Dice with letters spelling out "Pro Life" and "Pro Choice." A hand tilts the dice to show "Life" and "Choice."

Colorado voters will determine if right to abortion should be in state Constitution

© iStock - Fokusiert
Lindsey Toomer

(Colorado Newsline) Colorado voters will decide in November whether the right to abortion care should be enshrined in the state Constitution.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced Friday that Initiative 89, titled “Right to Abortion,” received enough petition signatures to appear on the 2024 general election ballot.

Roadside-style sign with the words "Elections Ahead"

© iStock - gguy44

Backed by Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedom, a coalition of abortion advocates including Cobalt and the ACLU of Colorado, the measure would also allow the procedure to be covered by health insurance plans for state and local government employees, repealing a 40-year old constitutional ban that prohibits state dollars from being used to pay for abortions.

“This initiative is our opportunity to ensure our state continues to honor the will of the voters,” Dusti Gurule, president and CEO of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights and co-chair of the coalition, said in a statement. “According to our third annual Colorado Latino Policy Agenda, protecting and expanding abortion rights is a mobilizing force for Latino voter turnout, with more than half of respondents saying that laws passed around the nation to limit or ban abortion make them more likely to vote. Protecting and expanding access to abortion is essential to democracy.”

Colorado already has strong abortion protections in place and is an island of protected care as surrounding states restrict access following the Dobbs v. Jackson decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2022 overturned the constitutional right to abortion.

In 2022, Democratic lawmakers passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act to protect abortion in state statute. Last year, Democrats passed another package of bills to protect doctors who perform abortions on patients who travel from states with abortion bans, clamp down on clinics that offer so-called “abortion reversal” procedures, and require large employers to offer abortion coverage in their health care plans, with an exemption for public employees.

“In this time of uncertainty, we need to secure abortion rights and access in the Colorado Constitution, beyond the reach of politics and politicians. This initiative will secure that right for present and future generations,” Karen Middleton, president of Cobalt and co-chair of the coalition, said in a statement. “A right isn’t a right if you can’t exercise it because you can’t afford it. We have to ensure that insurance coverage for every Coloradan, whether the source of it is public or private, includes abortion care. Colorado voters have made it clear over and over again that they support abortion rights, and we are confident they will again in November.”

As a constitutional amendment, which can’t be repealed by a vote of the Legislature, the measure would need to be approved by 55 percent of voters to pass. Colorado voters approved the public funding ban in 1984, when Amendment 3 passed with just 50.39 percent of the vote, before the 55 percent threshold was enacted.

Another ballot measure, Initiative 81, proposed an outright abortion ban in state statutes, but it failed to meet signature requirements and therefore will not appear on the November ballot.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.