Protestors gathered at the Colorado Capitol on May 3, 2022, in support of legal abortions. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)
As the U.S. Supreme Court appears ready to overturn the Roe v. Wade precedent, abortion access is poised to become a large issue in the 2022 midterm elections, including in Colorado’s gubernatorial race.
Incumbent Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, is clear in his support for abortion rights and establishing Colorado as a refuge for people to seek care. In April, he signed into law the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which codifies in state law the right to reproductive health and abortion access in the state.
Polis’s conservative opponents, however, took the news of a potential post-Roe world as opportunity to reaffirm their anti-abortion policy standpoints.
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Greg Lopez and Heidi Ganahl are facing each other for the June 28 Republican primary while Danielle Neuschwanger will be on the general election ballot for the American Constitution Party.
A previous iteration of Lopez’s campaign website states his “pro-life” values.
“Life is sacred and, as science affirms, begins at conception. The terms ‘embryo’ and ‘fetus’ do not refer to non-humans, but to humans in a specific stage of development,” the issue statement reads. “Abortions do not terminate a pregnancy, they terminate a life. I am against the termination of life.”
In an interview with Kyle Clark of 9News this week, Lopez said he would likely sign an abortion ban as governor if the state Legislature passed one.
“The language of the legislation is what the governor needs to look at,” he said. “The most powerful people in government are not the elected officials, but the bureaucrats in how they interpret the language of the bill. I would have to read the bill very carefully.”
He said he would work to undo RHEA and wants to put the question of abortion rights to voters.
“As governor, I’m going to rally the people and we’re going to put this on the ballot to make sure the people truly understand what they want Colorado to do,” he said during a March forum in Colorado Springs.
A February poll by the Democratic polling firm Global Strategy Group showed that 66% of Coloradans would vote in favor of a constitutional amendment that guarantees the right to an abortion in the state.
Ganahl has consistently called herself a “pro-life” candidate.
“Heidi is pro-life. She believes there should be exceptions made concerning rape, incest, and the health of the mother,” campaign spokeswoman Lexi Swearingen wrote in an email to Colorado Newsline.
It is unclear if Ganahl would support a 6-week abortion ban similar to those that conservative states like Texas and Oklahoma have passed. Ganahl submitted written testimony against RHEA.
“Rather than speculating on legislation that does not exist concerning an abortion ban, we need focus on the law that was just signed into law by Jared Polis. As Governor, Heidi will work to repeal what is the most extreme abortion law in the country, allowing abortions up to birth,” Swearingen wrote.
RHEA protects existing reproductive health protections in Colorado and doesn’t make any distinctions or regulations regarding a stage of pregnancy. In 2019, about 93% of abortions took place before 13 weeks of pregnancy and fewer than 1% were performed after 21 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Neuschwanger said she is not in favor of completely outlawing abortion but opposes RHEA.
“‘Outlaw’ takes the rights of medical professionals away to make life saving measures when necessary. I am personally pro-life and the horrific abortion bills that have been introduced and passed recently fall along the line of infanticide versus medical necessity. What we need is to protect our unborn children while rebuilding the nuclear family structure,” Neuschwanger said in a statement to Colorado Newsline, responding to a question about whether she would support an abortion ban.
She went on to say that “making any statement regarding the blind approval of legislative language is not only irresponsible but speculative at best regarding Colorado’s future,” similar to Ganahl’s reluctance to comment on hypothetical legislation.
In a May 4 tweet, Neuschwanger called abortion “population control and murder.”
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