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In this Thursday, June 9, 2022, photo, Joe O'Dea, a candidate for the Republican nomination to run against Democratic U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, talks during a campaign appearance at a brew pub in south suburban Littleton, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea believes abortions should be legal through 20 weeks of pregnancy, after which the procedure should be allowed only in cases of rape and incest or when a mother’s life is at risk, his campaign told The Colorado Sun on Friday.

O’Dea announced his stance after he told The Sun on Thursday that he voted for an unsuccessful 2020 ballot measure that would have outlawed the procedure after 22 weeks of gestation, or 5.5 months. 

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“I voted for that,” O’Dea said in a brief interview after an event in Greenwood Village with U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican. 

O’Dea had refused until Friday to provide a specific date at which he thought abortions should be outlawed. 

He had said earlier that people should be able to legally get an abortion early on in a pregnancy and that he believed late-term abortions should be banned. But he wouldn’t say what constitutes an early term or late-term abortion in his mind, only that he thought the procedure shouldn’t be carried out in the last three months of a pregnancy and that his threshold would have something to do with viability.

“Before viability, in that first 20 weeks, there should be a law that protects the right of women to make the decision for herself — and she shouldn’t have to travel across state lines to do it,” O’Dea said in a written statement to The Sun on Friday.  

O’Dea added: “Abortion is one of these issues tearing this country apart. We have to find a balance so we can start the long process of moving the country forward and give women certainty.  I was adopted. This issue is real to me in a way it never could be for someone like Michael Bennet.”

According to 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 99% of abortions happen before the 21st week of pregnancy. Ninety-three percent of abortions happen during the first 13 weeks of a pregnancy, while 6% happen between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says “with very rare exceptions, babies born before 23 weeks of pregnancy do not survive.”

O’Dea’s campaign said O’Dea isn’t planning to pursue abortion legislation if he’s elected to the Senate, but that the 20-week threshold is what he will use to determine whether or not he will vote “yes” on a bill.

O’Dea is more moderate than many fellow Republicans when it comes to abortion, and has taken heat from some in the GOP for being too soft on the issue. 

Still, he came under attack this week from his opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, over his position on the procedure.

Bennet’s reelection campaign launched an ad crticizing O’Dea for being opposed to Colorado’s new law codifying abortion access in the state with very few exceptions.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet answers questions to the media along side with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack, at left, on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, during a visit at Camp Hale near Leadville. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

The new Bennet ad features five women discussing their shock about Roe v. Wade being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June after nearly five decades and highlighting the different abortion stances held by O’Dea and Bennet. 

“It makes the race for Senate even more important,” one of the women says.

O’Dea’s campaign fired back with a video featuring O’Dea’s daughter saying her father “will defend a woman’s right to choose” and calling Bennet “a sleazy politician who will say anything to keep his job.”

YouTube video

O’Dea’s daughter, Tayler, tells viewers to Google her dad’s name to find out his position on abortion. 

O’Dea also opposes tax dollars being spent on abortions and believes that religiously affiliated institutions shouldn’t be required to carry out the procedure. Finally, he believes parents should be notified before their child has an abortion.

He has touted support from anti-abortion advocates and called himself “pro-life,” but opposed Roe v. Wade being overturned.

Bennet, meanwhile, supports legislation prohibiting government restrictions on abortion access, according to his campaign, including the Women’s Health Protection Act

Selina Najar, political director for Cobalt, an abortion-rights nonprofit in Colorado that has endorsed Bennet, said in a statement that O’Dea “does not share our pro-abortion rights Colorado values.”

“Every time Joe O’Dea has to answer in specifics, (it) turns out he’s anti-abortion rights,” Najar said.


Proposition 115, the 2020 ballot measure in Colorado that sought to ban abortions at 22 weeks, failed 59% to 41%, an 18 percentage point margin. It would have only allowed for abortions to happen after 22 weeks of pregnancy in certain situations where the life of a mother was at risk. There were no exceptions built into the proposal for rape, incest or a lethal fetal diagnosis. 

“I think Coloradans want balance,” O’Dea told The Sun on Thursday of his abortion stance. “My position is my position. I’ve been there the entire time. I haven’t wavered at all. I disagree with Michael that we need late-term abortion. He’s about late-term abortion. I don’t think that should be an elective procedure. And I don’t think Coloradans are there either. I really don’t.”

During his campaign event Thursday, O’Dea again defended himself against Bennet’s offensive.

“He’s trying to make it an issue and that’s because of his failed policies,” O’Dea said. “He doesn’t want to talk about them. He doesn’t want to talk about groceries. He doesn’t want to talk about inflation. Crime, it’s out of control. He wants to talk about abortion and that’s it.”

O’Dea called Bennet’s ad “dishonest.”

The general election is Nov. 8.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 12:25 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, to correct a source’s error. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea believes abortions should be legal up until the 20th week of pregnancy, after which the procedure should be allowed only in cases of rape and incest or when a mother’s life is at risk.

Jesse Paul

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...