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Colorado secretary of state bans staff travel to Alabama over abortion law

Colorado’s top elections official is restricting staff in her department from traveling to Alabama after the state passed what she called an “egregious law” that restricts abortion.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the legislation into law Wednesday night, saying in a statement that the new law “stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.” The Associated Press described the law as a “near-total” ban on the procedure, which its supporters hope will lead the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the country.

“This restrictive law, which does not even allow exceptions for incest and rape, is appalling,” Secretary of State Jena Griswold said in a news release Thursday. “We should not spend Colorado state resources in a state that restricts women’s basic rights to health care.”

But do Colorado Department of State employees travel to Alabama for work in the first place?

According to the department, the answer is yes: Its employees “regularly travel” to Auburn, Alabama, for the nonprofit Election Center’s Certified Election Registration Administrator (CERA) training and certification, according to the news release.

“Until the laws of Alabama allow for safe and legal access to health care for women, we call on the Election Center to move the location of its trainings from Alabama,” Griswold said. “I will not authorize the spending of state resources on travel to Alabama for this training or any other purpose.”

Serena Woods, a spokesperson for Griswold’s office, said in an email to McClatchy that “several” Department of State workers go to Alabama each year.

According to the Election Center’s website, the group is holding a Professional Education Program from May 13 to 18 — “a course of study designed to instill the highest level of professional knowledge and expert skill in election administration and voter registration management practices,” the group said on its site.

“No one from our office is at this year’s training because they are also hosting a regional training in June in Denver,” Woods said.

Griswold asked “other state and local leaders in Colorado and across the country” to restrict travel to Alabama as well.

“Join me in this boycott,” Griswold said.

But the governor’s office, for one, will not be joining her in the ban, the Denver Post reports, citing a spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, who said Polis nonetheless “denounced” Alabama’s abortion restrictions.

“Alabama’s rolling back of a woman’s right to choose is an existential threat to our personal freedom,” the governor’s office said, according to the Post. “The governor will always defend a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.”

Other state-level leaders across the country have blocked workers’ travel to states whose policies they disagree with in recent years, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has barred taxpayer-funded travel to 10 states, The Sacramento Bee reported in April.

The bans can create headaches in unexpected ways: A New York state ban on travel to North Carolina over its so-called “bathroom bill” from 2016 forced swimmers from the state to stay in Virginia when they competed in the NCAA Division III championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, in March, as McClatchy reported at the time.

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