DENVER — Colorado pro-life activists have tried for years to place limits on abortion, without success, but they have reason to believe that this year may be different.
On the ballot is Proposition 115, which would enact a 22-week limit on abortions in Colorado, one of six states and the District of Columbia that have no restrictions on when abortions may be performed.
In a blue-trending state with a record of rejecting pro-life initiatives, Proposition 115 starts at a disadvantage, but Giuliana Day, an organizer of the pro-life Due Date Too Late group, said she believes even some liberal Democrats will get behind the measure.
“I feel strongly that we’re going to be able to win this one because this is so reasonable,” Ms. Day said. “I go into the community all the time, and it’s so shocking for people every time I tell them there are no restrictions. You can actually abort a baby until the moment of birth in Colorado.”
A Colorado Politics/9News poll released last week showed voters virtually split on Proposition 115, with 42% in favor, 45% opposed and 13% undecided.
The race is close even though proponents have been massively outraised by the “No On 115” campaign, which has behind it the state’s Democratic establishment, starting with Gov. Jared Polis and former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is challenging Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican.
The campaign has drawn national interest. High-profile opponents of the measure include Gloria Steinem and former Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards, as well as national pro-choice powerhouses such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
No On 115 spokeswoman Stefanie Clarke argued that there is “nothing reasonable about prohibiting women from accessing the medical care they need.”
“Proposition 115 is a ban with NO exceptions for rape, incest, risks to a pregnant woman’s health or if she receives a lethal fetal diagnosis and her pregnancy will never become viable,” she said in an email. “It’s cruel, medically inappropriate and will harm Colorado women and families.”
The No On 115 camp has amassed a war chest of about $7.5 million, while proponents have yet to hit the half-million-dollar mark. Their largest donation was $50,000 from the Archdiocese of Denver.
Even before its leftward turn, Colorado had a history of defeating pro-choice measures. Voters overwhelmingly rejected “personhood” initiatives, which would have recognized the unborn as people, in 2008, 2010 and 2014.
What may be different this year is that the 22-week limit, which supporters describe as the point at which the unborn can feel pain, has become widespread. About half of the states have 20-, 22- or 24-week limits, typically with exceptions for the life or health of the mother. Another dozen states draw the line at “fetal viability.”
In fact, the 22-week “pain-capable” threshold has become far less controversial than the recent push in state legislatures for “heartbeat” bills, which prohibit most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, typically at six to eight weeks of gestation.
Despite the No On 115 camp’s hefty ad budget, the measure has received relatively little attention, given the high profile of the presidential and Senate races.
The No On 115 campaign has argued that the decision should be left to “patients and their families and in consultation with their health care providers — free from political interference,” while supporters have countered that the measure will prevent late-term abortions.
The pro-115 group End Birthday Abortions makes the point with a website that features a photo of an empty high chair with a birthday cupcake with one candle.
“In the state of Colorado, it’s legal to have an abortion at any point in a pregnancy for any reason,” the website reads. “Women can be in labor and still choose an abortion. And they do.”
Opponents have countered that late-term abortions are incredibly rare and that the measure represents a “one-size-fits-all mandate that ignores the uniqueness of each pregnancy.”
The measure includes a misdemeanor penalty subject to fines for any medical provider who performs or attempts to perform an abortion, but it prohibits the pregnant woman from being charged with a crime.
The state’s two largest newspapers are split. The Denver Post has come out against the measure, saying “Don’t put the government in OBGYN offices,” while The Colorado Springs Gazette has supported it.
“The overwhelming majority of states — 43 — have placed restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy. It’s time for Colorado to tap the brakes, as well,” said the Gazette staff editorial.