Guest Post from Colorado: Defending Women's Health
By: Amy Runyon-Harms--director of political outreach, Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado
It’s been an interesting year in Colorado so far. And by that, I mean it’s been an interesting legislative session. While in 2011 we saw nary a glimmer of anti-choice legislation, anti-women’s health legislators have made up for lost time in 2012. This year in Colorado, we’ve seen not one, but two bills that were thinly veiled attempts at creating a “personhood” measure, in addition to a symbolic resolution that urged Congress to pass the dangerous and far-reaching Blunt amendment — allowing any employer to deny insurance coverage for any benefit (including birth control) based on a so-called “moral conviction.” Not to mention the fact that two positive pieces of legislation that would have protected and supported women’s health were defeated.
Given the abundance of things to talk about, let’s focus on the most recent legislation: Senate Memorial 003 (SM3). As mentioned above, this is a non-binding memorial (which would have given symbolic support of the Blunt amendment. Fortunately, our U.S. Senators had the good sense to vote down this dangerous amendment by a final vote of 51-48. Before the vote, however, Republicans in the Colorado State Senate introduced SM3, a memorial that would have put Colorado on record as supporting the Blunt amendment and thumbing its nose at the millions of women who depend on health insurance to provide them access to birth control.
We are incredibly lucky here in Colorado to have the highest percentage of women in our state legislature in the country. We are also lucky that a good number of these women not only voted against these bills that are bad for women, but that they are also willing to stand up and speak with great passion, eloquence, and thoughtfulness about the harms and risks of anti-women’s health legislation.
Here are some of the highlights of these women standing up for women in their state:
State Senator Morgan Carroll of Aurora began the debate by explaining that SM3 would allow an employer to impose his/her religious and moral beliefs upon all of his/her employers, thereby eroding others’ religious freedoms.
State Senator Linda Newell of Littleton, who said she was speaking out to protect her daughters’ freedoms, relayed the dangerous territory the amendment would wade into where an employer would be able to ask their employee if they take birth control or are pregnant.
State Senator Evie Hudak from Arvada exclaimed that we needed to keep Colorado in the 21st century, and State Senator Joyce Foster gave an impassioned speech ending with, “I didn’t march for decades to go backwards. I’m not marching backwards for anybody!”
The debate was lively. There were scores of senators, men and women, who made heartfelt speeches about the importance of allowing employees (and women specifically) to make their own decisions about their health care. Those opposed to SM3 filled the gallery and wore purple to make their position known. It was great to see so many people standing up for women’s health. So what was missing from the debate? All of the Republican men in the state legislature. Aside from the prime sponsor of SM3 who merely offered opening and closing remarks, not a single Republican male that signed on as a co-sponsor rose in support of their anti-women’s health memorial. They left the three Republican women to do their dirty work.
In the end, the Colorado State Senate followed the way of the U.S. Senate by defeating SM3 (on a party line vote, 20-15). And while Republicans complained that the debate took up time that should have been focused on the economy and bringing jobs to Colorado (wait….wasn’t this a Republican-sponsored memorial?!), I for one appreciate the Colorado State Senate having a thoughtful discussion about separation of church and state, and keeping the freedom and liberty of personal decisions where they belong: with women. Not with her employer.