Today, voters in Colorado and Louisiana will weigh in on state ballot measures that have the potential to diminish abortion access.
In Colorado, they’re considering Proposition 115, which would ban abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, while in Louisiana, residents will decide if the state constitution allows a right to abortions.
With the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barret to the Supreme Court, the political debate over abortion rights has escalated. The new conservative majority has raised some concerns that the court could weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision that made abortion legal in the United States in 1973. However, without touching the landmark decision, states can still try to pass laws that regulate and restrict abortion.
While anti-abortion-rights activists have failed to limit abortion access in Colorado, they hope to win over voters and ban abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother or fetus’s life is in immediate danger, and there would be no exceptions for rape or incest.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights research organization, Colorado is one of the seven states without gestational limits on abortion.
Co-sponsor, Giuliana Day of Proposition 115, said that she spent more than a year and a half advocating for change due to the lack of restrictions on abortions.
She said, “It’s one of the darkest secrets in the state, and the majority of people had no idea that this was happening.” She described the measure as reasonable and she is optimistic that it will pass.
Providers who continue to perform abortion procedures after 22 weeks could face Class 1 misdemeanor charges and fines and could lose their license for at least three years, but would not face jail time if Proposition 115 is approved.
Opponents who disagree with the measure said that abortions later in pregnancies are usually always misrepresented. An abortion at 22 weeks at that point in pregnancy is uncommon, and advocates argue that the decision should be between the patient and their doctors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1.2 percent of abortions are performed after 21 weeks of gestation.
Dr. Rebecca Cohen, and OB-GYN in metropolitan Denver, says that abortions later in pregnancy typically take place when the mother’s life is at risk or because of lethal fetal diagnosis, or financial and logistical barriers.
Cohen said, “Every pregnancy is unique, and it can change from moment to moment. I have seen healthy people turn a corner in a very dangerous, very fast way.” She added, “Abortion later in pregnancy is rare, but it comes up for circumstances in which abortion care is the best and safest option.”
She said, “From a safety perspective, it is incredibly wrong to have to sit and wait until we feel that someone’s life is in danger.”
Karen Middleton, president of the abortion-rights group called Cobalt, said that over time other states have adopted abortion restrictions, but Colorado has remained strong in their stance. Middleton warns that the ban will affect residents and others from the country who depend on Colorado for care, especially later on in pregnancy.
She said, “This ballot measure is trying to shut down abortion care in a state that is considered a safe haven, or a place of last resort for many people.” Middleton added, “any limitation right now — when we don’t know what the courts might do — feels like an additional burden on anyone who might need access to this care.”
In Louisiana, residents will vote on Amendment 1, which states that nothing in the state’s constitution protects the right to an abortion or the funding of an abortion.
Democratic State Sen. Katrina Jackson, who sponsored the measure said, “We are protecting our state’s taxpayer dollars and reaffirming Louisiana’s pro-life stance. We also believe that our people should have a say in this.”
The associate director of Louisiana Right to Life, Angie Thomas, said the group supports the initiative.