It’s official: Colorado voters will be asked to decide whether to ban abortion after 22 weeks on Election Day in November.
The Secretary of State’s office announced today that the Initiative 120 campaign, called Due Date Too Late, submitted more than enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot after a fraught petition process.
The campaign initially failed to submit enough valid signatures by their preliminary deadline in March, but was able to collect enough during the 15 day state-mandated cure period to make up for the insufficiency. Due to COVID-19, that cure period was postponed until after Colorado’s stay-at-home order was lifted.
“There was a ton of support out there during the cure period despite the challenges we faced because of the coronavirus,” said Due Date Too Late Communications Director Lauren Castillo in an interview with the Colorado Times Recorder. Addressing criticism and lack of support for pushing an abortion ban during a pandemic, Castillo said, “I think we’ve actually seen a greater sentiment during this time of the coronavirus pandemic of people wanting to protect lives at an even greater scale.”
Castillo added that petition circulators were provided with public health information and encouraged to use hand sanitizer and wear masks. Despite the public health guidelines, Castillo, along with many of Initiative 120’s proponents, were maskless as they submitted their last round of petitions to the Secretary of State’s office on May 29.
Initiative 120 would impose criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions after 22 weeks. It’s a measure that would have national reverberations for abortion access, given that Colorado is one of just a few states that don’t impose gestational restrictions on abortion care.
Boulder, in particular, is a safe haven for those seeking abortion care later in pregnancy. The Boulder Abortion Clinic has been a reliable target of abortion foes given that it’s one of just a handful of clinics that publicly accept patients seeking later abortion care from anywhere in the world.
The clinic’s founder, Dr. Warren Hern, specializes in treating patients with more complicated pregnancies and those with fetal diagnoses, but he also treats patients who are in domestic violence situations, those suffering from addiction, and minors who have been sexually abused, he told the Colorado Times Recorder last month.
The initiative contains no exceptions rape, incest, fetal diagnosis, or to preserve the patient’s health, only allowing abortions after 22 weeks when necessary to save the patient’s life.
“In a situation where a life would be created resulting from a sexual assault, it’s a new human life, and science shows us that there’s two human lives that we need to support and be able to protect,” said Castillo when asked why backers of the initiative didn’t include an exception for rape. “That’s why we are aimed at protecting both the mother and the child even in the situation of a rape, while as well walking that journey with her and supporting her in her healing.”
“We do reiterate that this is a human rights issue, and once there are human rights involved, there’s autonomy in both the mother and the child,” she added.
Abortion rights advocates often point to the fact that Coloradans have a history of rejecting abortion bans at the ballot box, and overwhelmingly support abortion rights.
“Placing restrictions on abortion care not only hurts women and families, it is intrusive and a violation of our basic rights,” said a spokesperson for the Colorado Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice Coalition. “Every pregnancy is unique. Medical decisions belong between patients and their health care providers, without political interference. Each person deserves the right to make their own medical decisions about their reproductive health care. Many people in our state, particularly people of color, immigrants, young people, and low-income families already face existing systemic barriers to getting an abortion. As we face an unprecedented health crisis with COVID-19 our state needs to be dismantling obstacles, not creating more.”
The campaign gathered a total of 153,204 valid signatures, well surpassing the statutory requirement of 124,632.