Both sides of abortion debate outsite US Supreme Court

Abortion-rights supporters and opponents gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 27, 2016, after the court, in a 5-3 ruling in the case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, struck down a Texas abortion access law.

Supporters of a Colorado ban on abortions late in a pregnancy can begin circulating petitions to place the measure on next year's ballot, Secretary of State Jena Griswold's office has ruled.

Griswold's office approved the petition format Thursday, clearing the way for signature gathering to begin.

Backers of Initiative 120 now have until March 4 of next year to gather 124,632 valid voter signatures to put the measure on the November 2020 ballot.

The initiative (text here) was submitted by Erin Behrens and Giuliana Day. It would make it unlawful to perform abortions after the 22nd week of pregnancy unless the pregnant woman's life is in danger.

Colorado is one of seven states that doesn't impose any time limits on when women can get an abortion, The Associated Press reports.

A  person performing a late-term abortion would be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor under the measure and would be subject to a fine of up to $1,000, but not jail time.

He or she would also be found guilty of "unprofessional conduct," in which case he or she could be subject to having a medical license suspended for at least three years.

The initiative would not impose a penalty on a woman receiving the abortion, however.

Backers had talked earlier about an initiative to make performing late-term abortions a felony, but later switched to a misdemeanor penalty.

In a statement, Karen Middleton, executive director of the abortion-rights advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, noted that "Colorado voters have repeatedly defeated efforts to ban abortion and restrict our constitutional rights, and we are confident they will do so again. Coloradans strongly believe that decisions on abortion belong between the patient and their doctor, not with politicians."

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