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Policy Positions

CFC Testimony: Colorado SB23-188

By Catholics for Choice March 17, 2023

CFC Director of Policy Shannon Russell submitted testimony to the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee for their hearing on SB23-188. This testimony was submitted on March 15, 2023.

Catholics for Choice Supports SB23-188

Dear Chair Gonzales, Vice Chair Rodriguez, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

Established in 1973, Catholics for Choice works in the United States and around the world to ensure that all people have access to safe and affordable reproductive healthcare services. Understanding that reproductive freedom is essential to Catholic social justice, we work to dismantle religiously based obstructions to abortion care, contraceptive access, and comprehensive health care, particularly because these barriers disproportionately affect people of color, those living in poverty, and the marginalized. On behalf of the overwhelming majority of pro-choice Catholics and Coloradans, I urge you to support SB23-188, which protects patients, providers, and assistors of politically targeted healthcare services — including abortion and gender-affirming care — from interstate criminal and civil threats.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey has dramatically escalated an ongoing reproductive healthcare crisis in this country. Since the Supreme Court cemented the constitutional right to abortion in 1973, states have enacted over 1,300 abortion restrictions, including over 500 in the last decade and more than 100 in 2021. In 2022 alone, 839 abortion bans and restrictions were introduced, 66 of which eventually became law. These unconscionable policies ultimately led to abortion being banned in 12 states and forced 66 abortion providers to close. An additional 14 states may soon follow suit, jeopardizing access for 36 million women of reproductive age, plus trans men and non-binary people.

In Colorado, where abortion care is protected thanks to the General Assembly’s moral leadership in passing the Reproductive Health Equity Act, providers continue to face an influx of patients traveling as well as legal threats from across state lines. Vigilante-style legislation like Texas Senate Bill 8 that deputizes private citizens to sue anyone helping state residents to terminate pregnancies —incentivizing people to hunt down and terrorize their neighbors and cruelly isolating patients from their support networks — has been threatened or introduced in at least 15 states. Now is the time to build on Colorado’s legacy as the first state to decriminalize abortion by shielding legally-protected health care patients, providers, and helpers from criminal prosecution and imprisonment; extradition; civil lawsuits; court summons, subpoenas, and arrests; interstate investigations, divulging information, or assistance with investigations; and professional de-licensing and other discrimination.

The tenets of Catholic social justice teach us that to obstruct access to or deny anyone reproductive healthcare of any kind is to strip them of their inherent humanity and dignity. Abortion access advances the common good, allowing people to make their own choices about their reproductive healthcare, to participate equally in society, and to thrive in their communities with dignity. Conversely, jeopardizing patient health, well-being, and lives or forcing providers to risk prison time, heavy fines, or the loss of their medical licenses to treat patients is simply unacceptable to Catholics who treasure the life and dignity of every single human person. Nobody should be afraid to seek any kind of healthcare for any reason, and medical professionals should not be punished or threatened for simply doing their jobs. Pregnant, trans, and gender expansive people are fully realized human beings created in the image and likeness of God and deserve safe healthcare services, as well as support and kindness from us, their fellow community members — not judgment and shame.

Indeed, Catholics honor all individuals as moral agents, free to make their own personal decisions about their bodies and futures according to their own consciences, beliefs, and circumstances and without political or religious interference. To that end, Catholics also value the separation of church and state and cherish religious pluralism and diversity. The Second Vatican Council issued a declaration affirming that “[t]he right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.”

Religious freedom is an expansive rather than restrictive idea, encompassing both freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Giving people the space to follow their own consciences in what they believe and practice is especially important when making critical, deeply personal reproductive health decisions as almost every religious tradition espouses their own unique view on the question of when life begins. This is why Catholics support policies like SB23-188 that honor pregnant people’s decisions about how best to build and care for their families.

Unfortunately, the Catholic hierarchy has spent years redefining religious liberty by imposing their views not only on all Catholics — including the many who disagree with them — but also on people of diverse religious traditions and people of no faith. The hierarchy, however well-financed and powerful it may be, is not the sole moral arbiter on matters where sexuality and reproduction intersect with religion and faith. The truth is that the majority of Catholics — who make up 16percent of Colorado’s population — want their legislators in Denver to protect the right to access the full range of healthcare services, including abortion and gender-affirming care. In fact, 68 percent of Catholics supported the protections for abortion access enshrined in Roe,  63 percent of Catholics think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and, according to 2020 Catholics for Choice exit polls, 80 percent of Catholic voters support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals. We do so because of our faith, not in spite of it. In contrast, the hierarchy’s position — opposing abortion in every instance, even in cases of rape, incest, or when it is necessary to preserve a pregnant person’s health or life — is only shared by only 14 percent of Catholics.

People of all faiths and no faith have abortions — they always have and always will, regardless of the dictates handed down by the courts, bishops, and politicians. Ultimately, one in four abortion patients in this country identifies as Catholic, and their decisions were made in good conscience and with gratitude for access to equitable and compassionate abortion care. However, because the nationwide legal right to abortion was never enough to safeguard bodily and moral autonomy, the Colorado General Assembly must continue to pass legislation that guarantees abortion is available to anyone who seeks it and to safeguard those who provide care and assist patients.

Catholics for Choice calls for the passage of SB23-188 to dismantle the injustices that obstruct our reproductive and religious freedoms and to advance the human rights of those who are often targeted by measures restricting access to reproductive and gender-affirming care. The Catholic Church has a long history of care and concern for those who are the most marginalized — the very same people who are most impacted by healthcare restrictions: Black, Indigenous, and people of color; young people; immigrants; those working to make ends meet; people living with disabilities; and LGBTQIA+ people. SB23-188 embodies our faith values of compassion, justice, and community care and helps to ensure that all people have access to the economic, social, and political power and resources they need to make their own conscience-based healthcare decisions.


Shannon Russell

Director of Policy, Catholics for Choice

Catholics for Choice

was founded in 1973 to serve as a voice for Catholics who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.