top of page

Sebastian's Point

Sebastian's Point is a weekly column written by one of our members regarding timely events or analysis of relevant ideas, which impact the Culture of Life. All regular members are invited to submit a column for publication at soss.submissions@gmail.com. Columns should be between 800 to 1300 words and comply with the high standards expected in academic writing, including proper citations of authority or assertions referred to in your column. Please see, Submission Requirements for more details.

Defeating the Pro-Abortion Colorado Amendment Initiative

Tom Perille M.D.

President, Democrats for Life of Colorado

Vice-President AAPLOG Colorado

Member of the Board Pro-Life Colorado   |  12 May 2024

 

Colorado has the sad distinction of being the first state in the nation to expand abortion access beyond life-threatening conditions and “forcible” rape.  In 1967, the Republican-controlled legislature and Republican governor made abortion legal for physical/mental health reasons, statutory rape, as well as for a “deformed or retarded” child.1 

 

Since 1967 abortion advocates have seen Colorado at the vanguard of the movement.  Pro-abortion legislators intentionally avoided drafting legislation to regulate abortion in the state after the Roe decision.  They preferred the ambiguity of a state with no abortion regulations on the books.  This effectively allowed unrestricted abortion without the political liability of promoting it to the public. 

 

Only two anti-abortion laws ever succeeded in Colorado – parental notification was passed by the legislature in 2003 and mandated parental notification within 48 hours of a scheduled abortion with exceptions/judicial bypass,2 and the ballot initiative, Amendment 3, which passed in 1984 which prohibited a state entity from paying, directly or indirectly, for an induced abortion.3 

 

As the Dobbs decision was approaching, abortion advocates realized that abortion access was in jeopardy, and they finally decided to act. The Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) was passed in 2022 and declared that there was “a fundamental right to an abortion” and that “a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights” in the state of Colorado.4 Colorado is only one of the 9 states and the District of Columbia with unrestricted abortion.5  

 

In 2023, the legislature enacted a suite of laws dubbed “RHEA 2.0” that expanded access to abortion by ensuring private insurance coverage and instituting “shield laws” - protecting abortionists from malpractice and legal jeopardy in other states.6 It also restrained Pregnancy Resource Center’s free speech rights and made abortion pill reversal unprofessional conduct.  (Bella Health successfully obtained an injunction and is the only medical provider that can prescribe APR in Colorado pending further litigation).7

 

In the wake of the national backlash to the Dobbs decision, Colorado abortion advocates saw an opening to further cement abortion access into law – by passing a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution.  The “Right to Abortion” has collected the requisite signatures (pending verification) to appear on the ballot in November.8 It is deceptively simple: “THE RIGHT TO ABORTION IS HEREBY RECOGNIZED. GOVERNMENT SHALL NOT DENY, IMPEDE, OR DISCRIMINATE AGAINST THE EXERCISE OF THAT RIGHT, INCLUDING PROHIBITING HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR ABORTION.”  Packed within these 27 words, the abortion industry sees their ultimate goal – unfettered access to state-subsidized abortion at any gestational age without the encumbrance of parental involvement or health/safety regulations.  

 

Their campaign will be based on two primary (fictional) themes.  First, abortion is healthcare and in the name of “equity”, abortion access must be guaranteed to lower-income women and state employees through state insurance coverage.  Second, if we don’t enshrine abortion in the state constitution, pro-life zealots sometime in the future will enact draconian restrictions and prevent Colorado women from accessing life-saving healthcare during their pregnancy.       

 

Abortion advocates must convince 55% of Colorado voters to vote yes to win.  On the flip side, pro-life advocates only have to give 46% of the voters compelling reasons to vote no, to defeat the measure.  In a pre-Dobbs Colorado in 2020, 41% of voters voted in favor of a ballot initiative to restrict abortion after 22 weeks except to save the life of the mother.9 This gives hope to pro-life advocates.  Post-Dobbs, with proper messaging and funding, it may still be possible to garner 46% of the voters to oppose the initiative’s abortion extremism. 

 

Pro-life victory is contingent on paying attention to two fundamentally different audiences – pro-life voters and “soft” pro-choice voters.  We must aggressively register Christian pro-life voters and motivate them to vote in November.  And we must reach out to pro-choice voters and expose how the initiative goes far beyond Roe and jeopardizes women’s safety, “pregnancy equity”, and parental involvement.10 For both audiences, the horror of post-viability abortions performed on healthy women with healthy babies, should be galvanizing.  Last year there were 468 (3.2% of total) abortions performed after 21 weeks – which is the limit of viability - in Colorado according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.11

 

To avoid the mistakes we witnessed in other state ballot initiatives, pro-life advocates need to converge on clear and consistent messaging.  We cannot have some claiming that “abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother”, while others are insisting that every state in the country allows abortion to save the life of the mother.  This damages our credibility and confuses the electorate.  They are led to believe that pro-life physicians would allow a woman to die from complications of her pregnancy – which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Some would prefer that we use the term “premature delivery” or “separation” for the rare medically indicated abortion.  While we may all agree this language is more descriptive, it doesn’t really address the medical or political realities of today. 

 

We will also need to have a rapid response to every misstatement of the facts.  No, abortion restrictions don’t impact the care of a women experiencing a miscarriage or stillbirth.  No, women won’t die, or maternal mortality increase if abortion restrictions are implemented.  No, we aren’t just “pro-birth”.  We actively support women facing challenging pregnancies through our many pregnancy resource centers and in compassionate policy/programs to address the social/economic needs of women and their families. 

 

Pro-abortion advocates like to focus on the 3-4% of abortions that are pursued for rape, incest, life of the mother, and for life-limiting fetal anomalies.  This emotional appeal has been an effective tool for them. Taking a page from their playbook, we will have to focus on the 3-4% of abortions that are occurring post-viability - the majority on healthy women with healthy babies.  There are few sentient individuals who think this is a good thing and it will drive a wedge between the majority who are pro-choice and those that drafted the initiative who are simply pro-abortion.  

 

Finally, we need to corral all the strong passionate voices in our state so that we speak with one voice and have a singular aim – to defeat the radical right to abortion initiative.  We have taken the initial steps necessary to make this happen.  The umbrella organization, Pro-life Colorado, was formed in the wake of RHEA and now consists of over 50 pro-life organizations.12 It is composed of Catholic, Evangelical, Medical, Independent, and PRC groups.  We will be forming a unique collaboration with an experienced national pro-life organization to ensure sound management, and ambitious fundraising to achieve our goal.  

 

When the notoriously pro-abortion state of Colorado defeats the “Right to Abortion” in November, it will send shock waves across the country and suddenly shatter the pro-abortion narrative that has swept the nation. 

------------------------------------------------------------

  1. “In 1967, Colorado was 1st to loosen abortion law”, The Gazette, May 16, 2019, “In 1967, Colorado was 1st to loosen abortion law | AP | gazette.com”, accessed May 1, 2024. 

  2. “2022 Colorado Code Title 13 – Courts and Procedure Article 22 – Age of Competence – Arbitration – Mediation Part 7 – Colorado Parental Notification Act”, Justia US Law, Colorado Colorado Parental Notification Act Laws - 2022 Colorado Revised Statutes Title 13, Article 22, Part 7 - Colorado Parental Notification Act :: 2022 Colorado Revised Statutes :: US Codes and Statutes :: US Law :: Justia accessed May 1, 2024. 

  3. House Bill 22-1279, “Reproductive Health Equity Act,” accessed May 1, 2024 2022a_1279_signed.pdf (colorado.gov)

  4. “Colorado Amendment 3, Prohibit Public Funds for Abortion,” Ballotpedia, Colorado Amendment 3, Prohibit Public Funds for Abortions Initiative (1984) - Ballotpedia, accessed May 1, 2024. 

  5. “State Bans on Abortion Throughout Pregnancy,” Guttmacher Institute, May 1, 2024, State Bans on Abortion Throughout Pregnancy | Guttmacher Institute, accessed May 1, 2024. 

  6. Thomas J. Perille, “Perspective: Rhea 2.0 undermines choice,” Denver Gazette, March 26, 2023, PERSPECTIVE: ‘RHEA 2.0’ undermines choice | Opinion | gazette.com, accessed May 1, 2024. 

  7. Jesse Paul, “Trump-appointed judge temporarily exempts anti-abortion clinic from new Colorado law banning abortion reversal,” Colorado Sun, April 17, 2023. accessed May 1, 2024 Trump-appointed judge temporarily exempts anti-abortion clinic from new Colorado law banning abortion reversal (coloradosun.com)

  8. “Colorado Right to Abortion and Health Insurance Coverage Initiative,” Ballotpedia, accessed May 1, 2024 Colorado Right to Abortion and Health Insurance Coverage Initiative (2024) - Ballotpedia

  9. Catherine Wheeler and Tom Perille, “Pro-abortion ballot measure goes way too far,” Colorado Politics, April 30, 2024, accessed May 1, Pro-abortion ballot proposal goes way too far | OPINION | Opinion | coloradopolitics.com

  10. “Colorado Proposition 115, 22-Week Abortion Ban Initiative (2020), Ballotpedia, accessed May 1, 2024 Colorado Proposition 115, 22-Week Abortion Ban Initiative (2020) - Ballotpedia

  11. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Reported Induced Terminations of Pregnancies 2004-2023”. Personal communication. 

  12. Pro-Life Colorado, accessed May 1, 2024 Pro-Life Colorado (prolifeco.org)

bottom of page