DENVER — Colorado voters will have the chance to weigh in on a proposal to ban abortions in the state after a set time frame.
Proposition 115 would ban abortions after a fetus reaches 22 weeks gestational age unless the pregnant woman’s life is threatened.
Currently, abortion in Colorado is legal at any time during a pregnancy. There is one restriction which specifies that the parents or guardians of a minor seeking an abortion must receive written notification about the procedure at least 48 hours in advance (with a few exemptions).
Colorado is one of only seven states that does not limit abortions after a certain point in the pregnancy.
What would Proposition 115 do?
The measure would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor for anyone who performs or attempts to perform an abortion after 22 weeks gestation. The punishment would be a fine of between $500 and $1,000.
The measure specifies that jail time is not allowed. Physicians who perform an abortion after 22 weeks would be considered to be engaging in unprofessional conduct. Doctors who are found to have violated the law will also have their license suspended for three years by the Colorado Medical Board.
The woman who receives the abortion would not be punished, neither would the person who fills the prescription or who provides the equipment for one.
The arguments for Proposition 115
For supporters of Proposition 115, this is a measure to protect lives and place what they consider reasonable restrictions on the procedure.
“We’re not taking away the rights of women, the choice to do what she decides to do over her pregnancy prior to 22 weeks,” said Giuliana Day, a sponsor for the initiative.
The initiative does not allow for women who are subjected to rape or incest to receive an abortion; however, Day says those women are allowed to make that decision all the way up until the 22 week mark and this proposal wouldn’t prohibit that.
Proposition 115 specifies that an abortion after that time frame would only be allowed if a pregnant woman’s life is threatened by a physical disorder, illness or injury. It does not, however, allow for an abortion to be sought for psychological or emotional conditions.
Day argues that this procedure is dangerous for the mother and child.
“This procedure at 22 weeks is cruel, it’s inhumane. We’re talking about the dismemberment of a baby,” Day said.
The reason 22 weeks gestation was picked by the group is because that is a point when they believe a fetus is viable. Day believes Proposition 115 would put Colorado in line with the rest of the country and the rest of the world when it comes to abortion access.
The number of abortions performed in the state after 22 weeks is hard to come by. The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) believes the number is between 20 to 300 per year.
Day and others question those numbers and say those numbers are significantly underreported. They believe a measure like this would stop 400 to 500 abortions per year.
Day believes this issue cuts across party lines, faiths and ideologies and says she wants people to talk about what it happening in the state.
“This is an issue that cannot be taboo or a stigma anymore. We must talk about abortions, especially late-term abortions," she said. “This is about the human rights issue of our lifetime.”
The arguments against Proposition 115
Opponents of Proposition 115 believe the decision over whether to seek an abortion should be left to a woman and her doctor.
“Prop. 115 is a one size fits all ban on abortion,” said Rev. Amanda Henderson, the executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. “This is simplifying a very complex issue and the truth is that every pregnancy is unique and decisions about pregnancy should be made by a woman in consultation with her healthcare provider.”
Henderson is worried that even though this proposal seems less extreme than the laws in other states, it can be a slippery slope.
She doesn’t believe it gives women enough time to make such a difficult decision since the woman might need a second opinion or additional testing and travel or costs might be associated with the procedure.
Beyond that, she argues this proposition would hurt marginalized communities more by limiting their medical access.
For decades, Henderson says, Colorado has been a safe haven of ensuring rights and access for women to make their own health decisions and she believes this law would undermine that.
Opponents of Proposition 115 are also concerned that this is part of a national effort to try to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“This is a very important ballot measure with huge consequences, especially after the changes that we’re seeing in the Supreme Court. We don’t have a backstop that we frequently have on threats to abortion rights and access,” she said.
Henderson argues that this initiative wouldn’t actually prohibit abortions but criminalize them and force women to seek unsafe procedures elsewhere.
“I shouldn’t be pushing my values to someone else when it comes to making one of the most difficult decisions that many people who are in these spaces have to make,” she said.
The final say
Proposition 115 would not affect the state’s revenue or spending in any significant way, according to a Blue Book analysis of the initiative.
The topic of banning abortions is often times emotional and controversial.
It will be up to Colorado voters on Nov. 3 to decide whether the state should impose some limits on when these procedures can and cannot happen.