Hand inserting a piece of paper into a ballot box in front of the Colorado flag.

Colorado voters will decide abortion ballot initiative in November

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Jackie Mitchell / Ballotpedia via The Center Square

Initiative #120, sponsored by Due Date Too Late, was designed to prohibit abortions after a fetus reaches 22 weeks gestational age as calculated from the first day of the woman's last menstrual period (LMP).

To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures were required. Sponsors submitted 114,647 valid signatures on the March 4 deadline and were allowed to collect additional signatures during a 15-day cure period. The Colorado Secretary of State's office announced that the measure qualified for the ballot on June 8, 2020, after finding that proponents submitted an additional 38,557 valid signatures, bringing the total number of valid signatures submitted to 153,204.

Under the initiative, performing a prohibited abortion would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine except for in cases where an abortion is required immediately to save the life of the pregnant woman. Medical professionals who are found to have performed a prohibited abortion would have their medical licenses suspended by the Colorado Medical Board for at least three years. A woman who has a prohibited abortion could not be charged with a crime under the initiative.

Seven states – Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont – and Washington, D.C., do not restrict abortions after a certain point in a pregnancy. The other 43 states restrict abortions at a certain point in pregnancy based on varying criteria.

In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in Roe v. Wade, finding that state laws criminalizing abortion before fetal viability violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The high court held that states can regulate and/or prohibit abortions (except those to preserve the life or health of the mother) once a fetus reaches the point of viability.

One state bans abortion at 20 weeks from LMP, 17 states ban abortion at 22 weeks from LMP, and four states ban abortion at 24 weeks from LMP. Twenty states ban abortion at viability, which is around 24-28 weeks from LMP and varies by pregnancy. One state, Virginia, bans abortion in the third trimester, or around 25 weeks from LMP.

Measure sponsor Erin Behrens said, "We are going to put a very reasonable limit of 22 weeks, which is about five months into pregnancy. And we think that this reasonable limit will pass overwhelmingly in Colorado, and we will finally be brought into the 21st century. We will finally be among all the other states that have reasonable limits, and we will finally not be the late-term abortion capitol of the United States."

Jack Teter, Colorado's political director for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said, "This measure has no exceptions for rape and incest, it has no exceptions for maternal health, and that is cruel and unconscionable and that’s an abortion ban voters aren’t going to support."

Bob Enyart, a spokesman for Colorado Right to Life, told Rewire.News, "Our misguided pro-life allies have presided over decades of regulating child killing. You don’t regulate crime; you deter crime. ... Their immoral initiative seeks to protect children ‘who can survive outside the womb.’ But what about the rest of them?"

Coalition for Women and Children, which operates Due Date Too Late and supports the initiative, reported $63,849 in contributions and $44,400 in cash expenditures according to the most recent campaign finance reports, which covered through May 27. The largest donors to the initiative's support committee were Donald Hood and Kevin Heringer, who gave $10,000 each.

Abortion Access for All, which is registered to oppose the initiative, reported contributions of $105,000 and expenditures of $2,600. The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado was the largest donor, providing $30,000.

Voters in Colorado defeated citizen initiated constitutional amendments in 2008, 2010, and 2014 that attempted to define person to include unborn human beings from the moment of fertilization.

Four other measures are on the ballot in Colorado:

  • A veto referendum determining whether to join Colorado into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) and awarding Colorado's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote if the NPVIC goes into effect;
  • An initiative to amend the Colorado Constitution to state that only a citizen of the U.S. can vote in federal, state, and local elections, instead of the existing language that says every citizen of the U.S. can vote;
  • An initiative to reintroduce gray wolves on public lands; and
  • A bond issue to authorize the state to issue transportation revenue anticipation notes (TRANs) – a specific type of bond debt – in the amount of $1.837 billion with no increase to taxes.

Fifteen initiatives have been cleared for signature gathering in Colorado with 124,632 valid signatures due by August 3, 2020, to secure a place on the ballot on November 3, 2020.