Petitions to ask voters to enact a ban on abortions in Colorado were turned in Wednesday to the Secretary of State's office, but with just 14,000 above the minimum, it's questionable whether that's enough to make the ballot.
Proponents for "Due Date Too Late" had said last week they had collected only 92,000 signatures as of a week ago. However, a last-minute push, including at Catholic churches, got them up to the 138,000 that they turned in on Wednesday.
The measure seeks to ban abortions performed after the “gestational age” of the fetus reaches 22 weeks. There is an exception if the life of the mother is in danger.
State law requires 124,632 "valid" signatures, which will be verified in the coming weeks by the Secretary of State's office. Whether the 138,000 turned in by the proponents will be enough is up for debate; successful petitions generally turn in at least 50% more than the minimum to account for signatures that can't be verified. The petitions to put National Popular Vote on the November ballot turned in 228,832 signatures, but more than 45,000 were disqualified. It still easily made the ballot.
The way this works: the Secretary of State does a 5% representative sample of petition signatures to verify voter records. That's how they decide whether or not enough valid sgnatures have been turned in.
If the petition signatures are deemed insufficient, proponents will have a 15-day "cure" period in which to gather and turn in more signatures. But there's a wrinkle: if the number of signatures is 90% or less of the required total, the Secretary of State's office does not do a line by line verification of signatures. The proponents can go out and collect more signatures, but the Secretary of State's office will not compare those signatures to the previous ones turned in, so it's possible that someone could sign both the original petition and the "cure" petition.
The same rules do not apply if the 5% sample reveals that the signatures were above 90% to 110% of the required valid number. In that case, every signature gets checked.
Spokeswoman Lauren Castillo of Due Date Too Late said there was "an incredible amount of momentum" in the last week and a half, with more than 43,000 signatures collected in the last six days. She said that if the signatures are deemed insufficient, the volunteer circulators in every county can be mobilized during the cure period.
"This initiative, placing the ban on abortion at 22 weeks, follows what Colorado voters and Americans believe," which is to put restrictions on late-term abortions except to save the life of the mother, Castillo said. A 22-week ban "resonates with Colorado voters as a sensible restriction."
In between now and November, Castillo said they will engage voters, answer questions and hope people will put their beliefs into action for the November election.
Colorado was the first state in the nation to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape, incest and for the health of the mother, back in 1967.
Initiative 120 is the seventh time in the past 14 years that anti-abortion advocates have tried to persuade Colorado voters to change state law around abortion.
In 2006, Initiative 80, which was also backed by the Catholic Church, got petitions approved but never turned in signatures. Two years later, the first of three ballot measures on personhood, which generally declared life began at the point of conception, was on the Colorado ballot. The 2008 measure failed on a 73.2% to 26.8% vote. In 2010, Amendment 62 lost 70.53% to 29.47%.
In 2012, another personhood initiative, number 46, turned in signatures but not enough and was declared insufficient.
Voters rejected the most recent personhood initiative, Amendment 67, on a vote of 64.87% to 35.13%.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains is expected to be among opponents to the measure should it make the ballot. Jack Teter, Planned Parenthood's political director, said in a statement Wednesday that the effort "is out of step with Colorado values of health and freedom. Colorado voters have decisively rejected restrictions and bans on abortion access three times by huge margins. If this initiative makes it onto the 2020 ballot, this time will be no different. The health of patients and the expertise of providers should be at the center of these decisions, without politically motivated meddling."