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June 24, 2016 01:01 PM UTC

NARAL Hits Brakes on ColoradoCare

  • by: Colorado Pols
Sen. Irene Aguilar (right) delivers petitions for Amendment 69.
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.


12 thoughts on “NARAL Hits Brakes on ColoradoCare

    1. Could not agree more about putting this into the constitution. Whatever happened to legislating important laws and plans dealing with important issues? I think part of what has happened is legislators who are too cowardly to take responsibility. They have gone along like sheep with the craze for handing over all all the big issues to the popular popular vote, all too often in the form of constitutional amendments. A huge experiment like this does not belong in the constitution. It should be legislated so needed tweaks or full repeal can also be legislated.

      The last thing we need is another constitutional albatross to go along with TABOR. Regardless of the abortion element I'll never vote for anything on this scale to be experimented with, given a first time try out, as a practically set in stone constitutional amendment! It's crazy.

      I wish it was as hard to change ours as it is to amend the US Constitution where, BTW, you won't find Medicare or Social Security or Obamacare.

    1. Not inclined to place too much trust in the assessment of those who want to do something as ill advised as address this issue in a constitutional amendment where it will be almost impossible to fix the results of any unintended consequences. I've seen too many lousy consequences resulting from using the constitution as a substitute for legislation via our elected representatives. Having low info voters voting large complex new programs they know next to nothing about into our hard to alter constitution seems like a really, really bad idea.

      1. Honestly, I think NARAL is right. At the very least the GOPers would sue to high heaven and it could endanger abortion access. It's a nonstarter.

  1. Coloradocare thought about this:

    PoliticsThe Spot

    Would Amendment 69 limit access to abortion in Colorado?

    Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    ColoradoCareYES, the group behind Amendment 69, disputes NARAL Colorado’s legal interpretation.

    Ralph Ogden, the group’s attorney, argues in a memorandum that if the amendment is approved by voters in November, it would supersede prior amendments — including the 1984 ban on publicly funded abortion services in Article V, section 50 of the Colorado Constitution.

    “The general rule is that where an apparent conflict exists between two statutes, the courts must attempt to harmonize them to effectuate the intent of the general assembly,” the memo reads. “If the two cannot be harmonized, the statute enacted last in time controls.”

    Just being a Constitutional amendment doesn't necessarily make law bad; we have some good amendments, such as allowing abortion in the first place (first state in the country to do so), or amendment 64 which allowed recreational marijuana. We should just avoid enacting any duds like TABOR.

    It's entertaining to watch Democrats scramble to CYA on Coloradocare. They were never for it, because they were bought off by the insurance industry. But now, they can claim that they were only pro-choice – as Pols said in the original post.

    1. I absolutely believe setting this kind of thing in stone or close to it in a state constitution is a very bad idea. I will not be supporting this addition to our already virtually unworkable set of constitutional amendments but I will be supporting any measures that make it on to the ballot making it harder to amend the state constitution.  

      You don't have to be "bought off' to object to dealing with this issue via a constitutional amendment. NARAL's stand has nothing to do with my objections. I'd still be against adding another albatross to our constitution if they supported it. I'm not looking for excuses nor do I have ties to the insurance industry.  I'm sure it's the same for plenty of Dems and certainly reasonable people can disagree on this with no nefarious intent. 

      Your Bernista black helicopter orientation is spilling over to this issue.

      1. If it wasnt obvious, I was referring to politicians who are bought off by insurance lobbyists, not to Pols commenters.

        You did get your "black helicopters" =Bernistas" dig in, even though you had to stretch pretty far for it, so congratulations.

        As for me, I'm dealing with madness, addiction, the "justice" system,  criminals and con artists this week, so have little time for stupid Pols word-picking.


        1. Even politicians don't have to be "bought off" to object to huge new healthcare programs via amendment. I'm sure some just think it's a really dumb idea. I certainly do. Stretch? I hardly had to lift a finger.

    2. Last in time is one test, mj.  But another is that the specific trumps the general.  As always, the colorado supreme court would decide.

  2. And it's an all or nothin' deal. Either the whole thing is acceptable to the court it will inevitably land in, or the whole thing gets tossed on the scrap heap of "nice tries". The judge(s) can't just strike the parts that don't hold up to constitutional scrutiny. That would be "legislating from the bench" and the right-leaning politicians would go nutty-bananas.

  3. Yet more reasons why Colorado Cares sucks. Reminds me of the comment made by former Bronco Steve Atwater to a Chiefs running back he had stopped for no gain: "nice try baby." 

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