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Coloradans Reject 22-Week Abortion Ban, One of the Election’s Most Expensive Initiatives

With the defeat of Proposition 115 on Tuesday night, representatives from both campaigns say this vote is the start of wider education efforts on abortion in Colorado—and beyond.

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Following an emotional and expensive campaign, Coloradans voted no on Proposition 115. The statewide measure would have banned abortions after 22 weeks of gestation, unless the procedure was needed to save the mother’s life. Physicians who defied the order would have been charged with a misdemeanor and fined.

The margin was decisive: 59 percent voted against the measure as of Wednesday morning, according to the Colorado Secretary of State office. “We thought it would be a lot narrower than it was,” says Fawn Bolak, communications director for ProgressNow Colorado and a spokesperson for the Vote No on 115 campaign. “I’m just so elated that voters, once again, showed up in droves to defeat another abortion ban.”

The ballot measure was championed by the Coalition for Women and Children, an anti-abortion group, and received backing from End Birthday Abortions Colorado, the Coalition to Help Moms and Save Babies, and Catholic Charities. Giuliana Day, a co-sponsor of the proposition, says the “Due Date Too Late” campaign attracted support from Democrats, Republicans, and independent voters. “Around the country, people in general are opposed to late-term abortions,” she says.

Bolak contends that the Vote No on 115 campaign proves prevailing opinions about late-term abortions (65 percent say it should not be allowed in the second trimester, according to a 2020 Gallup poll) are a product of misinformation. Moving forward, a coalition of pro-choice advocates will be working to further educate voters about abortion access. “When folks actually learn why people need to access abortion later in pregnancy, they vote with compassion,” she says. “And that’s what we saw in Colorado.”

Of course, Vote No on 115 also had a lot of money in its arsenal. According to updated reporting from the Colorado News Collaborative’s FollowtheMoneyCO project, the opposition raked in more than $9.5 million compared to Due Date Too Late’s $702,543. Proposition 115 was also the second-most expensive statewide ballot measure during this election, closely following Proposition 118, which proposed a family and medical leave program, and passed on Tuesday night.

Proposition 115 was the fourth failed attempt to limit abortion access at a state level in 12 years. Previous ballot initiatives in 2008, 2010, and 2014—known as “personhood” amendments to the state constitution—would have required that the word “person” be used to describe unborn human beings and fetuses.

Despite those previous successes, Bolak says the pro-choice movement’s win in 2020 feels especially resonant following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to succeed her—a change that is widely viewed as a threat to Roe v. Wade. “I definitely feel like I can sleep a little better at night now,” Bolak says. “Colorado is a national and even international safe haven for abortion care. I’m proud to live in a state where we’ll be able to maintain that access.”

Colorado is just one of seven states that allow abortions to be performed during any stage of the pregnancy. Nationwide, only 1.3 percent of abortions  occur after 22 weeks of gestation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2018 study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that abortions in the United States are safe and rarely lead to complications.

Despite Tuesday night’s loss, Day still views the Coalition for Women and Children’s Due Date Too Late campaign as a success. “Many people didn’t know that late-term abortions happen in our state. That was eye-opening for a lot of people,” she says. “That just tells me we have more education to do. This is just the start.”

(MORE: All the results from Colorado’s 2020 election)

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