From Ohio to Arizona, state governments are enacting abortion bans following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade. However, a handful of other states are doing the opposite, with their governors signing executive orders to strengthen existing state protections to abortion.
The governors of Colorado, North Carolina, Maine and Rhode Island have joined those who have taken an extra step in protecting abortion rights in their state this week.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order on Wednesday to both certify the right to obtain and perform an abortion, as well as to avoid criminal charges for abortions in other states if you live in Colorado.
“We are taking needed action to protect individual freedom and the privacy of Coloradans. This important step will ensure that Colorado’s thriving economy and workforce are not impacted based on personal health decisions that are wrongly being criminalized in other states,” Polis tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.
The order cites former Gov. John Love, who was the country’s first governor to legalize abortion in their state by signing a new law in 1967 to overturn the state’s preexisting ban.
In April 2022, Polis had signed the Reproductive Health Equity Act to codify protections in Colorado for abortion.
The recent order establishes that new laws in other states will not affect the criminal status of those in Colorado.
“This impending loss of freedom for people around the country poses a threat to the people of Colorado to the extent that other states may seek to infringe on essential rights protected by Colorado law, and impose criminal penalties or civil liability for conduct that is now outlawed in other states, but remains legal in Colorado," the order states.
Therefore, Colorado residents may not be extradited for any law that is incompatible with Colorado law, including the act of obtaining or performing an abortion.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order to strengthen access to reproductive health care in the state on Wednesday.
The order takes several steps to defend the existing services in North Carolina, including to state that patients who receive abortions or providers who perform abortions will not be penalized or criminalized for providing, receiving or inquiring about reproductive health care services.
Cooper's order establishes that all cabinet agencies, or those who are part of the governor’s office, “should coordinate with each other and pursue opportunities to protect people or entities who are providing, assisting, seeking or obtaining lawful reproductive health care services in North Carolina.”
It further states that cabinet agencies may not require any pregnant cabinet agency employee to travel to a state that has restrictions on access to reproductive health care that do not include exceptions favoring the health of the pregnant employee.
The order says it does not change state law, but rather ensures that North Carolina residents will continue to have a protected right to access and perform abortions, alongside other reproductive care.
As other states uphold bans on abortion, North Carolina increasingly becomes a "critical access point" for those seeking reproductive health services, according to the order.
The signed order also recognizes “harmful consequences” to individuals' health, safety and economic stability -- particularly those who are people of color, people with disabilities, people with low income and people who live in rural areas.
“For now, it’s up to the states to determine whether women get reproductive health care, and in North Carolina they still can, thanks to my veto and enough legislative votes to sustain it. I am determined to keep it that way and people need to know that their votes in state legislative races this November will determine the fate of women’s health and freedom in our state,” Cooper said at the signing of the executive order.
In a statement on Wednesday, Cooper said that North Carolina has already seen an influx of patients coming from other states to seek abortion care.
Citing data from Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Cooper said that one third of abortion patients scheduled in North Carolina this week are from different states.
“That means there are projected to be at least 10,000 people coming to North Carolina to access reproductive health care services, mostly from states with bans and tighter restrictions. These are just numbers from Planned Parenthood, and do not include estimates from the state’s other trusted providers,” Cooper said in his statement.
Maine Gov. Janet T. Mills signed a similar executive order on Tuesday, focused on protecting the right to an abortion and the rights of those that provide abortions.
“A woman’s right to choose is just that – a woman’s, not a politician’s,” Mills said in a statement. “This Executive Order makes clear that access to reproductive health care, and the health care providers who offer it, will be protected by my Administration.”
Similar to Colorado’s executive order, Tills’ states that Maine will not assist or participate in another state’s investigation of “a person, organization, or health care provider for delivering abortion care in Maine.”
The order also specifies that the governor will use her authority to decline extradition attempts for another state attempting to charge someone for seeking or providing abortion care.
Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee also signed an executive order on Tuesday focused on protecting access to reproductive care and protecting those who may travel to Rhode Island to receive or perform abortion care from investigations by other states.
“Women should be trusted with their own health care decisions, and here in Rhode Island, we firmly support a right to choose,” McKee said in a statement.
“The executive order I signed today ensures that Rhode Island will continue to stand up for reproductive health care, especially in response to the shameful U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade,” he added.
As part of the order, no Rhode Island government agency can assist in another state’s investigation of someone who receives or performs an abortion, and the state will not cooperate with extradition requests from states whose abortion laws differ from that of Rhode Island’s.
EXECUTIVE ORDERS IN THE WAKE OF SCOTUS' DECISION
Massachusetts, New Mexico, Nevada and Minnesota governors all signed similar executive orders in the days that followed the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade.
All four orders included protections to accessing reproductive health care, including abortion, and provided legal protection to those that receive, perform, or assist in one receiving or performing an abortion.
Therefore, the four states will not cooperate with extradition attempts by another state who seeks to investigate someone for obtaining, performing or assisting with an abortion or other reproductive heath care services.
“Reproductive health care is a basic human right, and Nevada stands firm in its commitment to ensuring there is safe and equitable access for Nevadans and anyone seeking refuge from the restrictive laws in their state,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement.
“No one should be punished for providing or receiving necessary medical care, including abortions, contraception and other reproductive health care services,” he added.
“My office has been and will continue to be a firewall against legislation that would reverse reproductive freedom. This order shows our administration’s commitment to protecting patients and health care providers. Our administration is doing everything we can to protect individuals’ right to make their own health care decisions,” Minnesota Gov. Tom Waltz said in a statement.
STATES WHO UPHOLD ABORTION RIGHTS LAWS
Currently, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington have laws protecting abortion at least until the fetus’ viability.
For more information on states that have enforced or enacted bans on abortion, read here.