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Let's Just Vote: Colorado will decide on Prop. 115

This is part of a series of statewide ballot reviews called "We Don't Have To Agree, But Let's Just Vote." Today we look at Prop. 115, an abortion ban at 22 weeks.

DENVER — This story is part of a series of statewide ballot issue reviews for Next with Kyle Clark we're calling "We Don't Have To Agree, But Let's Just Vote." We'll continue to look at statewide ballot initiatives on Colorado's ballot and how they would impact you.

PROPOSITION 115

A YES vote prohibits abortion after 22 weeks. There's an exception if an abortion after 22 weeks would immediately save the life of the pregnant woman. It's not an exception if the abortion would be for psychological or emotional conditions.

Physicians performing an abortion after 22 weeks would be subject to a fine of $500-$5,000, but no jail time.

There would be no crime for the woman receiving the abortion.

A NO vote makes no changes to current state law. An abortion would be legal at any point in the pregnancy.

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How often are pregnancies aborted after 22 weeks, and why?

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) keeps abortion statistics, based on what's reported to the state.

Reporting of abortions is required under a Board of Health regulation.

"We do acknowledge reporting of abortions in Colorado may be incomplete, evidenced potentially in the 2019 numbers for abortions at 22 or more weeks," said Kirk Bol, manager for CDPHE's vital statistics program. "While we are uncertain of the full extent of incomplete reporting or its source, CDPHE continues its efforts to educate providers about reporting requirements and to collect complete data."

In 2019, there were 136 abortions after 22 weeks out of 9,002 abortions reported to CDPHE. That represents 1.5% of all abortions. 85.4% were at 10 weeks or earlier.

In 2018, there were 289 abortions after 22 weeks out of 8,975 abortions reported to CDPHE. That represents 3.2% of all abortions. 82.4% were at 10 weeks or earlier.

In 2017, there were 260 abortions after 22 weeks out of 8,873 abortions reported to CDPHE. That represents 2.9% of all abortions. 83.9% were at 10 weeks or earlier.

Proponents of Proposition 115 say that the fetus can live outside of that womb at 22 weeks or later.

Opponents of Proposition 115 say it has no exception for rape, incest or risk to a woman's health that is not immediate, and that it doesn't account for lethal fetal diagnoses that occur later in pregnancies.

Colorado voters have rejected three previous ballot questions about abortion in the last 12 years, though those three efforts were to define a fetus as a person.

Colorado is one of seven states that does not have limits on abortions after a certain point in the pregnancy. The other states are: Alaska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont.

You can explore all of CDPHE's data on abortion in the spreadsheet below, though the department said they are aware this data may be incomplete: "Reporting of abortions to CDPHE is required under Board of Health regulation; however, we do acknowledge reporting of abortions in Colorado may be incomplete, evidenced potentially in the 2019 numbers for abortions at 22 or more weeks. While we are uncertain of the full extent of incomplete reporting or its source, CDPHE continues its efforts to educate providers about reporting requirements and to collect complete data. This is also why exploring prior years' data as included here is valuable."

By tab, the document shows:

  • itop1 - presents long-term trends for abortions in Colorado, including a brief explanation concerning periods of diminished reporting
  • itop2 - presents abortions in Colorado by various demographic and clinical characteristics for the past five years (2015-2019). This includes breakouts by oft-requested gestational age categories.
  • itop3 - presents numbers of abortions in Colorado by the patient's state of residence
  • itop4 - presents the numbers of abortions in Colorado among Colorado residents, by age and counties of residence.

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