Sen. Irene Aguilar (right) delivers petitions for Amendment 69.
A press release yesterday from NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado announces the decision by that organization’s board of directors to formally oppose Amendment 69, the ColoradoCare single-payer health care initiative headed for the November ballot:
As the political arm of the pro-choice movement, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado’s mission is to protect abortion access and to oppose any and all attempts to limit it. It is our basic principle that abortion is a critical part of reproductive health care and any measure that would diminish it from overall women’s health cannot be supported.
With Colorado’s state’s constitutional ban on public funding for abortion, Amendment 69 would expand access to common healthcare services, but it would be at the expense of access to abortion care.
Article V, section 50, of the Colorado Constitution – passed by initiative in 1984 – states that “No public funds shall be used by the State of Colorado, its agencies or political subdivisions, to pay or otherwise reimburse, either directly or indirectly, any person, agency or facility for the performance of any induced abortion [except when necessary to prevent the death of the woman or unborn child where every reasonable effort is made to preserve the life of each].”
This has been repeatedly held not to apply to federal funds such as Medicaid. However, because Colorado Care would be subject to Section 50 as a political subdivision of the state, Colorado Care would be prohibited from providing any abortion services to women not eligible for Medicaid except when continuing the pregnancy would endanger the life of the pregnant woman.
This means that presently insured women who have access to abortion services as part of their contracted benefits today, other than when the pregnancy would endanger the life of the mother, would lose access to abortion coverage benefits under Amendment 69.
Speaking to the Colorado Independent, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado director Karen Middleton explains further:
“I think everybody supports the goal of improved healthcare for all Coloradans. But because Amendment 69 can’t provide guarantees to affordable abortion access, it isn’t truly universal health care,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado’s director, Karen Middleton. [Pols emphasis]
Amendment 69 has become a bit of a political hot potato for Democrats, even many who share the general goal of a single-payer health care system. Passage of such a sweeping change to health care in the state is a huge political lift in the most favorable political climate. In 2016, with the “Overton Window” skewed heavily rightward, it verges on an exercise in futility. What’s more, conservative opponents are hard at work terrorizing the public with their low-information spin on the plan, and gleefully daring Democrats to take a stand on it one way or the other–either to divorce them from moderates or the progressive base depending on what they choose.
The conflict that NARAL has identified between Amendment 69 and a state constitutional prohibition on public funding for abortion is of course very problematic in unspun terms for ColoradoCare proponents, and may be just the out needed to extricate Democrats from this dicey political predicament in a highly unpredictable election year.
Hopefully that happens in a way that acknowledges the sincere, good-faith intentions of ColoradoCare’s proponents. After all, someday down the road, the rest of the state (and for that matter, the nation) may well be ready for them.