DENVER — Colorado abortion opponents say they have enough signatures to put an abortion-ending proposal on the ballot this fall – potentially the first state this election year to see the question.
Abortion opponents turned in more than 46,000 signatures on Thursday, the second deadline for the ballot initiative.
The group needs only about 15,700 of those signatures to be deemed valid for the abortion question to go to ballots this fall.
The amendment would give unborn fetuses human rights in the state constitution, setting up a likely conflict with the U.S. Constitution over a woman's right to abortions.
Personhood USA, the Colorado-based group pushing similar measures in 40 states this year, says it's waiting on Mississippi officials to clear signatures and approve an initiative for the ballot this fall. In Montana, abortion opponents say they'll make a June deadline for about 50,000 signatures needed to make the ballot.
"It's time to let the babies reclaim their liberty," said Leslie Hanks, vice president of Colorado Right to Life.
A similar measure was on Colorado ballots in 2008, and voters soundly rejected it. Abortion rights supporters say they'll campaign against the abortion-ending ballot measure again this year if it makes the ballot.
It will take about 10 days for the secretary of state's office to review the signatures.
Personhood USA says getting the abortion measure on the Colorado ballot is more difficult this time because of a new state law that tightens rules for gathering signatures. Several activist groups have already filed suit over the new law.
Among other changes, the law tightens identification requirements and limits groups that want to pay people to gather signatures.
"This new law squelches our First Amendment right to petition," said conservative activist and radio host Jon Caldara, whose Independence Institute is currently working on a ballot initiative to circumvent a possible federal health insurance mandate.
Rich Coolidge, a spokesman for Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, a defendant in the lawsuit targeting the new law on initiatives, declined to comment on the pending litigation or criticism that the new rules are onerous. He said three ballot initiatives have already been cleared for the Colorado ballot.
Abortion opponents who turned in the additional signatures Thursday said they're confident they've cleared the tighter rules, and the measure would be approved for the fall ballot.
They said their focus now will be on boosting support for the idea that failed badly at the polls in 2008. Some volunteers who gathered signatures for the abortion measure conceded the odds are long, saying that gathering signatures was more difficult this year than it was two years ago.
"This was harder. I don't know why, but people were more callous this time and didn't want to listen," said volunteer Chet Malouf of Denver.
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