Reproductive Rights and Bodily Autonomy Statement 


Dear GITA community,    

As you all know, this summer Roe vs. Wade was overturned after 50 years of anti-abortion activism. We are still in shock and have gone through grief, rage, fear, disbelief. We are in solidarity with women, non-binary, trans, agender and all people with uteruses and believe in our ability to make decisions about our own lives and bodies. 

The Gender Institute for Teaching and Advocacy (GITA) at MSU Denver’s mission is to holistically support students, our campus, and the broader Denver community as they are impacted by and fight against sexism and other intersecting oppressions. We do so through providing academics, advocacy, and services, empowering people to bring feminist and queer values and action into their homes, workplaces, and communal spaces. The Supreme Court’s recent anti-abortion decision runs counter to our most core beliefs! 

As descendants of the colonized, of the enslaved, of the fugitive migrant, of the trafficked, of the survivors, of the feminine, of the agender features of the dying earth;  

Pushed by the winds of profit, gentrification, imperialism, neoliberalism, and other plagues,   

Policed in our own neighborhoods, searched one more time at the border;  

Bodies, searched and researched, ordered, and reordered, deported and reported,   

Moved at the pace of time …  

50 years, 500 years of the same tactics, mutated, reengineered across time and space. My grandmother and your great, great grandmother remember it by heart. Taking us away from governing the most intimate, our own bodies! We know that communities of color, poor people, rural people, and other marginalized groups who already face the greatest challenges to access health care will be the most affected by the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. In states where abortion bans are in place, pregnant people are already seeking abortions in other states. We know that traveling out of state will be challenging for those surviving in poverty or who barely make it paycheck to paycheck, those who lack the knowledge of abortion funds, those who are in abusive relationships, those who are primary care givers, those who fear travel due to being undocumented, those who are minors. We know this.  

We also know that limiting or penalizing abortion has almost no effect on the number of abortions that take place.  As the Guttmacher Institute  demonstrates, abortions occur as frequently in countries where abortion is banned outright or “allowed only to save a woman’s life” as it is in countries where abortion is allowed without restriction37 and 34 per 1,000 women, respectively.”[1] The difference is that in countries where abortion is banned, the abortions there are far less safe, making it a leading cause of maternal mortality in those countries. One 2009 study showed that of the 20 million people who survived unsafe abortions, 5 million suffered long-term health complications.[2]  The U.S. already has the highest maternal mortality rate of any country in the global North. Approximately  700 women die of pregnancy-related causes every year and, according to the CDC, about 3 in 5 of those deaths are preventable.[3] Researchers at the University of Colorado are already predicting that maternal mortality will rise by 24% over the next few years, a number that will be worse for women of color, and especially for Black women, who already experience disproportionate maternal death. [4]    

In Colorado, we are well-positioned to fight this attack. In fact, Colorado was the first state to decriminalize abortion in 1967. In April 2022, Gov. Polis signed into law the Reproductive Health Equity Act. The bill declares that “every individual has a fundamental right to use or refuse contraception; every pregnant individual has a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion; and a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state.”[5] This means that despite the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, Colorado state law guarantees that abortion will remain legal here.    

This is crucial because most of the states surrounding Colorado, including Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona have restricted abortion rights and access, and in some cases implemented near-total bans. With approximately 20 abortion facilities and no limit on the gestational period in which an abortion can be performed, Colorado will become a safe haven for people seeking abortions from states where the procedure is banned or severely restricted. This will be especially true because the number of abortion clinics in our neighboring states wherein abortions will continue is much lower than the number in Colorado;  Kansas has just four[6] clinics and New Mexico has six[7]. It is not surprising, then, that facilities in Colorado are already overbooked, which increases the amount of time patients must wait to access the procedure.   

These wait times will impact those of us associated with MSU Denver, other Coloradans and people from out of state. According to Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains “clinics are expecting an 80% increase in abortion care patient volume in the first year” post Roe. [8]   

Local organizations and Denverite networks are mobilizing to assist individuals who travel to the state to access abortion. As various states contemplate banning the right to interstate travel for abortion or building criminal cases against providers in different states, Governor Polis signed an executive order in July stating that Colorado will not assist other states in criminal or civil investigations used to prevent people from accessing abortions.[9] Providers and volunteers may thus act with more ease.    

We are also concerned about how this ruling may affect other ways to manage our bodily autonomy and privacy. As some Justices invited the court to revisit other cases that have already been decided regarding contraception and same-sex relationships and marriage.    

As staff and educators in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality studies, we know that we have been doing our work since 1973, when the program in Women’s Studies at MSU Denver was created (now Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies). We know that this is also true beyond the confines of our university. For the past 50 years, thousands of faculties, staff and students have had the opportunity to truly question themselves about power, privilege, and oppression, gaining access to a language and analytical frameworks, which permit reflecting on inequalities and structural violence and designing strategies for a better world. While moments like this can make it easy to question the impact of our work as feminist and social justice educators, staff, and students, we need to remember that 61% of people in the U.S. believe that abortion should be legal in almost all cases. [10] Even in Texas, which passed S.B. 8—a near-total ban on abortions enacted nearly a year before Roe was reversed—78% of voters think abortion should be allowed in some form.[12] Overall, the Supreme Court’s decision does not reflect the perspectives of the majority. In fact, we have taught and talked and dreamt so much of bodily autonomy and reproductive rights that the anti-abortion movement knew they did not have the support of the majority. The path to follow then was a strategy that would be the decision of a minority. Five of the six judges supporting the Dobbs decision were appointed by presidents who initially lost the popular vote. Let that sink in.   

And let’s remember that we will not all experience the material consequences of these changes equitably.   

We must be prepared to fight alongside students, faculty, and staff in higher education in other states, where they directly face the impact of these changes. How might abortion restrictions impact possibilities for graduation, career opportunities, and creating the kinds of lives we want to live? How will these changes impact those faculty and staff in states where abortion is illegal but whose research, teaching or services focuses on reproductive health, and who are likely to be a resource for students who need abortions? How might we be impacted in Colorado doing our labor if interstate travel and restrictions discussions intensify or ever become law? Which measures must MSU Denver, and other universities take to protect work that may relate to reproductive rights and bodily autonomy, and that is tied to the mere definition of our job descriptions? As the reproductive landscape changes, our everyday work lives may be impacted, and we need to be prepared.

In alignment with our mission, GITA is a space to reflect, strategize and dream together of the world we want. We invite you to seek and form community through this space.

By Anahi Russo Garrido, PhD with the GITA Team 

Here are a few ways in which you can mobilize

  • Join a student organization, Feminist Alliance or Iota, Iota, Iota and organize to support reproductive rights and bodily autonomy (learn more here)
  • Create your own community or coalition and meet at GITA. GITA offers a conference room to organizations in alignment with GITA’s mission.
  • Attend our events (Sex Café, First Feminist Mondays series, and so on.) or watch some our past programming here.
  • Educate yourself on issues that connect with bodily autonomy, reproductive rights, and decolonizing  gender and sexualities.. The most strategic actions are the most well-informed. Take courses such as: GWS 1001 Introduction to Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies, GWS 1500 Introduction to Transgender Studies, GWS 1200 Multicultural Genders and Sexualities, GWS 2100 Women of Color. Already taken these courses? Dig deeper with GWS 4240 Gender and Violence or GWS 3230 Bodies and Embodiment. See our other courses  here.
  • Join one of our Public  Feminisms Lab in which we reflect on queer and feminist issues and popularize them through creative projects for a broader dialogue with the campus and community. For more information about our recent Lab focusing on Reproductive Justice Now!, as well as the art exhibit that emerged out of it, see here.
  • Volunteer, donate or participate with a local organization working on reproductive justice and bodily autonomy.

Here are some Colorado organizations that you can volunteer, donate, or participate with:

  • The Brazen Project: a Colorado-based, youth-led initiative to end abortion stigma on college campuses.  
  • Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, Inc. 
  • COLOR: Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights 
  • Colorado Doula Project: A grassroots, nonprofit, volunteer-based collective of full-spectrum doulas and reproductive justice advocates   
  • Cobalt: A non-profit organization dedicated to Abortion Access and Reproductive Rights 
  • WRRAP: Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project 
  • NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado: An organization that develops and sustains a constituency that uses the political process to guarantee every woman the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive health choices 
  • The Center on Colfax: The Center ensures that every member of the LGBTQ community has access to the programs and resources they need to live happy, healthy, and productive lives.