In the News

Wirthman: Is Colorado the next Texas?

Saturday, October 25, 2014
Lisa Wirthman
The Denver Post
Washington

This article was originally posted on The Denver Post

For the people of Colorado, Texas offers a serious warning on reproductive rights: In a state where Republicans have decimated family planning services since the last mid-terms, the results are simply staggering.

By 2012, 72 percent of women in the poverty-stricken Rio Grande Valley and 40 percent of women statewide lost family planning services, reports the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

This is what the landscape looks like for women in Texas today: One in four women live in poverty. Teen pregnancy rates are among the nation's highest, and less than two-thirds of pregnant women get prenatal care in their first trimester. Half of children live in low-income families. More women die from cervical cancer than in nearly any other state. And women are now crossing the border into Mexico to get abortions.

This is actually happening in America.

It's that last item that finally roused the Supreme Court last week to step in and block a Texas law that would shutter all but eight abortion clinics in the state. It would leave over 1 million women with a 300-mile round trip to the nearest clinic, and effectively eliminate abortion access for low-income women in rural areas who can't afford the trip.

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, traveled from Denver to Fort Collins on a bus tour with Sen. Mark Udall last Sunday to meet with Colorado women.

"Texas is such a cautionary tale. This is what happens when elected politicians literally put their own personal political agendas ahead of women's access to healthcare," she said.

Research backs her up: The states with the most abortion restrictions also have the fewest policies to protect the health of women and children, according to a new Center for Reproductive Rights report.

Could Colorado be the next Texas? In a word: yes.

Under a progressive state government, Colorado women have started to feel safe from such attacks on our reproductive health. But our votes in the next election will determine not only our state's leadership, but also have a nationwide impact on whether the U.S. Senate is led by Republicans.

"The stakes this year simply could not be higher," said First Lady Michelle Obama, who urged voter participation at a campaign event for Udall on Thursday. Without leaders who put families ahead of political interests, she said, "We will see more folks interfering in women's private decisions about our health care."

In 2011, one of Rep. Cory Gardner's first votes in Congress (along with Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn), was to defund women's health care — just as Republicans were doing in Texas. That bill was not just a statement of belief: The vote was 240-185. And it was blocked by a Democratic Senate (that included Udall and Michael Bennet) from becoming law.

If Republicans take control of both the House and the Senate, there will be no such safeguards in the next term, whether it's for bills to defund health care — or to establish federal personhood.

On a visit to Aurora on Wednesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained why women's rights are not a single issue. "Women's rights are like the canaries in the mine; if you start going after women's rights, if you start preventing women from being fully responsible for their own decisions, then you are on a slippery slope," she said.