PUEBLO, Colo. (KDVR) — A showdown is underway in Colorado over abortion as one city could be gearing up to take on the state over access.
Colorado passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act to ensure everyone has the right to an abortion, but some council members in Pueblo are still trying to block abortion centers from coming to the city.
Construction on an abortion clinic in Pueblo is underway, but right now, the city does not have a facility that specializes in that care. An ordinance that looks to keep it that way passed a preliminary city council vote last week.
Pueblo abortion ordinance pushed by Texas man
The proposed measure is meant to stop abortion facilities from coming to the city by imposing criminal penalties on anyone who provides abortion pills or tools needed to perform the procedure. Wednesday night, the council hosted a work session to hear more about how state law would impact this measure going forward.
“Any abortion clinic that has already been set up can set up a franchise in Pueblo. I believe it’s not viable for them, it’s not profitable for them to do so, and that’s why they haven’t done that,” said Regina Maestri, District 1 city council member. “We don’t just need to open an abortion clinic because RHEA (the abortion rights law) came in and decided to make decisions for the people of the State of Colorado.”
RHEA lays out that everyone has the right to an abortion in Colorado, saying that the protection is a matter of state concern, regardless of any local laws.
“There’s an ordinance that had just been passed in Hobbs, New Mexico. I brought it to council to open it up for discussion. I asked our legal department if they could draft something that Pueblo could use in the same manner in order to prevent an abortion clinic from setting up shop here,” Maestri said.
The first-year councilwoman said she worked with Tamara Axworthy, of A Caring Pregnancy Center in Pueblo, and the leader of Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn, Mark Lee Dickson of Texas, to bring forward the ordinance. Both have said they support the anti-abortion movement.
Even with the state law in place, Maestri decided to move forward with the ordinance without talking with a state leader from Pueblo, who just so happened to sponsor RHEA.
“We here are suffering from poor legislation. So why would I contact somebody who takes a firm stance on what she believes is right for our community?” Maestri said.
State committed to defending abortion law
“I wasn’t aware of it until I read about it. And I’ve got to tell you, I was really surprised,” said Colorado House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar. “Pueblo voters have repeatedly voiced their opinions at the ballot that they support a woman’s right to choose.”
The Pueblo native said the ordinance does not represent Pueblo.
“Someone from Texas who doesn’t even live here has no idea about Colorado and has prided himself on marching through the country, trying to poke holes in these laws,” Esgar said of the Texas man involved in the effort. “I think people are going to see through that and people are going to see what he is trying to do and I think at the end of the day, we are going to be able to protect this fundamental right for Colorado’s women.”
The Colorado Attorney General’s Office said it is committed to defending the state’s abortion law and challenging any local ordinance that violates it.
Supporters of abortion ordinance to speak
Council members were set to take another vote on the ordinance on Monday, Dec. 12, but Maestri believes it will likely be postponed.
Maestri told FOX31 that legal representatives in support of the ordinance will speak that day after ordinance supporters were left off the agenda for Wednesday’s work session.
After threats of a lawsuit, council members will hear from those legal representatives, as well as Esgar, who will provide more background about RHEA.