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Opinion: Help us put abortion rights in the Colorado Constitution

Originally published in the Denver Post on January 25, 2024.

While Colorado has long been a trailblazer in championing individual liberties, the absence of a constitutional guarantee for the right to abortion leaves a critical gap in our commitment to securing rights. In 2024, we must protect the full range of reproductive health care in Colorado by putting abortion rights into the Colorado Constitution.

Abortion remains legal in Colorado despite the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade last summer. But the idea that abortion is protected in our state – or that all Coloradans can access the care that they need – is a myth.

That’s why the Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedom campaign is collecting signatures for a ballot measure to protect our freedom to make health care decisions for our own families. This coalition, representing a wide range of groups who support a full spectrum of reproductive health, rights, and justice issues in Colorado, is working to enshrine abortion rights in our constitution to prevent the government from denying, impeding, and interfering with the right to abortion, and instead protecting that right.

Denver Launch event on January 22, 2024.

Our Proposed Initiative 89 is straightforward. It reads: “A change to the Colorado constitution recognizing the right to abortion, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting the state and local governments from denying, impeding, or discriminating against the exercise of that right, allowing abortion to be a covered service under health insurance plans for Colorado state and local government employees and enrollees in state and local governmental insurance programs.”

Our rights are not safe from anti-abortion politics or politicians. Coloradans who work as public servants — including school teachers, firefighters, and their families — are denied abortion coverage through their employer-sponsored health insurance.

This is even true when someone becomes pregnant from rape, gets devastating news about a fetal diagnosis with their pregnancy, or if their health is in danger. These are our neighbors and friends. They teach our children, protect our communities from crime and fires, clean our streets, buildings, and parks — and provide essential services to all of us. We should support every Coloradan in making the best health care decisions possible for themselves and their families without the added stress of whether or not they can afford the medical attention they deserve.

We must secure abortion care in our state Constitution. States that have banned abortion and anti-abortion politicians nationally continue to threaten patients, providers, and helpers of people seeking abortion care nationwide. Many of us heard the story of Kate Cox, a Texas woman blocked from accessing abortion care by the Texas attorney general after a fetal diagnosis, and we know that we need more protections for all patients.

We think this is a matter of simple fairness. Coloradans’ right to have an abortion should not depend on politicians or their employers.

Coloradans across demographic, geographic, and party lines — Democrats, unaffiliated, and Republicans alike — have soundly defeated four attempts to ban abortion on the statewide ballot. The most recent effort, a 22-week ban in 2020 (before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade), lost by almost 20 points, including in more conservative parts of the state.

Latinos, a key constituency in Colorado, consistently support abortion rights. The most recent Colorado Latino Policy Agenda of 1,600 Latinos statewide found that “support for protecting reproductive health and abortion rights currently outnumbers support for banning or limiting abortion by a sizeable 4-to-1 margin at the state level … What’s more, protecting abortion rights appears to be a mobilizing force for Latino turnout, with 52% of respondents saying laws passed around the nation to limit or ban abortion make them more likely to vote in 2023.”

In a state where the values of personal autonomy and fairness are deeply ingrained, it is time to recognize that state laws alone are insufficient to safeguard the right to abortion. We must elevate this right to the Colorado Constitution to ensure that Colorado remains a state that allows Coloradans to make their own health care decisions, regardless of shifting political tides.

We need you to stand with us -– sign our ballot petitions and vote yes in November 2024. Coloradans can stand up for our values and restore the rights the Supreme Court took away.

Karen Middleton is the president of Cobalt, and Dusti Gurule is the president of COLOR.