By Priscilla Blossom, Kaiser Health News
Colorado voters are in the process of deciding a voting question that seeks to limit the length of pregnancy during which an abortion can be legally performed. While the measure would only change the law in Colorado, it would resonate in the Rocky Mountain states and the Midwest amid an escalating national struggle, fueled by a Supreme Court vacancy, over the future of abortion.
In 1967, six years before the Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade The ruling protected the right to abortion in the United States – Colorado became the first state to pass a law expanding access to legal abortion. More than 50 years later, it remains one of seven states with no gestational limits on the procedure, making Colorado one of the few options for people nationwide who need an abortion later. in pregnancy.
Proposition 115 seeks to change this. It would ban abortion in the state after 22 weeks. The proposal makes an exception to save the life of the pregnant person, but none for cases of rape or incest or to protect the health of the pregnant person or the fetus.
But the impact of the measure would also be felt by neighboring states where people have little or no access to abortion. Kelly Baden, vice president of reproductive rights of the left-wing political group State Innovation Exchange, called the surrounding area an abortion desert.
“Colorado really plays an important role in the region by being a safe haven for people who live in these very restrictive states, some of which we are neighbors, like Kansas, Nebraska – that whole strip of the Midwest, from the Dakota to the Texas. Baden said.
A study published in the Internet medical research journal in 2018, the Midwest had fewer abortion clinics per capita than any other region in the United States, with 92 facilities in 10 states.
Colorado providers have stepped in, and about 1 in 10 abortions are performed in people out of state. A billboard on Interstate 70 greeted visitors to Utah with the message “Welcome to Colorado, where you can get a safe and legal abortion.”
Colorado voters have rejected three abortion-related voting measures since 2008, which advocates have pointed out as proof that residents of the state accept the status quo.
Colorado has voted on ridiculous abortion restrictions several times before and said, ‘We don’t want it.’ It’s insulting that these extremists keep trying, ”said Whitney Woods, speaking on her behalf while on maternity leave from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
Over the past decade, however, these measures have been shunned by shrinking margins, said Bob Enyart, a spokesperson for Colorado Right to Life – one of many groups pushing for adoption. of Proposition 115.
“Coloradoians have increasingly voted to recognize every unborn child as a person from 2008 to 2010 to 2014,” Enyart said.
Indeed, Amendment 48 of 2008, which proposed to redefine the personality in the constitution of the State from the conception, received the support of 27% of the voters. Six years later, this support was increased to 35% for amendment 67.
A recent poll by 9News in Denver and Colorado Politics showed voters are more evenly divided over the new proposal, with 45% saying they will vote no, 42% planning to vote yes and a crucial 13% still undecided.
Randi Davis, an Aurora mother, is a voter whose own experience illustrates how personal and nuanced the question can be. When she was pregnant, Davis was advised to have an abortion because her baby’s chances of survival were slim to zero. She said she opted against abortion and then gave birth to a stillborn baby at term.
“I’m not necessarily for abortion,” Davis said. “However, I think every woman should have her own choice of aborting for some reason.”
She said she was voting against the proposal.
Dr Thomas Perille leads the medical advisory team of the Coalition for Women and Children (also known as Due Date Too Late), the group that requested the inclusion of Proposition 115 on the ballot and calls abortions later in pregnancy “too extreme”. Perille argues that the new proposal “bears no relation” to the previous measures, which gives him a better chance to pass.
“These were abortion bans, and Prop 115 is a reasonable restriction on abortion after fetal viability,” he said.
Abortion rights activists fear that end-of-term bans are aimed at gradually changing public opinion and gaining ground to ban the procedure altogether.
“They’re hoping they can get this under the radar and really present it as a compromise between anti-abortion and pro-choice voters,” said Fawn Bolak, spokesperson for ProgressNow Colorado. “But that’s not what it is. This is a violation of Roe vs. Wade. “
Perille said that while first trimester abortions are “relatively safe,” late abortions pose a “substantial risk” to the people who have them. Supporters of the initiative said studies show that a pregnant person’s risk of death following an abortion increases with each week of gestation.
Opponents point to another study that shows legal abortions generally tend to be safer and pose less of a threat to the lives of pregnant women than childbirth.
Colorado is not the only state to vote on an abortion initiative this election cycle. Voters in Louisiana are considering a constitutional amendment that says nothing in the state’s constitution can be interpreted as protecting a right to, or requiring funding for, abortion.
Proponents of the measure say that if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, the legality of abortion in Louisiana would rest with state lawmakers. Opponents say the measure, if passed, would eliminate legal access to abortion in the state if Roe vs. Wade is disassembled.
“Constitutions are supposed to be about preserving and enshrining freedom, but this amendment takes away freedom and rights while allowing the government to tell people what they can and cannot do with their bodies,” he said. said Michelle Erenberg, executive director of Lift Louisiana, a group that advocates for the right to abortion.
Abortion rights advocates also point out that Louisiana passed its own 22-week abortion ban ten years ago, and fear Colorado may follow a similar path towards even greater restrictions.
The decisions before voters in Colorado and Louisiana follow renewed nationwide attention to abortions since the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg last month. Senate Republicans are now putting pressure on President Donald Trump’s candidate, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. This has led voters and activists on both sides of the issue to focus heavily on what Barrett’s appointment could mean for the future of Roe vs. Wade.
Abortion opponents argue it’s not clear Barrett’s confirmation would be doomed to fail Roe deer.
“We have seen no evidence that Amy Coney Barrett has ever recognized that the unborn child is a person or has a right to life,” Enyart said. “We fear that she disagrees with the Roe deer opinion simply as a matter of process and not of morality.
But The Guardian recently reported on Barrett’s previous involvement in an anti-abortion organization, noting that she had signed an ad in the newspaper that called Roe deer “Barbarian”, who has put abortion rights defenders on edge.
Erika Christensen, who helped pass New York’s Reproductive Health Act, expressed concern but added that these new threats to abortion rights have become a rallying point for advocates.
Baden agrees, saying renewed energy is particularly strong at the local level.
“We have to look to the state level and do whatever we can to prepare for what might happen one day, whether it is from the Supreme Court or some other executive order of Trump, or something more to come, ”she said. “Roe deer is the floor, not the ceiling, right?
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a non-profit news service covering health issues. This is an independent editorial program of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
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