A lot has happened in the short amount of time since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. As of Aug. 2, 10 states have already outlawed abortion, with another four banning the procedure after six weeks, before most women even know they are pregnant. Lawmakers have drafted bills to allow citizens to sue mothers who seek an abortion in a nearby state — such as Colorado. And one particularly troubling case involving a 10-year-old girl highlighted how draconian laws can prevent even the most vulnerable from getting the health care they need.
It is hard, at times, to recognize the country that nine justices are remaking. The speed with which life has changed for millions of Americans serves to underscore just how precarious some fundamental rights may just be. And it makes it all the more imperative that our lawmakers work to protect these rights to the fullest extent. Ideally, these protections could come through constitutional amendments or legislative acts — such as Colorado’s Reproductive Health Equity Act which protects the right to abortion. When those protections are unavailable, executive orders can go a long way.
Gov. Jared Polis took a good initial step last month when he signed an executive order “to ensure that no Coloradan is subject to penalization for the possession, cultivation, or use of marijuana.” The order, which builds on the voter-approved Amendment 64 that legalized marijuana in the state, offers protections to workers and prevents some state agencies from providing “information, data or use resources to aid in professional investigations related to legal marijuana-related activities in Colorado.”
Importantly, Polis announced this executive order as a means to “defend individual freedoms and rights.” This phrasing was surely meant to stand as a counterpoint to the Supreme Court’s infringements, but it is important that Polis proves this was more than just opportunistic rhetoric.
Because in the eyes of some conservative leaders, overturning Roe was only the beginning. The regressive ideas laid out with such pride in Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion stand as a testament to just how far some on the right want to go. Thomas laid out a vision for an America with no right to contraception, same-sex intimacy or same-sex marriage. In the wake of Roe’s toppling and the frantic and devastating way some lawmakers have gone about imposing punitive laws to reshape our society, it is no longer hard to imagine these rights falling.
Or, like with Roe, falling back into the hands of states.
And if our basic rights are going to be left up to states, now is the time for Polis — and our Colorado lawmakers — to set about enshrining them in law. Marijuana, due to its classification as a Schedule I drug at the federal level, was a good place to start. Now, similar protections should be provided to those who seek legal abortion services in Colorado. And the rights to contraception, same-sex intimacy and same-sex marriage must be protected for all Coloradans and all who visit the state.
A country on a path toward equality is not one that seeks to take away rights or find new ways to punish its citizens. Through collective action and civic engagement, we must do the daily work of continuing our progression toward becoming a society that values freedom and fulfillment for all, where each and every one of us has the right and opportunity to pursue happiness.
No matter what happens in Washington, as long as Colorado has a say, that say must be that the freedoms and rights of Coloradans — to consume legal substances, to procure and use legal contraceptives, to be intimate with the consenting partner of their choosing and to marry whoever brings joy and love into their lives — are all equal here.
—Gary Garrison for the Editorial Board