Our Board Chair Anna recently wrote this piece in El Comercio de Colorado on a proposed state ballot initiative to ban abortion care later in pregnancy. Please read, share, and decline to sign petitions for this dangerous initiative.
Colorado families need access to abortion care
In Colorado, we have seen many attempts to take away that access. There have been “fetal personhood” initiatives attempted three times on our state ballot. This policy would have made getting or providing abortion care a crime. Colorado voters strongly voted them down, because they know people need access to abortion care. They know when people do not have it, people die getting it illegally. The Women’s Lobby of Colorado, the organization of which I am the Board Chair, agrees. We believe every person has the fundamental right to choose when and how to start a family. From first-hand experience, I know how personal and powerful that decision can be — just last year, my husband and I had a child ourselves.
Another initiative, to ban abortion later in pregnancy, is the latest proposal by those who want to ban abortion. Signatures are being gathered now. Those behind the proposal are using the stigma that surrounds abortion care, but they are not using the facts about abortion later in pregnancy. Less than 1.5% of abortion care is provided after 21 weeks and less than 1% after 24 weeks. When a person or family has a pregnancy for that long, it is almost always because they have chosen to start a family. When a pregnancy has complications, families are put into the situation where they have to choose abortion. It can be because the pregnancy has resulted in a fetus who will not live, or if it continues, the pregnant person will die. As a recent mother who was fortunate to have a healthy pregnancy and child, I know that if this had happened to me, it would have been horrible to deal with laws that would have blocked saving my life. That is not stress a family should face at such a difficult and tragic time.
We cannot let this narrative of stigma and shame around abortion care hurt Colorado families. Coloradans have said this time and time again at the ballot box. We need to offer support to communities, including comprehensive sexual education, more access to birth control, and more resources for low income women — this support allows families to choose early in a pregnancy if they are ready for family, and will often reduce abortion rates. Those are policies that help families and provide opportunity to more Coloradans.
Women's Lobby of Colorado is so proud to have so many amazing organizations as members. One of them Elephant Circle. "Inspired by elephants who give birth within a circle of support, they envision a world where all people have a circle of support for the entire perinatal period." They provide expertise and support with regard to the HOW and WHAT of birth justice. Learn more about what that means here.
They provided us some facts on what they wish we all knew about perinatal lives.
We also asked Elephant Circle to highlight one of their amazing projects. Here is one of many:
Birthworker of Color Fund
Elephant Circle has funded 5-20 Birthworkers of Color annually since we opened our doors in 2009. Our Birthworker of Color Support Fund is a central value for Elephant Circle. It is consistent with our commitment to capacity-building, providing financial support to people doing culturally relevant, community-based work. This is important in our efforts to support a healthy birth ecology in BIPOC communities. Flexibility is critical to the Fund’s success; we find that responsivity to the wide variety of needs articulated by the applicants themselves increases the value of our investment. Many Fund recipients have gone on to become national leaders in the fields of midwifery, lactation, nursing, and reproductive justice.
Picture from Dave Yarrow
We are so excited to share our 2019 Legislative Scorecard which we released last night at our 2019 Annual Scorecard Event!
This year Women’s Lobby of Colorado prioritized legislation, the Resident's Health and Safety Act (HB19-1170). With a shortage of housing in Colorado, many Colorado families have fewer options to rent. This bill strengthens the law around habitability - requiring landlords remove mold, requiring working appliances, and requiring the option for a renter to move without fees when a home is not habitable. Last night we learned more about this bill and work being done for housing justice at the Capitol and by community organizing from Representative Dominique Jackson and Housing Organizer for 9to5 Colorado Cesiah Guadarrama. It was an amazing night.
Our Scorecard also includes some of the most important bills to women (as well as most debated!) in the legislature this session, including SB19-181, which allows local communities more control over oil and gas operations in their communities, as well as prioritizing Coloradans' health and safety in the state’s oversight. The Scorecard also includes a long-time priority in education for many including the Governor, expanding full-day kindergarten. Finally, the Scorecard includes legislation Colorado women have been the voice for change for - the creation of emergency risk protection orders by Colorado courts - so that family and law enforcement can remove guns from those who evidence shows are a risk to themselves or others.
In her introduction of the Scorecard at our release party, our Board Chair Anna Ramirez Crawford said, “This year made a difference for so many. We are so thankful to the legislators who voted for legislation to protect lives and help families."
However, Women’s Lobby of Colorado’s membership opted not to score one of the bills we have prioritized over the years. It seemed this would be the year for the legislature to finally create a family and medical leave program. But sadly, corporate lobbying interests undermined the original version of the bill (The Family and Medical Leave Program, SB19-188) to create the program. Women's Lobby of Colorado will continue to support legislation to create his program - it is a program Colorado women and families need.
This was a year of policies that Colorado women and their families need. To learn more Read Our Scorecard Here!
The Colorado legislative session is in full swing. There are important bills that can help women and families. Below is a list of bills we have taken positions on as of February 6th. There will be more to come!
Election Day was historic for women candidates. They won in record numbers nationally and in Colorado.
We saw the most women ever elected to the United States Congress. This included two Native American women and two Muslim women newly-elected. The first time ever for Native American women.
In Colorado there were also some important decisions made. Colorado elected the first gay Governor in history. Colorado elected a woman state-wide, Jena Griswold, as the state's Secretary of state. Coloradans elected the most women ever to the legislature. And Coloradans elected the first transgender women in its history to the the state legislature, Brianna Titone.
Coloradans made decisions on important ballot initiatives. An Amendment to the constitution (A) to remove slavery from it passed, as well as bi-partisan election re-districting Amendments (Y and Z). We also saw Proposition 111, which limits payday lending interest pass into Colorado state law. For more election results click here.
We anticipate there will be a lot of work to do this next state legislative session. Our membership will provide a voice for women and the policies we need now, like pay equity and paid family leave.
To help us in our work to advocate for all women at the Colorado Capitol, become a member of Women's Lobby of Colorado today! Your $35 membership dues helps us provide a voice for all women at the Colorado legislature each session.
On November 17-18 Women's Lobby of Colorado joined PWN-USA and Progress for Colorado for a great two days of learning and planning for policy change in Colorado's next legislative session.
We had around 35 community members join us to learn about important issues from experts including 9to5 Colorado, the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, Colorado People's Alliance, the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, and the newly-elected Senator, Julie Gonzales.
We talked about how we can support immigrant communities, the possibilities of health care reforms and passage of paid family leave, and legislation to improve access to reproductive health care and for all communities.
Thank you to all who joined us!
Update: The US Senate confirmed Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, with Colorado Senator Micahel Bennet voting no and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner voting yes.
Thank you to Senator Michael Bennet to listening to our concerns and voting to protect women's rights and equity.
Our activism prior to the vote included this petition to Colorado's U.S. Senators urging them to vote NO on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. We need a Supreme Court nominee who will promise to protect health care access including to safe and legal abortion.
The Supreme Court is the ultimate decision-maker regarding the rights of people in our country. It has upheld many important decisions that have ensured access to education, health care, and civil rights. We need a Supreme Court majority that will protect these important public needs – for all communities.
The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh would put many of these rights – and, crucially, many Coloradans' lives – at risk. We need SCOTUS justices that will treat every person equally, a premise our democracy depends upon. Alarmingly, Judge Kavanaugh has met certain requirements by the President in his vetting, including agreeing to undermine the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade. It is clear that these would go against core Colorado values.
Colorado is a proven leader in ensuring health care and advancing women's rights. Our state implemented the ACA on our own terms, creating our own exchange and expanding our Medicaid program to include all low-income adults. In addition, Colorado was the first state to legalize abortion and has continued to protect abortion access for 50 years – including Coloradans voting down three fetal personhood ballot initiatives that would have banned it. Year after year, state leaders vote to protect legal abortion. Year after year, Colorado has prioritized lives.
We deserve Senators who will do the same.
The annual scorecard clarifies your legislators' votes and views on priorities to women and families.
Women’s Lobby of Colorado is proud to release our 10th Annual Scorecard, scoring all 100 Colorado state legislators on 13 bills that impacted women and families this legislative session. The bills scored this year provide a voting record across economic issues, civil rights, employment leave and discrimination, sexual assault, education, and healthcare.
This year was different than any other because of sexual harassment issues that came to light with the growing #MeToo movement culminating in the rare expulsion of a sitting legislator.
While we were glad to see these serious issues come to light, the Legislature’s response was a mixed bag for the women of Colorado.
The Good: Women’s Lobby Scorecard highlights HB18-1243, the Rape Shield Law, which was the organization’s priority bill, because it moved through both chambers and was signed into law by the Governor. The bill dealt with an issue brought to light by a brave victim sharing her experience about sexual assault. It will help support those who have faced assault in seeking civil damages to move forward by aligning Colorado’s civil court procedures with criminal and federal courts, which require evidence brought by a defendant in a sexual assault suit to have a hearing to determine relevance, which usually excludes retaliatory use of a survivor’s sexual history or similar information. The gap allowing broad use of evidence often deterred women and other victims from seeking damages out of fear of being shamed and victimized again.
“This bill will help Coloradans who have faced sexual assault get the damages they need and deserve to move forward,” said Ashley Wheeland, Interim Executive Director.
The bill was brought to the attention of Rep. Mike Foote (D-Lafayette) by a woman who had taken her perpetrator to court and had evidence used by him to shame her. "It was common sense to have civil law mirror criminal law with regards to sexual assault or harassment cases. If something is not relevant for a criminal case, it shouldn't be relevant for a civil case either," said sponsor Representative Foote. “I am glad to see we have aligned our law and that our courtrooms will be safer spaces for survivors.”
The Good: Women’s Lobby was pleased to join allied organizations to push for the reauthorization of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, more resources for individuals with opioid addictions, and expansion of free lunch to children up until the 8th grade. All three bills are included in this year’s scorecard.
The Bad: However, other legislation that would have helped women, including the creation of a paid family leave insurance program which would greatly benefit women who are often the caretakers of sick family members, and equal pay policies to require employers to be transparent with women regarding salary, failed. Institutional barriers like these, which we fail to address year after year, continue to hold Colorado women back.
The Ugly: The Senate failed to address sexual harassment of its members. The legislature saw a resolution in each chamber to expel members who had been found to have acted inappropriately with staff, lobbyists or other legislators. The House of Representatives expelled and appropriately responded when claims of sexual harassment were found to have merit. The Senate, however, failed to do so in an almost party-line vote.
We will not be deterred and will continue to support the women of Colorado, as well as the work of member organizations who are also fighting for women every day.
WLC announces historic organizational change and welcomes
NEW Interim Executive Director
Over the last 25 years, the Women’s Lobby of Colorado, led solely by an all-volunteer Board, has relentlessly represented the collective voice of women and families at the Colorado State Capitol. Through our active lobbying presence; outreach on issues affecting women’s social, economic, and political opportunities; and our unique multi-issue legislative Scorecard, the Women’s Lobby of Colorado has advanced gender equity in state public policies.
Since its founding in 1993, the volunteer members of the Women’s Lobby of Colorado have championed the interests of women and families across the state. Their efforts have included numerous state bills, including those designed to: eliminate childhood poverty and income inequality, to support access to quality reproductive health care, to narrow the gender pay gap and make childcare truly affordable for working women and families, and to protect the civil liberties and rights to safety for women.
It is with this sense of legacy that we are thrilled to announce a historic and long sought next step for the Women’s Lobby of Colorado – the introduction of new leadership as the organization embraces its very first Interim Executive Director!
The Women’s Lobby of Colorado welcomes Ashley Wheeland, a long-time champion for women and families at the Colorado Capitol, as she accepts the role of Interim Executive Director. Ashley is an experienced leader who has built her career fighting for public policy initiatives to improve the lives of Coloradans. Her experience includes leadership roles with the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, One Colorado, and most recently with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains as the Senior Policy and Political Director. Ashley has also substantially contributed to the Women’s Lobby of Colorado; since 2014 she has served as the Vice Chair, helping increase membership and manage legislative priorities for the organization.
“I am so proud to have worked with the Women’s Lobby of Colorado in a volunteer capacity, and now honored to help the organization as it moves into this new chapter. As we are seeing everyday, the voices of all women are vital to protecting our state and moving our state forward. Women’s Lobby of Colorado is one such voice, and I am honored to be their first Interim Executive Director.”
We are confident this new structure, led by Ashley, will broaden our reach, increase the organization’s visibility, provide growth, and maximize our long-term efforts. Most importantly, we believe the addition of an Interim Executive Director will further help the Women’s Lobby of Colorado advance opportunities for Colorado women and families whom we are honored to represent at the Capitol.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Lobby of Colorado and our next chapter of leadership, we invite you to meet Ashley by attending our signature Scorecard event on May 23rd at Butler | Snow Law in downtown Denver.