In Colorado and Louisiana, Extreme State Measures Put Abortion on the Ballot

If passed, Colorado’s Prop 115 and Louisiana’s Amendment 1 would severely restrict abortion access.

abortion ballot measures. No on Colorado Proposition 115. No on Louisiana Amendment 1
A pro-abortion rally in D.C. in January. (Hillel Steinberg / Flickr)

In Colorado and Louisiana, state ballot initiatives have the potential to severely restrict a woman’s right to choose.

And while the national spotlight is on the Supreme Court in the lead up to Nov. 3, state elections could have just as great an impact on the future of abortion access.

(Check out the full list of all the ballot measures Ms. is watching this year, from raising the minimum wage to ending cash bail.)

Here’s what’s at risk.

No on Colorado Proposition 115

Prop 115 would effectively ban all abortions after 22 weeks, measured from a woman’s last menstrual period. It makes no exceptions for rape, incest or fetal abnormalities, nor for the health of the woman. The only exception is if a woman’s life is in immediate danger. 

Why its impact would be devastating for 1.2 million reproductive age women in Colorado, and others:

Colorado currently has no laws that restrict abortion access, and thus state abortion providers serve as a safe haven for out-of-state and out-of-country residents to receive care late in pregnancy.

Some of those most affected by term restrictions are young and low-income women—since single mothers, victims of domestic violence, young women and those with limited financial resources are most likely to seek abortions after 20 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

“What we see with this ban is it would potentially impact people who are already facing the most barriers,” said Denver ob/gyn Dr. Rebecca Cohen, an advocate against Prop 115. 

The exception in Prop 115 for life endangerment to the woman is misleading and inadequate. It would technically only apply in extreme circumstances, where a pregnant woman is facing immediate death, and intervention may already be too late. It would not include health risks that could be affected or worsened by pregnancy, or that would result in a more serious condition later on. 

“Setting dying as the exception is cruel and inhumane,” said Emily Escobar, a campus organizer with Feminist Majority Foundation working with Colorado students to defeat Prop 115. “When people are facing serious health complications, they are immediately given the care they need. Abortion care should be no different.”

Additionally, by not addressing issues of rape and incest, the ban would unnecessarily exacerbate trauma. In some cases, rapists can use children as leverage to control and stay connected to the victim.

Prop 115’s presence on the ballot is sparking activism amongst young voters in particular.

“With Proposition 115 on the ballot, we’ve seen a huge increase in voter participation from students on Colorado campuses because they know that with abortion access on the line, they will be one of the groups most impacted,” said Escobar.

Eighteen other states already ban abortion after 20-22 weeks. The Colorado proposition, which still polls evenly among voters, could prompt more states to follow suit.

“If [abortion opponents] think they can be successful, they will then run it in lots of other states,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of reproductive rights group Cobalt. “So we really see from a national perspective, access to care is critical.”

“This abortion ban will hurt people who are already facing impossible situations—not just in Colorado but nationwide,” NARAL national communications director Kristin Ford said.

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No on Louisiana Amendment 1

Lousiana’s Amendment 1 on the ballot could open the possibility for the state to criminalize abortion, should Roe v. Wade be overturned. The proposed amendment adds a sentence to the Louisiana Declaration of Rights:

“To protect human life, nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

“I was always running this campaign with the assumption of Roe being overturned, and not in the far off future,” said Katrina Rogers, campaign director for Louisiana for Personal Freedoms, a group working in coalition to defeat Amendment 1. “We can’t afford to be lackadaisical, or not move with a sense of urgency when it comes to protecting people’s lives and wellness and rights and bodily autonomy.”

Protecting Abortion Access

Voters can help preserve the sacred right to bodily autonomy by opposing these state measures.

Visit No On 115 and Louisiana For Personal Freedoms for more information, and cast your ballot by Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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Sophie Dorf-Kamienny is a junior at Tufts University studying sociology and community health. She is a Ms. contributing writer, and was formerly an editorial fellow, research fellow and assistant editor of social media. You can find her on Twitter at @sophie_dk_.