Justice Ginsburg’s death raises stakes for Colorado abortion ballot

DENVER  |  Groups opposing a proposed abortion ban in Colorado are ratcheting up their efforts following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg for fear that a newly comprised Supreme Court without the liberal icon could uphold the measure.

The proposed ballot measure Colorado voters will face this November would make abortions illegal during the third trimester of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape, incest or a fatal diagnosis in which the fetus can’t survive outside the womb. It would allow abortions after that time only if a woman’s life is endangered.

With Ginsburg on the court, abortion protections first granted under Roe v. Wade were safeguarded by a majority of justices that upheld as unconstitutional past cases attempting to restrict or ban abortions. But that majority is gone following Ginsburg’s death last Friday from complications of metastatic cancer of the pancreas. If a Trump nominee is confirmed, a variety of state laws attempting to legislate restrictions or total abortion bans could be upheld by the Court.

Groups in support of safeguarding abortion rights — including the “No on Prop 115” campaign, the main group opposing the ballot initiative — are doubling the number of outreach events and their volunteer engagement is “growing exponentially” according to Stefanie Clarke, a spokesperson for the campaign.

Following the news of Ginsburg’s death, Lucy Olena the campaign’s manager wrote: “Ginsburg’s death means that if an abortion ban passes in Colorado there is no guarantee the Supreme Court would strike it down. We no longer have a fallback plan,” in an email sent Friday.

Before that email, Clarke said they saw an increase in donations on Friday.

“You can’t overstate what the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg means to women, to the reproductive rights movement, and to our nation,” Clarke said.

President Donald Trump said he will nominate Ginsburg’s replacement by the end of the week, changing the nine-member judge configuration to include six conservative judges which could challenge the abortion protections established under Roe v. Wade.

Tom Perille, President of the Democrats for Life of Colorado and a medical advisor for the “Due Date Too Late” campaign, the group behind the proposed ballot measure said they are mourning Ginsburg’s death and recognize her contribution to women’s rights.

“While we disagreed with her view that abortion is necessary to achieve equality between the sexes, we can find common ground, within the framework of Roe v. Wade, to restrict abortion after fetal viability,” Perille said.

The “Due Date Too Late” campaign is expected to issue a statement Monday afternoon.

Colorado community members from the Colorado ACLU, Women’s Lobby of Colorado along with other advocacy groups and state officials gathered Monday in front of Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s office in downtown Denver urging him to stick to his stance on President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination before the 2016 election.

“Our next election is too soon and the stakes are too high; the American people deserve a role in this process as the next Supreme Court Justice will influence the direction of this country for years to come,” Gardner said in March 2016.

“Are you ready to make sure we vote down Proposition 115? Are you ready to make sure that we continue to make sure Colorado is a blue state and we will uphold the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg?” said Denver school board director Tay Anderson on Monday to an enthusiastic crowd.

Colorado was the first state to decriminalize abortion in 1967 — six years before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized it in the Roe v. Wade decision. Initiatives to limit or ban abortions in 2008, 2010 and 2014 were voted down by Coloradans.

Dr. Warren Hern, who runs a clinic in Boulder and carries out later-term abortions said he’s alarmed by the possibility of a “totalitarian U.S. Supreme Court determined to destroy the hard-earned protections for women.”

In Louisiana, a supreme court shift may raise the stakes for another ballot measure asking voters to decide whether to rewrite the state constitution to ensure it doesn’t offer protections for abortion rights.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights organization, 17 U.S. states have laws banning abortion at 22 weeks. Currently, 43 out of the 50 U.S. states ban abortion at some point in a pregnancy. Other states without statutory limits are Alaska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont.

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Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.