Four Palmer High School students on their lunch break stopped by a display in front of Colorado Springs City Hall that had hundreds of baby shoes tacked to boards.
What was this? They wondered.
On the inaugural Frances Xavier Cabrini Day, the new state holiday replacing Columbus Day and honoring the 19th-century Catholic saint, the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs rallied to call for voters to pass Proposition 115. The statewide ballot measure would ban abortion after 22 weeks of gestation, except if the life of the mother was in danger.
A few of the students said they knew how they would vote — if they were 18. Their opinions reflect the general voting population, according to proponents of the late-term abortion ban.
Chloe Bullard, 17, was clear: “I think if you don’t want a child, you should be able to have an abortion.”
“I don’t see why you’d wait that long; you think you would want to do it as soon as possible,” said Kali Roberts, 16.
Hannah LaRue, 17, said she’s not “pro-life,” but she’s not sure she agrees with late-term abortion.
Adam Ceryenka, who's also 17, said he would support such a ban, particularly if it had exceptions for certain circumstances.
Julie Bailey, vice president of Pikes Peak Citizens for Life and director of the Respect Life Apostolate for the Diocese of Colorado Springs, said several polls show a majority of Americans would like to see restrictions on abortions.
In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll conducted last year, 61% of respondents said they were in favor of a combination of limitations, a 2019 you.gov survey showed 79% of adults rejected late-term abortion, and a 2018 Gallup poll showed 13% supported late-term abortion in the third trimester, when many fetuses can survive outside the womb.
Between 200 and 400 late-term abortions are performed in Colorado annually, Bailey's organization estimates.
Planned Parenthood, a leading opponent of the measure, cites statistics from polls including the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey that 3 in 4 Americans support the constitutional right to abortion access. Planned Parenthood says restricting late-term abortions would "erode Roe v. Wade," the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled the Constitution protects a pregnant woman's right to choose to have an abortion.
Colorado, which in 1967 became the first state to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape, incest and permanent disability of the woman, is one of seven states that have no restrictions on abortion, such as late-term procedures.
Opponents of the ban say that is one of the reasons voters should reject the proposition.
“Colorado is a safe haven for abortion access,” Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains lists as one of five reasons to not support the ban. In fact, in April, COVID-related shutdowns of abortion clinics in Texas drove Colorado abortion clinics to experience a more than tenfold increase in patients traveling from Texas for abortions, according to Planned Parenthood.
This is the fourth time Colorado voters will decide on a proposal to limit abortions. The first three were constitutional amendments related to “personhood,” Bailey said.
Proposition 115 is a statutory proposition and does not call for a complete ban.
Among opponents’ objections are that cases of rape, incest and fetal abnormalities are not excluded.
If the ban passes, Bailey said, abortions would be allowed up to 22 weeks of gestation, during which women who wanted abortions because of such circumstances could have them.
Penalties such as fines would not be assessed on the woman seeking a late-term abortion but on the doctor performing the procedure, she said.
“We’re trying for a common-sense law that will appeal to all Coloradans,” Bailey said. “This is not radical; Colorado’s current law is extreme.”
Coloradans have said “no” three times at the ballot box, Planned Parenthood notes in arguing against the measure.
“Reproductive freedom is a deeply held Colorado value,” the organization’s website states. “This November, Coloradans will fight to protect our right to make health care decisions without political interference.”