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Voters cast ballots at a polling location in Denver on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

An effort to ask Colorado voters next year to ban abortions after 22 weeks can begin to collect signatures needed to qualify for the 2020 ballot.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office on Thursday approved the campaign’s petition format. The move gives supporters until March 4 to collect the 124,632 signatures necessary to put the question before voters.

If approved at the ballot, the measure would prohibit doctors from performing an abortion if the gestational age of a fetus is at least 22 weeks. Performing or attempting to perform an abortion after 22 weeks gestational age would be a Class 1 misdemeanor.

A doctor who violates the measure would also have their license suspended for at least three years.

Karen Middleton, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, an abortion rights group, issued a statement Thursday vowing to fight the proposal. “Colorado voters have repeatedly defeated efforts to ban abortion and restrict our Constitutional rights, and we are confident they will do so again,” she said in the statement. “Coloradans strongly believe that decisions on abortion belong between the patient and their doctor, not with politicians.”

Under the proposed ballot question, abortions after 22 weeks would be allowed only if a doctor determines it is necessary to save the life of the mother. A mother’s psychological and emotional health would not qualify as a medical reason, however.

The measure defines gestational age as the time that has elapsed from the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period.

A woman who has an abortion performed or any person who fills a prescription or provides equipment used during an abortion after 22 weeks would not have committed an offense under the measure.

The effort is being led by conservatives Erin Behrens and Giuliana Day. Behrens did not immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday. The two drafted two other abortion bans that they didn’t advance, including one that made it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion after 22 weeks.

MORE: Colorado considered an abortion law more severe than Alabama. It failed, for now.

Middleton called the effort “purely political,” and tied the Colorado proposal to a nationwide push to restrict abortions.

“There are no medical reasons for an abortion ban at any point in a pregnancy. All abortion bans are arbitrary and unnecessary, whether at 6 weeks in Alabama or 22 weeks in Colorado,” she said.

In 2020, Colorado voters also could be asked to repeal the national popular vote legislation approved by state lawmakers in 2019 and to allow the reintroduction of wolves on the Western Slope.

The campaign to repeal the national popular vote recently qualified for the ballot. The wolf reintroduction measure has until Dec. 13 to turn in their signatures.

John Frank is a former Colorado Sun staff writer. He left the publication in January 2021.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....