If the citizens of Colorado pass Amendment 69, an initiative that would make the state a single-payer monopoly purchaser of health care services, it could set up a legal conflict that would significantly diminish the availability of abortion services throughout the state.
The language of Amendment 69 explicitly states that it would create a subdivision of the state called ColoradoCare, and that subdivision would be the sole payer of all medical services provided to citizens of Colorado.
However, in 1984, voters narrowly passed a measure that expressly prohibits the state – or any subdivision – for paying for abortion.
The language now in the Colorado Constitution as a result of that 1984 vote reads:
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, PROVIDED HOWEVER, that the General Assembly, by specific bill, may authorize and appropriate funds to be used for those medical services necessary to prevent the death of either a pregnant woman or her unborn child under circumstances where every reasonable effort is made to preserve the life of each.
The 1984 amendment to the state constitution sets up the proverbial conflict of the unstoppable cannonball versus the unmovable post, but at least one legal expert agrees that all health insurance in Colorado and the single-payer entity ColoradoCare would no longer cover abortion if Amendment 69 were to pass.
“It is already impossible for Coloradoans to receive abortion services which are directly paid for by state or local governments,” said David Kopel, a law professor at Denver University and research director at the Independence Institute.*
“Amendment 69 creates government monopoly control of health insurance, to be run by an organization called ‘ColoradoCare,'” Kopel continued. “Amendment 69 specifies that ColoradoCare is ‘a political subdivision of the state.’ For decades, the Colorado Constitution has forbidden all ‘political subdivisions’ to use public funds to pay for abortion, ‘either directly or indirectly.’ Because Amendment 69 would make all health insurance paid for by public funds (taxes), Amendment 69 would make it unlawful for insurance programs to cover abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.”
Kopel went on to say that abortion services could possibly still be paid for with cash.
The language of Amendment 69 clearly anticipated at least some potential conflicts with other provisions of the state constitution. For example, a provision within Amendment 69 makes ColoradoCare exempt from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, also known as TABOR.
NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado told Complete Colorado they have not taken a stance on Amendment 69 and did not comment further on the legal predicament illustrated above. The backers of ColoradoCare did not provide comment despite several requests.
*Mr. Kopel is employed at the Independence Institute, which also employs the author of this article.