Abortion Ban Proposal Fails to Qualify for Colorado's November Ballot | Westword

Abortion Ban Fails to Qualify for Ballot: "Colorado Is Not a Place Where You Can Mess With Our Reproductive Freedom"

On the same day, an abortion rights initiative submitted nearly double the signatures needed for the November election.
Members of Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedom turn in 99 boxes of petition signatures in support of an abortion rights ballot measure proposal.
Members of Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedom turn in 99 boxes of petition signatures in support of an abortion rights ballot measure proposal. Evan Semón
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An initiative seeking to ban abortion will not appear on Colorado's ballot in November after the campaign failed to collect enough legitimate signatures to qualify.

The campaign behind Initiative 81: Protections for a Living Child says it collected "tens of thousands of signatures" but fell short of the 124,238 it needed to turn in by April 18. If approved by voters, the ballot measure would have banned abortion at any point after conception, classifying it as homicide.

"God gave us a choice between life and death for our state," Faye Barnhart, who co-led the campaign, said in a statement. "Many didn’t have the faith or vision to see this amazing window of opportunity to lead our state to choose life. We mourn the loss of these children’s lives because we didn’t do everything we could to save them."

The anti-abortion measure's failure comes on the same day that a pro-abortion-rights campaign says it turned in nearly 240,000 signatures in support of another proposed ballot measure, Initiative 89: Right to Abortion. That proposal asks voters to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution, and also allow state funds — including Medicaid and state employee health insurance — to be used to pay for abortions.

The abortion-rights campaign turned in more than 100,000 signatures over the required amount needed to make the ballot, and did so eight days before the April 26 deadline.

"Today is a historic day," said Karen Middleton, co-chair of Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedom, during a press conference on April 18.

"Coloradans are with us in support of abortion rights and access," she continued. "Coloradans deserve the freedom to make personal, private health-care decisions, and that right shouldn't depend on the source of their health insurance or who is in office. A right without access is a right in name only." 
click to enlarge Advocates rally in support of Initiative 89: Right to Abortion during a press conference on April 18.
Advocates rally in support of Initiative 89: Right to Abortion after submitting signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Evan Semón
Colorado has among the most permissive abortion laws in the country, with state legislators taking many steps to protect abortion access since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal abortion rights and made reproductive freedoms a state issue in 2022. The Colorado Legislature has passed bills to establish abortion as a fundamental right, shield patients from out-of-state penalties and expand health-insurance coverage for the procedure.

This proposed ballot measure would solidify abortion access in Colorado even further, enshrining the right in the state constitution so that future legislators could not revoke access to abortion without approval from voters.

The Colorado Secretary of State's Office has one month to certify the signatures submitted for Initiative 89; after it passes the count, the measure will officially be added to the November ballot. It would need 55 percent approval from voters because it is a constitutional amendment.

"Our communities are more resolved than ever, and today is a clear demonstration of that resolve," said Lauren Smith with Soul 2 Soul Sisters, who helped collect petition signatures for Initiative 89. "Today is a major step toward Election Day, where voters will turn out and declare once and for all that Colorado is not a place where you can mess with our reproductive freedom."

Failed Initiative 81 was the only abortion ban measure approved to gather petition signatures for this year's election. But the anti-abortion campaign isn't giving up.

Barnhart said they'll continue pushing to ban abortion through ballot measures in future elections. She's calling on churches and Christian organizations to join in upcoming efforts, blaming this year's failure on people who are "pro-life in name only who became stumbling blocks to the efforts," in addition to not having enough publicity or petition circulators. 

“We’re just beginning," Barnhart said. "Christ promise[s] that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail.'" 
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