Colorado voters will find a measure on their ballots next month to limit the gestational age at which an abortion can be performed to 22 weeks.
Under Proposition 115, abortions after 22 weeks would be unlawful, and the physician could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor — the most serious level of misdemeanor in Colorado. The physicians would have their medical licenses suspended by the Colorado Medical Board for at least three years and would have to pay a fine ranging from $500 to $5,000.
If the measure passes, doctors will be allowed to perform abortions when the life of the mother is in danger. And even if the abortion is unlawful, women would not face criminal charges for undergoing an abortion.
“If someone seeks an abortion at this stage, there’s a reason … such as a lethal fetal diagnosis discovered at the 20-week ultrasound,” said Lisa Radelet, communications director for the Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center, an abortion provider. “And while Prop 115 does include an exception for when the pregnant woman’s life is in immediate danger, there is no exception for risks to her health.”
If enacted, the measure would amend Colorado law but not the state constitution, meaning it could be overturned by the legislature. It does not allow abortion if the doctor determines the fetus will not survive for long after birth.
The anti-abortion activist group backing the measure, Due Date Too Late, initially fell about 10,000 signatures short of the requisite 124,632 to have the measure placed on the 2020 ballot, but the state’s secretary of state granted the group an additional 15 days to collect the signatures once Colorado’s stay-at-home order lifted.
Colorado is one of seven states, in addition to Washington, D.C., that does not restrict abortion after a certain point in a pregnancy. Meanwhile, states have enacted 1,074 abortion restrictions in the 43 years since the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide. Of more than 1,000 restrictions since 1973, 288 have been enacted since 2010 alone, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights policy organization.
Views on the legality of abortion have stayed relatively consistent for more than a decade, according to Gallup, with 48% of people calling themselves “pro-choice” and 46% “pro-life” over the past year. Roughly half of the United States believes abortion should remain legal with some restrictions in place.
Coloradoans have rejected other abortion restrictions in the past two decades. Most notably, voters defeated measures in 2008, 2010, and 2014 that would have defined “person” in the state constitution to include fetuses or unborn human beings. The state legislature unsuccessfully tried to ban abortion in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.