Colorado abortion rights groups launch 2024 ballot measure

A coalition of reproductive rights organizations in Colorado officially launched a push Monday to place an amendment on the November ballot that would include abortion rights in the state constitution.

Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedom is kicking off its signature-collection campaign with events across the state, coinciding with the 51st anniversary of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion rights in the United States until it was overturned in 2022.

The group’s activities make Colorado the eighth state where reproductive rights organizations have advanced steps to codify abortion rights in the state constitution through a citizen-led ballot campaign in 2024. Other states with comparable attempts include Florida, Arizona, Montana, and Missouri.

Colorado abortion rights groups launch 2024 ballot measure

However, unlike those states, Colorado has no legislation regulating abortion care. In fact, Colorado is one of six states where there are no gestational limits at all for women seeking abortion services. As a result, the state has become a type of refuge for women living in conservative states where abortion is restricted or outright prohibited.

Organizers of the Colorado amendment effort say it’s critical to formally enshrine those rights so that future lawmakers don’t have the opportunity to undermine the robust protections the state provides women seeking abortions and other reproductive care — not only for its own residents but also for the influx of women visiting the state.

“We have always been the national leader on this topic. “We’ve always been a place where people could come for abortion care,” said Laura Chapin, a coalition representative.

“This ballot initiative is very much about, by, and for Coloradans, but I also believe Colorado is a place that people look to as a hopeful symbol right now. We’re a place where people look and say, ‘Colorado is a place where they watch out for and protect people.’ So I believe this ballot initiative is both practical and symbolic for us,” said Chapin, who also works for Cobalt, a state-based abortion rights organization that is part of the coalition. The partnership also includes Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

Unlike in many other states, Colorado’s process for defining the language of the proposed amendment was completed before signature collection began. A lengthy process with state officials concluded in late October, but Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedom decided to wait until the Roe anniversary to begin its signature collection drive.

To be on the November ballot, the group must now collect slightly more than 124,000 valid signatures by April 26. That figure must comprise 2% of all registered voters in each of Colorado’s 35 state Senate districts.

If they succeed, the legislation will need the backing of 55% of voters in November — not just a simple majority, as in many other states — to pass.

Chapin expressed confidence that the group would meet the requirement and ultimately win in November, noting that abortion rights supporters defeated a proposed ballot initiative to restrict abortion rights in the state 59% to 41% four years ago, a larger margin of victory in the solidly blue state than Joe Biden’s in the presidential race that year.

“We are confident,” she stated. “Colorado is a state that strongly supports abortion rights.”

The proposed amendment would explicitly declare that “the right to abortion is hereby recognized” and that the “government shall not deny, impede, or discriminate against the exercise of that right.”

The proposal specifically specifies that the government may not limit abortion coverage in health insurance plans, including those for public employees and publicly sponsored plans.

This legislation would effectively repeal a 1984 statute prohibiting people from using their health insurance to pay for abortion care.

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