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Our View: Initiative 89 has hurdles as constitutional amendment

More signatures needed for abortion access on November ballot

A petition is making the rounds for signatures in support of Initiative 89 to put abortion access on the November ballot. Intended to amend the Colorado Constitution, the proposition has hurdles to clear.

If passed, Initiative 89 would not only enshrine access and allow the procedure under health insurance plans for state and local government employees, but prohibit governments from “denying, impeding or discriminating against the exercise of that right.”

This is significant.

To land on the ballot, any petition for a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment must be signed by at least 2% of registered electors who reside in each state Senate district.

Here in Senate District 6, it’s no problem. La Plata County alone will more than cover it. But say Sterling’s Senate District 1 or Grand Junction’s District 7?

These districts might be wild cards.

We’re curious how canvass workers will strategize to gain widespread support and reach beyond recent crowds attending women’s marches.

Remember, for a constitutional amendment, 55% of the voters must vote “yes.” Not just a majority.

This is very different from what we have currently in the Reproductive Health Equity Act from 2022, which ensures abortion rights under state statute. Of course, legislation was enacted to protect reproductive rights and head off what became a reality – the absence of federal protections. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned 50 years of precedent, overruling Roe v. Wade.

With the Democratic Party controlling the offices of governor, secretary of state, attorney general and both chambers of the state Legislature, the Reproductive Health Equity Act wasn’t a heavy lift.

This measure to codify the right to an abortion did though, unfold starkly along partisan lines in the House and Senate, without one Democrat opposing it and not a single Republican voting for it.

It also stirred some of the longest debates at the state Capitol, with both chambers spending more than 40 hours arguing about it.

Currently, the Pew Research Center puts Colorado political party affiliation at 41% Republican and 42% Democrat. The center takes into consideration how closely residents identify with party affiliation.

Removing more barriers to abortion, Initiative 89 puts the decision directly to voters. And supporters have much boots-on-the-ground work ahead of the end-of-March deadline to gather signatures.

Traditionally, this paper has seen reproductive health care, including abortion, as a matter between a woman and her doctor.

If Initiative 89 passes, it will truly be the will of the people. We look forward to many upcoming conversations.