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The Texas lawsuit isn’t just about abortion. It’s about bullying.


The Texas lawsuit isn’t just about abortion. It’s about bullying.

May 22, 2024 | 5:30 am ET
By Karen Middleton
The Texas lawsuit isn’t just about abortion. It’s about bullying.
Abortion rights supporters march in Denver on May 7, 2022. (Kevin Mohatt for Colorado Newsline)

It is legal to get an abortion in Colorado, whether you’re a Colorado resident or not. It is legal to travel to Colorado from another state to get an abortion. And just in case there’s any question, Colorado enacted a shield law in 2023 protecting patients, providers and assisters of abortion care from anti-abortion zealots in other states.

As Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser put it, “Texas law does not govern how women receive abortion care in Colorado.”

The lawsuit by an angry ex-boyfriend from Texas seeking to punish his former partner for getting an abortion in Colorado isn’t just about abortion. It’s about bullying. It’s about fear and intimidation. It’s about abortion opponents and domestic abusers weaponizing abortion bans to punish anyone who seeks health care, especially health care that’s not available to them in their home state because politicians think they know better than patients and doctors.

Specifically, the Colorado shield law, Senate Bill 23-188, states: “Section 6 of the act prohibits a court, judicial officer, court employee, or attorney from issuing a subpoena in connection with a proceeding in another state concerning an individual who accesses a legally protected health-care activity in Colorado or an individual who performs, assists, or aids in the performance of a legally protected health-care activity in Colorado.”

So basically Texas can kick rocks.

Our Cobalt Abortion Fund continues to help anyone who asks. Colorado residents are seeking help paying for procedures because of an antiquated, 1984 ban on public insurance coverage for abortion care. Out-of-state abortion seekers, especially from Texas, often need help with practical and travel support. Eighty-five percent of our practical support clients in the first quarter of 2024 were from Texas. The Cobalt Abortion Fund spent $212,000 in 2021, before Dobbs, the Supreme Court ruling that undid a constitutional right to abortion care. We spent $1.25 million in 2023, the first full year since Roe was overturned. We’re on track to spend $2.3 million in 2024.

It’s not a coincidence that the Texas attorney in multiple “get back at your ex” cases, Jonathan Mitchell, is the author of Texas’ SB 8 bounty hunter abortion ban law. He also tried to pass a municipal abortion ban in Pueblo in the fall of 2022. This was after Colorado enacted the Reproductive Health Equity Act putting abortion access into our state law. Mitchell failed because grassroots activists in Pueblo organized, stood up, and said, “Not here, not now, not ever.”

The stress on medical providers in Colorado, both practical and emotional, cannot be overstated.

The atmosphere of fear and intimidation we are seeing around the country after Dobbs is deliberate and intentional. Abortion bans are about power, not “life.” Lawsuits like these are aimed at people with three kids and two jobs who are afraid if they get in their car and drive to another state for an abortion they’ll have a state trooper on their tail and go to jail. Mitchell and his allies want people scared.

And these tactics are aimed at further pressuring providers. The stress on medical providers in Colorado, both practical and emotional, cannot be overstated. Colorado doctors are seeing patients with ectopic pregnanciesTrisomy 18 diagnoses, and partial miscarriages who had to flee their home to get health care in another state. And because of bounty hunter laws, Colorado providers — and our abortion fund staff — are often the only people patients can talk to. They can’t confide their trauma in their family or friends, so it gets offloaded here.

But to paraphrase a very famous song, “This ain’t Texas.” Colorado is proud of our history as the first state to allow legal abortion in 1967, six years before Roe. And we’re proud of our status now as a beacon of hope for our own residents who need health care, and for anyone fleeing a state where abortion has been banned thanks to Trump overturning Roe — including Texas.

We will not be bullied out of helping anyone get the abortion care they need and deserve.