Colorado voters are weighing a third attempt to extend rights to unborn children on ballots this year. But it’s not clear what exactly this year’s so-called “personhood” measure would do if it’s approved.
Personhood question tries again on Colorado ballot after 2 losses
By COURTNEY OAKES, Staff Writer
For the third time since 2008, a “personhood” amendment has made its way onto Colorado’s November ballot.
Amendment 67 would create a constitutional provision that would state that unborn children at any stage of development during pregnancy should be listed in Colorado’s wrongful death statues the same as any other “child” or “person.”
Colorado voters have soundly defeated similar — though not identical — amendments in 2008 and 2010. Known as Amendment 48 in 2008, voters rejected it 73.2 percent to 26.8 percent and the numbers didn’t change much in 2010, when then Amendment 62 went down to defeat by a 70.53 percent to 29.47 percent margin, while not enough signatures were collected to get it on the 2012 ballot.
Supporters of the new version of the amendment — which is backed by Personhood USA, a pro-life organization that was able to get more than enough signatures to get it on this year’s ballot — say that it would protect pregnant women and unborn children by threatening criminal and civil liability to people who violate it. Because it doesn’t define what an “unborn human being” is, the amendment would also effectively end the practice of abortion, many forms of birth control and stem cell research in Colorado and challenge the majority decision of Roe vs. Wade.
According to Personhood USA, the push behind this version of the amendment is in part tied to the case of Longmont resident Heather Surovik, who was eight months pregnant on July 5, 2012, when she was struck in her car by a drunk driver, Gary Sheats, a multiple-time drunk driving offender. The accident injured Surovik and killed her unborn son, Brady, but no criminal prosecution was possible because Brady is not considered a person by current Colorado Criminal Code.
“This will be the first time that an amendment of this nature will be on the ballot in Colorado. This is a very different take on a sort of personhood amendment,” Jennifer Mason, a spokeswoman for Personhood Colorado, told the Washington Post last October.
A similar proposal — dubbed Measure 1 or the North Dakota Human Life Amendment — has passed through the North Dakota House and Senate and will be referred to the people of that state for a vote this November.
The personhood amendment has been a major point of contention in the race for senate, as Republican Cory Gardner’s announcement that he couldn’t support the amendment after working to pass previous versions was met with cries of hypocrisy from the campaign of Democratic incumbent Mark Udall.
Vote NO on 67 — a broad-based, bipartisan coalition of doctors, nurses and other health care advocates, religious and civil rights leaders, Latina, African-American and Asian-American groups and dozens of community organizations — said the amendment goes way too far in scope as to allow governments to intrude on the personal lives and health choices of women.
“The wording of Amendment 67 is so broad and far-reaching that it would make any abortion a crime in Colorado, including in cases of rape, incest and when a mother’s health is at risk,” spokeswoman Cara DeGette said in a statement. “It would make pregnant women and their doctors subject to criminal investigation, including when a woman has a miscarriage. It would even restrict access to common forms of birth control, as well as banning in-vitro fertilization treatment for women who want to have families.”
There’s no shortage of opposition to Amendment 67, as the Vote NO on 67 campaign currently is backed by a laundry list of 72 organizations and a slew of politicians, while newspapers including the Aurora Sentinel, Denver Post, Durango Herald and Pueblo Chieftain have written endorsements against the amendment.
Amendment 67’s passage would have no budgetary impact other than those in the future that may come from the prosecution of violators in criminal cases.