A coalition of reproductive rights groups in Colorado officially kicked off an effort Monday to place an amendment on the November ballot that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.
Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedom is beginning its signature-collection efforts with events throughout the state — timing its campaign launch with the 51st anniversary of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which, until it was overturned in 2022, had legalized abortion rights throughout the U.S.
The group’s efforts make Colorado the eighth state where reproductive rights groups have advanced efforts seeking to enshrine abortion rights in a state constitution via a citizen-led ballot initiative in 2024. Other states where similar efforts are underway include Florida, Arizona, Montana and Missouri.
But unlike in those states, there are no laws restricting abortion care in Colorado. In fact, Colorado is one of six states where there are no gestational limits at all for women seeking abortion care. As a result, the state has become a haven of sorts for women living in conservative states where abortion is restricted or effectively illegal.
Organizers behind the Colorado amendment effort say it’s crucial to formally enshrine those rights so future lawmakers don’t have the opportunity to undo the robust protections the state offers women seeking abortions and other reproductive care — not only for its own residents, but for the surge of women traveling to the state.
“We’ve always been a national leader on this issue. We’ve always been a place where people who needed abortion care were able to come,” said Laura Chapin, a spokesperson for the coalition.
“This ballot measure is very much of, about and for Coloradans, but I also think Colorado is a place where people look to as a hopeful symbol right now. We’re a place where people look at us and say, ‘Colorado is a place where they look out for people and they protect people.’ So I think for us this ballot measure is both practical and symbolic,” added Chapin, who also works at Cobalt, an abortion rights group in the state that is part of the coalition. Other groups in the coalition include Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and the ACLU of Colorado.
Unlike in many other states, the process in Colorado for determining the language of the proposed amendment was settled before signature collection efforts got underway. A lengthy process with state officials ended in late October, but Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedom said it wanted to wait for the Roe anniversary to kick off its signature collection effort.
The group must now collect just over 124,000 valid signatures by April 26 to qualify for the November ballot. That total must include 2% of the total registered voters in each of Colorado’s 35 state Senate districts.
If they are successful, the measure would require the support of 55% of voters in November — not just a simple majority, as is the case in many other states — to pass.
Chapin expressed conviction that the group would meet the requirement and ultimately win in November, noting that abortion rights supporters defeated a proposed ballot initiative four years ago that sought to restrict abortion rights in the state 59% to 41% — a better margin of victory in the solidly blue state than Joe Biden’s in the presidential race that year.
“We are confident,” she said. “Colorado is a state that strongly supports abortion rights.”
The proposed amendment would declare formally that “the right to abortion is hereby recognized” and that “government shall not deny, impede or discriminate against the exercise of that right.”
The proposal explicitly states that the government may not prohibit health insurance coverage for abortion, including insurance plans for public employees and publicly funded insurance plans.
That provision would effectively undo a 1984 law that barred people from using their health insurance to pay for abortion care.