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Denver - Earlier today, a coalition of progressive leaders, labor, and pro-choice groups held a press conference opposing Colorado’s Amendment 69.  NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Executive Director Karen Middleton gave the following statement at the event.

"In June, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado announced our opposition to to Amendment 69.  While we agree with the principle of universal health care, we find a significant policy flaw in the proposed initiative.

I am here today to restate our opposition and to make it perfectly clear that without comprehensive women’s health care, including insurance coverage for abortion care, this measure will not serve women and families in Colorado and is not in fact, universal.

In 1984, Colorado voters passed a constitutional ballot measure that explicitly bans any public funds to be used for abortion care.  

Article V, section 50, of the Colorado Constitution states that:

"No public funds shall be used by the State of Colorado, its agencies or political subdivisions, to pay or otherwise reimburse, either directly or indirectly, any person, agency or facility for the performance of any induced abortion (except when necessary to prevent the death of the woman or unborn child where every reasonable effort is made to preserve the life of each).”

Because Colorado Care would be subject to Section 50 as a "political subdivision” of the state, Colorado Care would be prohibited from providing coverage for any abortion services to women except when continuing the pregnancy would endanger the life of the pregnant woman.

This means that presently insured women - more than 550,000 women of childbearing age in Colorado - who, today, have insurance coverage for abortion services as part of their contracted benefits today, will lose access to abortion coverage benefits if Amendment 69 passes.  This is not an abstract figure.  It includes me, many of my staff, NARAL supporters and average Coloradans.

Let’s be clear.  This has nothing to do with the federal Hyde Amendment that restricts federal dollars for publicly provided health care.  Nor does it have to do with any restriction of services or information by Catholic-run hospitals.  Those are significant barriers for poor women and women who do not have a non-Catholic alternative - and 39% of all acute care beds are in Catholic facilities -  but those are different issues.

Now, it has been suggested that if you vote on a ballot measure in 2016 that does not specifically extend this funding restriction, that it would overrule it because it is more recent.  We believe that is false.  A more recent ballot initiative that is constitutional does not automatically repeal something prior unless it is specific and offers such language.

Amendment 69 is general, and not only lacks specific protections for abortion care, but is silent on the issue.

It has also been suggested that if we pass Amendment 69 and appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court to allow for abortion coverage, that we would win.  We do not agree.  We believe that the very specific language passed in 1984 will remain in force.  

Leaving abortion coverage in limbo while this works its way up to the Colorado Supreme Court is not an option for us. It is asking a lot to expect women to put aside the central component of our healthcare and equality on the hope that the Court will agree with a legal argument we do not believe would win.

What would overturn that ban? A specific ballot measure to do so.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

One of the most disturbing arguments we have been offered, is we should remain neutral despite the severe policy issues surrounding this, and wait for it all to be worked out after the fact. This amounts to nothing more than "waiting our turn while the more important issues” are addressed.

Women - and women’s health care - have been asked to take the back seat more than once.  It may be whether we include women in the research on signs of a heart attack, whether we include women as candidates at the top of the ballot, whether we include maternity insurance, or this time, whether we should simply wait to find out if presently available abortion insurance coverage will remain safe in Colorado.

My answer and NARAL’s answer to this, is a resounding NO.

It has been suggested that abortion care services are not as frequent or as important as other forms of health care.

It has been suggested that access to other areas of reproductive women’s health care will eliminate the need to provide abortion care.  Tell that to the woman with the life-threatening pregnancy, or the woman with four children who knows she is unable to care for a fifth or simply the woman trying to make healthy decisions for herself whose contraception failed her.

It has been suggested that we could just start a little fund on the side - perhaps gifts, grants and donations - to offset this loss of abortion coverage? This smacks of a ‘backseat’ strategy and it will not solve anything.

Abortion is a part of women’s health care and it needs to be included in any program that is universal.

Experts agree: the American Congress of Obstetrician Gynecologists, "Safe, legal abortion is a necessary component of women’s health care.”

Amendment 69 does not include it.  It cannot add, hope for it or make us wait to fix it later.

Colorado is a leader in reproductive rights and we should remain one. I stand here today to urge a No vote on Amendment 69. "


The NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Foundation (NPCCF) is a statewide 501c3 organization that is dedicated to supporting and protecting every woman’s right to make informed personal decisions about the full range of reproductive health options. The NPCCF carries out education, advocacy, community organizing, and research so that the public is aware of important reproductive health issues and resources.

NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado (NPCC) is the political leader of the pro-choice movement in Colorado.  NPCC is a 501c4 organization and has more than 40,000 supporters statewide and works to develop and sustain a constituency that uses the political process to guarantee every woman the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive health choices, including preventing unintended pregnancies, bearing healthy children and choosing legal abortion.

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