Colorado Abortion Laws

Few topics can create as heated a debate as a discussion on abortion. People on both sides, whether pro-choice or pro-life, often feel adamant that state and federal reproductive laws should follow their moral or religious views. Abortion is legal in Colorado, as required since Roe v. Wade. Colorado changed its abortion laws drastically in 2013 after a high-profile case of a pregnant woman who was hit in a crosswalk in Denver in December 2010 and lost her nearly full-term fetus.

An Explanation of Colorado Abortion Laws

Reading statutes in their entirety can be very time-consuming. That's why unpacking the law with a concise explanation is very useful. The following chart briefly explains the abortion laws in Colorado.

Code Sections

Colorado Revised Statutes Title 18 Criminal Code:

Colorado Revised Statutes Title 12 Professionals & Occupations:

Statutory Definition of Illegal Abortion

Definition of Ilegal Abortion

Since July 1, 2013, Colorado has shifted from using the term “abortion” to “unlawful termination of pregnancy.”

Unlawful termination of pregnancy is terminating a pregnancy by any means other than birth or a medical procedure, instrument, agent, or drug, which the pregnant woman (or her authorized health care agent) consented to and obtained.

Parental Notification Act Definition

Abortion is defined in the Parental Notification Act as the "use of any means to terminate the pregnancy of a minor with knowledge that the termination by those means will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of the minor's unborn offspring." This was written over 10 years before the more recent "unlawful termination of pregnancy" definition.

Statutory Definition of Legal Abortion

Forms of Legal Abortion

Under the unlawful termination of pregnancy definition, the following are forms of legal abortion:

  • A medical procedure,
  • Instrument,
  • Agent, or
  • Drug that a pregnant woman consents to use and uses to cause an abortion.
Penalty for Unlawful Abortion Unlawful termination of pregnancy penalties vary by degree.

First Degree

Terminating the fetus intentionally, is typically a class 3 felony. If the woman also dies, then it's a class 2 felony.

A class 2 felony is presumptively punished by 8-24 years in prison, a $5,000 to $1,000,000 fine, and 5 years mandatory parole. A Class 3 is punished by 4-12 years in prison, a $3,000 to $750,000 fine, and 5 years of mandatory parole.

Second Degree

Knowingly causing the unlawful fetus termination is a Class 4 felony. However, if caused by a “sudden heat of passion” that provoked the person and there wasn’t time to cool down (akin to a voluntary manslaughter situation). In that case, it’s lower to a Class 5 felony.

The Class 4 felony sentencing range guideline is 2-6 years in prison, a $2,000 to $500,000 fine, and a mandatory 3 years parole. A Class 5 felony sentencing range is 1-3 years, a $1,000 to $100,000 fine, and 2 years mandatory parole.

Third Degree

When the termination is caused by extreme indifference to the value of a human life and when it creates a grave risk of death to another, then it's considered a class 5 felony.

Fourth Degree

Recklessly causing the unlawful termination of a pregnancy is usually a class 6 felony. However, if the death happens while attempting, committing, or fleeing a murder, robbery, arson, burglary, escape from legal custody, kidnapping, or some assaults and sexual assaults then it’s a Class 5 felony (similar to felony murder.)

A class 6 felony is punished by 1 to 1.5 years in prison, a $1,000 to $100,000 fine, and 1 year mandatory parole.

Vehicular unlawful termination of pregnancy is a Class 5 felony.

Consent Requirements
  • There is no spousal consent requirement, so a woman can get an abortion without telling her spouse.
  • Females under 18 (and not emancipated) must get the permission of at least one parent, guardian, or other adult relative she lives with before getting an abortion. There is a judicial bypass if parental notification isn’t an option.

Residency Requirements;Waiting Periods

  • There are no residency requirements to obtain an abortion in Colorado.
  • There is no mandatory waiting period for an abortion in Colorado.
"Bubble Laws"

Under Colorado law, there is a 100-feet "bubble" around every health care facility in the state and, within the area, it's illegal to knowingly approach an individual without their consent to:

  • Pass a pamphlet,
  • Show a sign, or
  • Engage in oral protest education or counseling.
Late Term Abortion There’s also no gestational limit in Colorado. Although outpatient abortion is only available up to 26 weeks, with Planned Parenthood only offering up to almost 19 weeks. Medically required pregnancy termination is available for late term pregnancies.
Physician Licensing Requirements Only licensed physicians can perform abortions using accepted medical procedures in a facility licensed by the Department of Public Health and Environment.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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Questions about Colorado Abortion Laws? An Attorney Has Answers

If you or someone you know has questions about abortion laws in Colorado, then you should talk to an experienced attorney who can provide you with clarity on the law. Get started today by finding a family law attorney located near you.

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