The proposed ballot measure seeking to ban abortion in Colorado will not appear on the November ballot, the Colorado Secretary of State's Office told Colorado Politics.
According to the Elections Division, backers of Initiative No. 56 informed the office Monday they would not be submitting petition signatures ahead of the 5 p.m. deadline.
The ballot measure sought to define "murder of a child" and ban abortion, save in a few narrow cases. Both anti-abortion advocates and abortion rights activists noted the measure offered no legal carveout for women who get an abortion.
The ballot measure sought to prohibit the intentional murder of a child "prior to, during or after birth" — and up to age 18. It also established that such intentional murder, including by providers, would carry criminal penalties to be enforced by the attorney general and in collaboration with local law enforcement and district attorneys.
"Unfortunately, we fell short of the mark," proponent Angela Eicher told Colorado Politics. She wouldn't divulge how many signatures they collected, saying, "we got enough to show God is moving in this state" but not enough to get on the ballot.
She said they hope to try again in the future.
Christina Soliz, political director of the COLOR Action Fund, said the lack of signatures "is a sign that protecting abortion access and care is the right thing to do for our community."
"Time and time again, Coloradans have defeated anti-abortion and personhood ballot measures, such as the 'unlawful murder of an unborn,' because we know that those are not values that our people hold," she said. "This past session, we led with our partners at Cobalt and passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which was a historic moment for all of us. Coloradans support access to abortion. We know we would have defeated this ballot measure again if it came down to it."
Soliz was referring to Colorado policymakers' decision to enshrine abortion as a fundamental right under the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which Gov. Jared Polis signed into law in April. The new law is among the most permissive in the country. Passed in March following a record 23-hour debate, it affirmed in state law the right to choose an abortion or carry a pregnancy to term. Fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses do not have independent rights under the law, and it prohibits state and local public entities from denying or restricting a person's right to use or refuse contraception, or to either continue a pregnancy or have an abortion.
The 2022 ballot measure is the seventh failed attempt to ban or limit abortions dating back to 2000. Its failure to make it to the ballot wasn't surprising, as those who oppose abortion split over the measure. Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University and one of the most prominent evangelical voices on the state's political scene, earlier told Colorado Politics he was doubtful the measure would make the ballot.
He said neither the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver nor Colorado Christian University has decided to support the measure, arguing the initiative, "as it is currently written, would put everybody involved in prison for murder, including the woman."
Hunt said the conversation within the anti-abortion movement in Colorado revolves around a ballot measure in 2024 that is similar to Proposition 115, which asked voters in 2020 to ban abortion after 22 weeks of gestation, except when it is required to save the life of the mother.
A ballot measure to affirm the right to abortion in the state Constitution is also being discussed for 2024.
Petition signatures for nine ballot measures were due by 5 p.m. Monday. Three were submitted, but the Secretary of State's Office determined one — Initiative No. 61, which sought to decriminalize possession of "entheogenic" plants, also known as "magic mushrooms" — fell below the threshold of registered voter signatures that it would need to make the ballot and was declared insufficient.
The measures with submitted signatures Monday now under review are:
• Initiative No. 121 would allow the sale of wine in grocery stores. So far, only beer and related spirits can be sold in grocery stores.
• Initiative No. 122 would allow for third-party delivery — think Uber or Lyft — of alcoholic beverages.
Proponents of initiative No. 63, which sought additional funding for K-12 public education, announced Monday afternoon they did not gather enough signatures for their petition.
"We are heartbroken that voters will not have the opportunity to make this historic investment in our teachers, student support professionals and students, despite their overwhelming support for Initiative 63 as demonstrated in polls and by the public enthusiasm every volunteer experienced when gathering signatures," Great Education Colorado, which backed No. 63, said in a statement. "We have learned the hard way that the enormous cost of gathering 125,000 valid signatures puts the ballot out of the reach of ordinary citizens — even with an extraordinarily popular measure with broad grassroots support like Initiative 63. Unfortunately, for all Coloradans and especially for our public school students and teachers, deep pockets appear to be a prerequisite for ballot access."
Two measures have already qualified for the November ballot:
• Initiative No. 31, which would lower the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.41%. Proponents include Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute and state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. Both were successful in 2020 with a similar measure that lowered the income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%.
• Initiative No. 58, the other "magic mushroom" measure, would allow for people to consume "natural medicines" — defined as dimethyltryptamine, ibogaine, certain forms of mescaline, peyote, psilocybin or psilocyn — in licensed facilities.
Two measures are currently under signature review:
• Initiative No. 96, which would allow retail liquor stores to obtain additional liquor licenses; and,
• Initiative No. 108, which would dedicate a portion of state income tax revenue for affordable housing.
A measure to require local approval for expanded liquor licenses also failed to turn in signatures on Monday.
Ballot measures are required to submit 124,632 valid signatures. Usually, proponents will collect at least 175,000 or more to ensure they meet the requirements.