Abortion in Colorado is legal at all stages of pregnancy. It is one of seven states without any term restrictions as to when a pregnancy can be terminated.[1]

Outpatient abortion is available up to 26 weeks. In addition, medically indicated termination of pregnancy up to 34 weeks is also an option for conditions such as fetal anomalies, genetic disorder, fetal demise and/or severe medical problems.[2]

59% of adults said in a 2014 Pew Research Center poll that abortion should be legal in all or most cases and 36% said it should be illegal in all or most cases.[3] In 1962, the American Law Institute published their model penal code as it applied to abortions with three circumstances where they believed a physician could justifiably perform an abortion. A version of this was enacted into law in 1967.[citation needed] Colorado became the first state to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, or in which pregnancy would lead to permanent physical disability of the woman.

In state politics, the Colorado Democratic Party largely support access to abortion while the Colorado Republican Party have embraced hardline anti-abortion stances which have included proposing laws to restrict or even ban abortion in the state.[4][5]


Legislative history

In 1962, the American Law Institute published their model penal code, as it applied to abortions, with three circumstances where they believed a physician could justifiably perform an abortion: "If ... there is substantial risk that the continuance of the pregnancy would gravely impair the physical or mental health of the mother, or that the child would be born with grave physical or mental defect, or that the pregnancy resulted from rape, incest, or other felonious intercourse." In 1967, Colorado became the first state to apply this into law.[6] In the late 1960s, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon made reforms to their abortion laws, with most of these states providing more detailed medical guidance on when therapeutic abortions could be performed.[7] In 1967, Colorado became the first state to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, or in which pregnancy would lead to permanent physical disability of the woman.[8][9] In 1978, the state of Colorado had set aside Medicaid funding to provide poor women abortions if they needed one.[6] The parents of Becky Bell worked against proposed parental notification laws in Colorado in 1998.[10]

The Colorado Amendment 48 initiative was proposed in 2008 jointly by Kristine Burton and Michael Burton[11] of Colorado for Equal Rights.[12] Colorado Right to Life supported the amendment.[13] There was bipartisan opposition.[14] The text would have said, "Section 31. Person defined. AS USED IN SECTIONS 3, 6, AND 25 OF ARTICLE II OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION, THE TERMS "PERSON" OR "PERSONS" SHALL INCLUDE ANY HUMAN BEING FROM THE MOMENT OF FERTILIZATION."[15] This definition would have applied to all sections of Colorado law, thus giving a fetus the equal rights of life, liberty, and property as a fully developed, born person would.[16]

In 2013, the state was one of five where the legislature introduced a bill that would have banned abortion in almost all cases. It did not pass.[17] This was repeated in 2014, where Colorado was one of three where the legislature unsuccessful tried to ban abortion. They repeated this in 2015, where the state was one of five.[17] Again, this happened in 2016 where Colorado was one of four where the legislature introduced a bill that would have banned abortion in almost all cases.[17] In 2017, the state was one of six trying to unsuccessfully banning abortion.[17] The next year, Colorado was one of eleven where the legislature introduced a bill that would have banned abortion in almost all cases. It did not pass.[17] In 2019, women in Colorado were eligible for temporary disability as a result of abortion or miscarriage.[18][19]

During the 2022 legislative session, Colorado Republicans proposed several bills that aimed to restrict or even criminalize abortion in the state. The bills were ultimately blocked by Democrats, who hold a majority in the state legislature.[4]

On April 4, 2022, Governor Jared Polis signed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which guarantees access to reproductive care and affirms the rights of pregnant women to continue or terminate a pregnancy. The act prohibits public entities from restricting or denying those rights.[20][21]

Judicial history

The US Supreme Court's decision in 1973's Roe v. Wade ruling meant the state could no longer regulate abortion in the first trimester.[7] However, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, No. 19-1392, 597 U.S. ___ (2022) later in 2022.[22][23]

Ballot box history

Colorado Amendment 48 was an initiative in 2008 to amend the definition of a person to "any human being from the moment of fertilization." On November 4, 2008, the initiative was turned down by 73.2 percent of the voters.[24] Colorado Proposition 115 was a 2020 ballot initiative preventing abortion after 22 weeks unless the pregnancy endangered the mother's life. Performing an abortion after 22 weeks would have become a Class 1 misdemeanor. On November 3, 2020, Colorado voters rejected Proposition 115, with 59% of voters opposed to the initiative.[25]

Amendment 48[26]
Choice Votes %
Referendum failed No 1,691,165 73.21
Yes 618,761 26.79
Total votes 2,309,926 100.00
Proposition 115[27]
Choice Votes %
Referendum failed No 1,859,479 58.99
Yes 1,292,787 41.01
Total votes 3,152,266 100.00

On April 18, 2024, Coloradans For Protecting Reproductive Freedom submitted nearly double the signatures required to put abortion rights on the ballot in Colorado in the November 2024 elections. Initiative 89 would enshrine the right to abortion in the Colorado state constitution.[28]

Clinic history

Number of abortion clinics in Colorado by year

See also: Abortion clinic

Between 1982 and 1992, the number of abortion clinics in the state decreased by fourteen, going from 73 in 1982 to 59 in 1992.[29] In 2014, there were 21 abortion clinics in the state.[30] In 2014, 78% of the counties in the state did not have an abortion clinic. That year, 27% of women in the state aged 15 – 44 lived in a county without an abortion clinic.[31]

In March 2016, there were 21 Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.[32] After Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains switched from directly billing women to directly billing Medicaid in 2016, they ran into funding bills as Medicaid has low reimbursement rates. Consequently, they were forced to close two clinics in Colorado and one in Wyoming in July 2017.[33] In 2017, there were nineteen Planned Parenthood clinics, of which eleven offered abortion services, in a state with a population of 1,278,937 women aged 15–49.[33]


In 1990, 426,000 women in the state faced the risk of an unintended pregnancy.[29] Since the start of the 2008 Colorado Family Planning Initiative, the number of abortions performed in the state fell by nearly half for women between the ages of 15–19. For women aged 20–24, the rate of abortions declined by 18%. For teens aged 15–19, the birth and abortion rate in Colorado between 2009 and 2014 declined around 50%. For women aged 20–24, the abortion rate declined by 20%.[34] In 2010, the state had no publicly funded abortions.[35] In 2013, there were 700 abortions for white women aged 15–19, 110 abortions for black women aged 15–19, 470 abortions for Hispanic women aged 15–19, and 90 abortions for women of all other races.[36]

In 2014, 59% of adults said in a poll by the Pew Research Center that abortion should be legal and 36% saying it should be illegal in all or most cases.[37] In 2017, the state had an infant mortality rate of 4.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.[38] From 2009 to 2017, the rate of teenage abortions in the state fell by 64%.[39]

Number of reported abortions, abortion rate and percentage change in rate by geographic region and state in 1992, 1995 and 1996[40]
Census division and state Number Rate % change 1992–1996
1992 1995 1996 1992 1995 1996
US Total 1,528,930 1,363,690 1,365,730 25.9 22.9 22.9 –12
Mountain 69,600 63,390 67,020 21 17.9 18.6 –12
Arizona 20,600 18,120 19,310 24.1 19.1 19.8 –18
Colorado 19,880 15,690 18,310 23.6 18 20.9 –12
Idaho 1,710 1,500 1,600 7.2 5.8 6.1 –15
Montana 3,300 3,010 2,900 18.2 16.2 15.6 –14
Nevada 13,300 15,600 15,450 44.2 46.7 44.6 1
New Mexico 6,410 5,450 5,470 17.7 14.4 14.4 –19
Utah 3,940 3,740 3,700 9.3 8.1 7.8 –16
Wyoming 460 280 280 4.3 2.7 2.7 –37
Number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions, by reporting area of residence and occurrence and by percentage of abortions obtained by out-of-state residents, US CDC estimates
Location Residence Occurrence % obtained by
out-of-state residents
Year Ref
No. Rate^ Ratio^^ No. Rate^ Ratio^^
Colorado 19,880 23.6 [40]
Colorado 15,690 18 [40]
Colorado 18,310 20.9 [40]
Colorado 9,453 8.7 144 10,648 9.8 162 11.3 2014 [41]
Colorado 8,975 8.1 135 10,114 9.1 152 11.3 2015 [42]
Colorado 7,363 6.6 111 8,333 7.4 125 11.4 2016 [43]
^number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44; ^^number of abortions per 1,000 live births

Contraceptive history

In 2008, Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment was provided with private funds to provide poor women in the state with long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) at little or no cost to them.[34] From 2009 to 2017, free, low-cost IUDs resulted in a 54% decline in the rate of teenage pregnancy in the state.[39]

Deaths and injuries from unsafe or illegal abortions

In the period between 1972 and 1974, there were zero recorded illegal abortion deaths in the state.[44] During the winter of 1978, three women in less than a month required hospitalization in Denver after consuming pennyroyal oil for the purpose of trying to induce an abortion. One of these women died.[6]

Abortion rights views and activities

Women's March In Denver in 2017
Women's March In Denver in 2017


Women from the state participated in marches supporting abortion rights as part of a #StoptheBans movement in May 2019.[45]

Following the Roe v. Wade overturn draft leak on May 2, 2022, there were abortion rights demonstrations in Aspen,[46] Colorado Springs,[47] Denver,[48] Fort Collins,[49] and Grand Junction.[50]

Following the overturn of Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, an abortion rights protest was held outside the Colorado State Capitol in Denver.[51]

Anti-abortion views and activities

Abortion protest sign on North Table Mountain outside Denver, during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The sign reads "Destroys uNborn Children", and is made of sheets sown together. It was a new Guinness World Record for largest protest sign. The sign was constructed by American Right To Life Action.


Several hundred anti-abortion activists participate in the Rocky Mountain March for Life in Colorado each year to support ending abortion.[52]

Respect Life Denver also organizes an annual rally and march in the state capitol each year to support legislation against abortion.[53]

Anti-abortion city ordinances

In late 2022, four out of seven council members of the city of Pueblo voted to consider a measure that would ban abortion within the city. The proposed ordinance was the work of a Texas-based anti-abortion group which was introduced by council member Regina Maestri.[54] The proposed measure would break state laws surrounding abortion protections while observers said the measure might inspire other cities or towns throughout Colorado to attempt to ban or restrict abortions.[55] The measure was narrowly rejected by the council.[56]


An incident of anti-abortion violence occurred at an abortion clinic in Denver, Colorado on August 26, 2003.[57]

Between 1993 and 2015, 11 people were killed at American abortion clinics.[58] On November 29, 2015, a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, left three dead and several injured, and a suspect, Robert L. Dear, was apprehended.[59][60][61][62] Police officer and pastor Garrett Swasey, US Iraq War veteran Ke'Arre M. Stewart, and Hawaiian Jennifer Markovsky, who was accompanying a friend at the clinic, were killed.[58] The suspect had previously acted against other clinics, and referred to himself as a "warrior for the babies" at his hearing.[63][64] Neighbors and former neighbors described the suspect as "reclusive",[59] and police from several states where the suspect resided described a history of run-ins dating from at least 1997.[60] On May 11, 2016, the court declared the suspect incompetent to stand trial after a mental evaluation was completed.[65]



  1. ^ Gal, Grace Panetta, Shayanne. "The latest point in pregnancy you can get an abortion in all 50 states". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 2021-07-27. Retrieved 2021-07-27.((cite news)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ "Reproductive Rights in Colorado". NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. Archived from the original on May 4, 2022. Retrieved May 18, 2023.
  3. ^ "Religious Landscape Study". Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project. 2014. Retrieved 2023-05-19.
  4. ^ a b Coltrain, Nick (2022-02-25). "Colorado Democrats stop GOP's anti-abortion measures and brace for threat to Roe v. Wade". The Denver Post. Retrieved 2022-03-19.
  5. ^ Paul, Jesse (2 February 2022). "Efforts to affirm abortion access in Colorado won't stop some lawmakers from trying to reverse course". Colorado Sun. Retrieved 2022-03-19 – via The Durango Herald.
  6. ^ a b c Tyler, C. W. (1983). "The public health implications of abortion". Annual Review of Public Health. 4: 223–258. doi:10.1146/annurev.pu.04.050183.001255. ISSN 0163-7525. PMID 6860439.
  7. ^ a b Buell, Samuel (1991-01-01). "Criminal Abortion Revisited". New York University Law Review. 66 (6): 1774–1831. PMID 11652642.
  8. ^ "Medicine: Abortion on Request". Time. March 9, 1970. Archived from the original on December 1, 2010. Retrieved 2012-10-15. (subscription required)
  9. ^ Larson, Jordan. "Timeline: The 200-Year Fight for Abortion Access". The Cut. Retrieved 2019-05-25.
  10. ^ Abbot, Karen (October 29, 1998). "Foes of Notification Enlist Grim, Dirty Images". Rocky Mountain News. Denver. p. 11A.
  11. ^ Statement of Sufficiency Archived 2008-11-28 at the Wayback Machine (pdf). Secretary of State. State of Colorado. May 29, 2008.
  12. ^ Personhood Initiative '08. Colorado for Equal Rights.
  13. ^ Vote Yes on 48 Archived 2017-04-03 at the Wayback Machine. Colorado Right to Life.
  14. ^ Jorgensen, Leslie. Amendment 48: Opposition galvanizes Democrats, Republicans Archived 2008-12-08 at the Wayback Machine. Colorado Statesman. October 10, 2008.
  15. ^ Amendment 48: Definition of Person (pdf). Colorado General Assembly.
  16. ^ Brown, Jennifer. "Personhood" Amendment Fails. Denver Post. November 4, 2008.
  17. ^ a b c d e Tavernise, Sabrina (2019-05-15). "'The Time Is Now': States Are Rushing to Restrict Abortion, or to Protect It". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-05-24.
  18. ^ "Employment Protection For Workers Who Are Pregnant Or Nursing". U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  19. ^ "Employment Protections For Workers Who Are Pregnant or Nursing". U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  20. ^ Hernandez, Joe (2022-04-05). "The right to abortion in Colorado is now guaranteed under state law". NPR. Retrieved 2022-04-21.
  21. ^ "Colorado governor signs bill codifying the right to abortion in state law". CBS News. Retrieved 2022-04-21.
  22. ^ de Vogue, Arinne (June 24, 2022). "Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade". CNN. Archived from the original on June 24, 2022. Retrieved June 24, 2022.
  23. ^ Howe, Amy (June 24, 2022). "Supreme Court overturns constitutional right to abortion". SCOTUSblog. Archived from the original on June 24, 2022. Retrieved June 24, 2022.
  24. ^ "Election result 2008". Archived from the original on 2013-01-22. Retrieved 2019-05-22.
  25. ^ "Colorado Proposition 115, 22-Week Abortion Ban Initiative (2020)".
  26. ^ "Canvass Results - General Election 2008". Secretary of State of Colorado. Archived from the original on 2009-04-30. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  27. ^ "Election Night Reporting".
  28. ^ "Advocates for legal abortion take critical step to put constitutional amendment on the ballot". CPR News. Retrieved 2024-04-18.
  29. ^ a b Arndorfer, Elizabeth; Michael, Jodi; Moskowitz, Laura; Grant, Juli A.; Siebel, Liza (December 1998). A State-By-State Review of Abortion and Reproductive Rights. DIANE Publishing. ISBN 9780788174810.
  30. ^ Rebecca Harrington; Gould, Skye (February 10, 2017). "The number of abortion clinics in the US has plunged in the last decade — here's how many are in each state". Business Insider. Retrieved 2019-05-23.
  31. ^ "This is what could happen if Roe v. Wade fell". Business Insider (in Spanish). 2018-08-04. Archived from the original on 2019-05-24. Retrieved 2019-05-24.
  32. ^ Bohatch, Emily. "27 states with the most Planned Parenthood clinics". The State. Columbia, South Carolina. Retrieved 2019-05-24.
  33. ^ a b "Here's Where Women Have Less Access to Planned Parenthood". Retrieved 2019-05-23.
  34. ^ a b "Abortion is at the top of the political agenda. Here are a few facts". NBC News. Retrieved 2019-05-22.
  35. ^ "Guttmacher Data Center". Guttmacher Institute. Retrieved 2019-05-24.
  36. ^ "No. of abortions among women aged 15–19, by state of residence, 2013 by racial group". Guttmacher Institute. Retrieved 2019-05-24.
  37. ^ "Views about abortion by state - Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics and Statistics". Pew Research Center. Retrieved June 27, 2022.
  38. ^ "States pushing abortion bans have highest infant mortality rates". NBC News. Retrieved 2019-05-25.
  39. ^ a b "IUD program leads to big decline in teen pregnancies, abortions in Colorado". The Denver Post. 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2019-05-28.
  40. ^ a b c d Henshaw, Stanley K. (2005-06-15). "Abortion Incidence and Services in the United States, 1995-1996". Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 30. Guttmacher Institute: 263–270. Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  41. ^ Jatlaoui, Tara C. (2017). "Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2014". MMWR. Surveillance Summaries. 66 (24): 1–48. doi:10.15585/mmwr.ss6624a1. ISSN 1546-0738. PMC 6289084. PMID 29166366.
  42. ^ Jatlaoui, Tara C. (2018). "Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2015". MMWR. Surveillance Summaries. 67 (13): 1–45. doi:10.15585/mmwr.ss6713a1. ISSN 1546-0738. PMC 6289084. PMID 30462632.
  43. ^ Jatlaoui, Tara C. (2019). "Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2016". MMWR. Surveillance Summaries. 68 (11): 1–41. doi:10.15585/mmwr.ss6811a1. ISSN 1546-0738. PMC 6289084. PMID 31774741.
  44. ^ Cates, Willard; Rochat, Roger (March 1976). "Illegal Abortions in the United States: 1972–1974". Family Planning Perspectives. 8 (2): 86–92. doi:10.2307/2133995. JSTOR 2133995. PMID 1269687.
  45. ^ Bacon, John. "Abortion rights supporters' voices thunder at #StopTheBans rallies across the nation". USA Today. Retrieved 2019-05-25.
  46. ^ Reynolds, Jacqueline. "On moment's notice, Aspen joins abortion-rights protest movement". Aspen Daily News. Retrieved 2024-01-26.
  47. ^ Soicher, Spencer. "Pro-choice advocates march through Colorado Springs as abortion debate continues". KRDO. Retrieved 2024-01-26.
  48. ^ Yuen, Courtney. "People who support abortion rights rally outside Colorado Capitol". 9 News. Retrieved 2024-01-26.
  49. ^ Ferrier, Pat. "Hundreds rally in Fort Collins for abortion rights after draft opinion on Roe vs. Wade". Coloradoan. Retrieved 2024-01-26.
  50. ^ Sinton, Kacie. "Grand Junction locals attend rally in support of Roe v. Wade". KKCO 11 News. Retrieved 2024-01-26.
  51. ^ Campbell-Hicks, Jennifer. "Crowd marches in Denver, rallies at Capitol to protest Roe v. Wade reversal". 9 News. Retrieved 2024-01-26.
  52. ^ Boyce, Dan. "Hundreds Join Local March For Life In Colorado Springs As State Gov't Moves Left". Colorado Public Radio. Retrieved 2021-07-27.
  53. ^ "Celebrate Life March Jan. 13". Respect Life Denver | Archdiocese of Denver. Retrieved 2021-07-27.
  54. ^ Wenzler, Elliott (2022-12-10). "Pueblo sees first attempt by Texas-based anti-abortion activist to challenge Colorado law". The Colorado Sun. Retrieved 2023-08-09.
  55. ^ Frank, John (12 December 2022). "Pueblo's abortion battle reverberates across Colorado and the nation". Axios Denver. Retrieved 8 August 2023.
  56. ^ Wilson, Sara (2022-12-13). "Pueblo City Council rejects anti-abortion ordinance". Colorado Newsline. Retrieved 2023-08-09.
  57. ^ Jacobson, Mireille; Royer, Heather (December 2010). "Aftershocks: The Impact of Clinic Violence on Abortion Services". American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. 3: 189–223. doi:10.1257/app.3.1.189.
  58. ^ a b Stack, Liam (2015-11-29). "A Brief History of Deadly Attacks on Abortion Providers". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-05-23.
  59. ^ a b "'No more baby parts': Reclusive suspect's words draw focus". Hartford Courant. Hartford, Conn. 29 November 2015. Retrieved 2019-05-22.
  60. ^ a b "What's known about suspect in Planned Parenthood shooting". Hartford Courant. Hartford, Conn. Retrieved 2019-05-22.
  61. ^ Fausset, Richard (2015-12-01). "For Robert Dear, Religion and Rage Before Planned Parenthood Attack". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-05-22.
  62. ^ Larson, Jordan. "Timeline: The 200-Year Fight for Abortion Access". The Cut. Retrieved 2019-05-25.
  63. ^ Gurman, Sadie (December 9, 2015). "Planned Parenthood suspect: 'I am a warrior for the babies'". Yahoo News. Associated Press. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  64. ^ Kevin Conlon; Greg Botelho; Pamela Brown (28 November 2015). "Source: Colorado shooting suspect spoke of 'baby parts'". CNN. Retrieved 2019-05-22.
  65. ^ Hughes, Trevor (May 11, 2016). "Planned Parenthood shooting suspect found incompetent to stand trial". USA Today. Retrieved May 11, 2016.