Yesterday the Colorado Title Board rejected a motion for rehearing from the proponents of the “Protections for a Living Child” ballot initiative, which would classify abortion as murder and result in the prosecution of patients and medical providers and the closure of any medical facility that aids in an abortion, including pharmacies that provide medication abortion. Proponents Angela Eicher and Faye Barnhart argued that the fiscal note accompanying the initiative “appears prejudicial and could be misleading to the voter.”
The fiscal note of ballot initiatives provides an explanation of its fiscal impact on state and local government revenue and spending, and an explanation of how it will be implemented. The fiscal note for the “Protections for a Living Child” initiative found that “the measure may reduce state licensing revenue if it results in the closure of licensed facilities.”
The fiscal note also raised concerns about increased expenditures. “If the measure leads to more persons being charged with criminal offenses, costs may increase for the Attorney General, state law enforcement agencies, and the courts for the investigation and prosecution of individuals charged with criminal offenses,” reads the note. “Costs may increase for the Department of Corrections to incarcerate individuals convicted and sentenced to prison under the measure. Finally, the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, in order to remain compliant with federal law, may have increased costs to transport a person who is pregnant as a result of rape or incest to another state to obtain an abortion. Finally, the Department of Public Health and Environment may have an increase in workload to ensure regulated facilities are in compliance with the new law.”
Colorado’s economy could also be impacted if such a measure were enacted. “The measure prohibits abortion services provided by medical providers, which reduces income and jobs in this sector of the economy,” reads the fiscal note. “To the extent that additional persons are incarcerated for violating the measure, these individuals will not participate in the labor force, which may reduce income and spending in their households and communities. To the extent that the measure results in more children being born in the state, child-related spending will increase, potentially shifting spending from other areas of the economy. Additionally, labor market participation may decrease for parents or other caretakers. Over the long term, population growth may increase economic activity and output within the state.”
Twenty-two states have banned abortion since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade. A January report from the Economic Policy Institute found that states with abortion restrictions have on average lower minimum wages, unionization levels, and rates of Medicaid expansion. The study analyzed five indicators of economic security — minimum wage, unionization, unemployment insurance, Medicaid expansion and incarceration — and found strong correlations with state-level abortion access.
In 2022, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday argued that banning abortion would be “very damaging” to the economy.
Among the changes proposed to the note by Eicher and Barnhart were claims that “most pregnancies are covered by federal Medicare, including prenatal care, labor, delivery, and postnatal care, directing federal funds to the state on behalf of pregnant mothers,” and that banning abortion would increase workplace diversity.
“[Abortion] causes a disproportionate economic deficit for minorities in the workplace,” noted Eicher and Barnhart’s revised draft of the fiscal note. “When children are not killed, they may grow to become productive members of society. Since minorities are disproportionally targeted by those causing deaths to children prior to birth, once these children enter adulthood, we will see more minority workers entering the workplace.”
Jeremiah Barry, a board member representing the Office of Legislative Legal Services, questioned that assertion. “Your language about most pregnancies are covered by federal Medicare — I don’t think that’s correct,” he said. “It might be by federal Medicaid, but certainly not by Medicare. Another thing, another example of where we think you’re assuming things that aren’t contained in your measure and I don’t think are assumptions that certainly the fiscal analysts who are charged with doing this would consider. And that’s on the second page, where on the second paragraph you wanted to add that ‘the state may provide training in compassionate nonviolent services,’ and it goes on ‘including free adoption services.’ That’s an assumption that you’re making [about] what the state’s going to be doing. I don’t think that belongs in [the fiscal note]. I mean, that’s not an assumption certainly that the fiscal analyst would be considering. That’s way out there as to what they do. I’m with my fellow board members that while I think you have adequately stated the grounds to ask for rehearing on this, I am so far not convinced that you have shown that it is misleading, prejudicial or has not complied with the requirements of the statute.”
Title Board Chair Theresa Conley affirmed the accuracy of the fiscal note as it was originally prepared. “We’re not seeing any language that should be pulled from the drafted language that we shared — either struck or added — here,” she said. “I appreciate your effort in doing this. And again, we wanted to make sure that we’re being as accessible as we can in terms of a very barebones motion, and appreciate your giving us the edited comments, but having looked at it closely, we just don’t see any any changes and anything that’s biased or prejudicial in the fiscal summary as it was drafted.”
In 2008 Colorado saw the nation’s first attempt at a “fetal personhood” ballot initiative with Amendment 48. Kristi Burton Brown, the outgoing Colorado Republican Party Chair, was the sponsor behind that measure, and has built her political career on her anti-abortion stance. Amendment 48, and a 2010 attempt, Amendment 62, were both rejected by voters with over 70% of voters opposed, and did not receive a majority vote in any county in Colorado. Amendment 67, in 2014, was rejected by nearly 65% of voters, and 2020’s Proposition 115, which would have banned abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, was defeated with 59% of the vote, after opponents spent $9.5 million to campaign against the measure. In 2022, an attempt to classify abortion as “murder” failed to gather enough signatures to even make it on the ballot.
In addition to the string of failed personhood amendments, Colorado Republicans have consistently introduced doomed legislation to restrict abortion access in Colorado. In February, 2022, Democrats rejected three anti-abortion measures, and this year, bills to end abortion in Colorado, provide pain medication to fetuses during abortions, and provide information about abortion pill reversal were voted down.
Following the motion for rehearing from the “Protections for a Living Child” proponents, the Title Board set the title for Initiatives 89 and 90, “Right to Abortion,” which would recognize the right to an abortion under the Colorado Constitution and allow coverage of the procedure by health insurance plans for state and local government employees. Both “Protections for a Living Child” and “Right to Abortion” initiatives will require 124,238 signatures to appear on the ballot. Because the “Right to Abortion” initiatives are repealing a provision of the state constitution, they will need signatures of at least 2% of voters in each of the state’s 35 state Senate districts and require a 55% majority for passage.