The only rights that would be guaranteed for women would be those passed in statutes,” Polis said, and that means enshrining reproductive choice into law.

“I would ensure that five judges in Washington, D.C. would not take away” women’s rights, he said.

“I’m happy to shine a light on reproductive health” in this state, Polis added. “Colorado is a freedom loving and pro-choice state. We believe deeply in the rights of Coloradans to make their own decisions and not have government force decisions on them. This is a real morale threat than ever before.”

He added that as governor,  “I won’t let Trump or the Supreme Court interfere” with women’s reproductive rights.

Polis said he looks to expand access to all forms of health care, including reproductive care, indicating he views it as an economic issue as well as a reproductive one.

Reproductive care is not just about abortion rights; it’s also about cancer screenings, HIV/AIDS testing and ensuring women have healthy pregnancies, he said.

“This has a direct effect on the next generation and on health care costs today,” Polis said, adding that health care screenings save everyone money with fewer costs shifts. “There’s something in it for the pocket of every Coloradan,” he said.

Reproductive rights also empower women so that they have control of when they have children, he added. “It’s an economic issue.”

Polis briefly took aim at his Republican opponent, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, whom he said didn’t even have a health care section on his website until two weeks ago.

The issues page on Stapleton’s website is silent on the issue of abortion, and the candidate has had little to say about it since launching his run for governor.

While Polis claimed that Stapleton’s running mate, Rep. Lang Sias of Arvada, is a supporter of “personhood,” the idea that human life should be legally protected from the moment of fertilization, Sias also has been relatively silent on the issue of abortion.

However, he did sponsor a fetal homicide bill in the 2016 session. That measure, ostensibly designed to address an attack by a woman in Boulder that killed a fetus in 2015, was viewed as also taking aim at abortion and attempting to establish a personhood law. It was twice defeated by House Democrats, in both 2015 and 2016.

Planned Parenthood employees and volunteers said that Trump’s election and Kavanaugh’s nomination is driving patients to clinics to ensure they have access to IUDs and other forms of birth control, as well as inspiring people to volunteer. “People aren’t going away. This is a long-term fight,” Cowart said.

Polis said he is excited by the benefits of the state’s long-acting reproductive contraceptive (LARC) program, which has dramatically cut the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions. He said he would like to provide those devices — usually implants — to more women across Colorado.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.