Note: The following is the Colorado Catholic Conference’s testimony given in opposition to SB23-189 in House Health and Insurance Committee on March 28, 2023.
If enacted, SB 189 would circumvent Colorado’s prohibition against public funding of abortion in the Colorado Constitution by requiring large employer insurance plans to provide coverage for the total cost of an abortion and requiring individual/small group plans to provide abortion coverage. We are grateful to the sponsors for the change made in the Senate to tighten religious exemption.
But we maintain that insurance funding does contain public funding, and therefore this bill continues to violate Article V, Section 50 of the Colorado Constitution, which has prohibited public funding of abortion for over 35 years.
While the changes made allow an employer to be formally exempt from a coverage mandate under the insurance law, the employer can still be sued by employees under the state civil rights employment laws for not providing such coverage.
Furthermore, SB 189 would expand the state-run “reproductive health-care program” to allow minors under the age of 19 years to apply for and enroll themselves in the state-funded “family planning services” and “family planning related services” program, which includes access to contraception and abortion referrals without parental consent and now, with amendments, it also clearly removes the parental notification law that was already in jeopardy since RHEA made abortion a “fundamental right.”
The sponsors of RHEA ensured us that it would not infringe upon parental notification, Governor Polis confirmed that RHEA did not infringe upon parental notification in his signing of the bill, and Senator Moreno I believe also confirmed this of SB 189 in the Senate; however the new language in 189 ensure that parental notification is clearly removed.
This is an erosion of parental autonomy and rights over their minor’s healthcare decisions.
The lack of an adequate religious exemption in this bill for health care providers and insurance companies make it subject to constitutional scrutiny under the First Amendment. And the violation of parental rights over their minor’s healthcare is unacceptable.
On behalf of the Colorado bishops, we respectfully ask the committee to vote “NO” on SB 189.