News Abortion

Colorado Believes Third Time Is the Charm When It Comes to “Egg As Person”

Robin Marty

Another election year, another attempt to pass "Personhood" in Colorado.

Here we go again.  Despite two previous failed attempts to get the people of Colorado to define a fertilized egg as a person, the so-called “Personhood” campaign is back.  And yes, they want another revote.

So what do they think will be different this time?  They hope a longer definition might garner them more support.

Via the New American:

While past personhood amendment language has been confined to a one-sentence declaration that defines unborn children as persons under the law beginning at conception, the new proposed amendment states: “In order to affirm basic human dignity, be it resolved that the right to life in this Constitution applies to all innocent persons.” The amendment goes on to declare, among other specifications, that the “intentional killing of any innocent person is prohibited,” and that “no innocent child created through rape or incest shall be killed for the crime of his or her father.”

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As for the pertinent definitions, the proposed amendment specifies that “‘person’ applies to every human being regardless of the method of creation,” and that a “‘human being’ is a member of the species homo sapiens at any stage of development.” Additionally, the amendment specifies that a “child” includes “a human being prior to and during birth.”

In explaining the more detailed language, Mason recalled that in past initiatives, Planned Parenthood mounted campaigns against the amendment built on what Mason called “lies and scare tactics” that misrepresented the impact of the amendment. “The new personhood language prevents those falsehoods by making it absolutely clear what the amendment can and cannot do,” explained Mason, “while still protecting every child from his or her earliest stages.”

Just because the explanation is longer doesn’t mean that it isn’t still banning all forms of abortion, any birth control that could impede implantation (such as IUDs), some IVF procedures, and the termination of ectopic pregnancies.  But I suppose if they lose, they can always try again in 2014.

News Abortion

Iowa GOP Legislator: Ending Legal Abortion ‘Impossible’ Without ‘Personhood’ Laws

Teddy Wilson

GOP-backed "personhood" laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.

An Iowa Republican plans to introduce a measure defining life as beginning at conception in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down an anti-choice Texas law, which has limited states’ ability to restrict abortion care access.

State Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) told IowaWatch that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt proves that the anti-choice movement’s attack on abortion rights is not working.

“The Supreme Court decision reinforced that incrementally ending abortion is impossible,” Schultz said. “You either have it or you don’t.”

So-called personhood laws seek to classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as people, and to grant them full legal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

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GOP-backed “personhood” laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.

Personhood bills were introduced this year by Republican lawmakers in Alabama, Colorado, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, and Rhode Island.

Rachel Lopez, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told IowaWatch that personhood measures are routinely introduced in Iowa but have failed to gain traction in the GOP-dominated legislature.

“Although we have not yet seen the details of this impending effort, we are confident that it also will fail to advance,” Lopez said. “Personhood bills are a waste of both time and taxpayer dollars, as they have failed time and again in Iowa and other states.”

Iowa lawmakers this year introduced SJR 2001, a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution specifying that the document does not secure or protect a fundamental right to abortion care.

SJR 2001 was referred to the senate rules and administration committee, but never received a hearing or a vote.

Schultz, who was elected to the state senate in 2014 after serving in the house, has sponsored or co-sponsored several anti-choice bills while in the state legislature, including personhood measures.

SF 478, sponsored by Schultz during the 2015 legislative session, would have defined “person” when referring to the victim of a murder, to mean “an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception, when a zygote is formed, until natural death.”

Mark Kende, director of Drake University’s Constitutional Law Center, told IowaWatch that Schultz’s proposal would not survive in the courts.

“He can try to pass that legislation but it certainly wouldn’t trump the federal Constitution,” Kende said. “Even if that language got into the state constitution it can’t defy three Supreme Court decisions in the last 40 years.”

Gov. Terry Branstad (R) told IowaWatch that he could not support Schultz’s proposal.

“I’m pro-life and I want to do what I can to encourage things that can protect the lives of unborn children,” Branstad said. “Yet I also recognize that we have to live with the restrictions that have been placed on the states by the courts.”

Branstad signed many of the state’s laws restricting abortion access that came up during the latter part of his first term as governor.

News Violence

Colorado Woman Sentenced to 100 Years for Attack on Pregnant Woman

Jason Salzman

“Dynel Lane will spend the rest of her life in prison and rightfully so,” Rep. Mike Foote (D-LaFayette) said in an email to Rewire.

A question remained for some after a Colorado woman was sentenced Friday to 100 years in prison for cutting a fetus from a pregnant person: Was her punishment sufficient?

Under a state law, Dynel Lane was convicted of additional penalties, on top of attempted murder and other charges, for assaulting a pregnant person, Michelle Wilkins.

But because the statute does not give “personhood” legal standing to a fetus, prosecutors could not bring murder charges and possibly the death penalty against Lane, who destroyed Wilkins’ fetus.

Pro-choice advocates say the 2013 law protects the civil rights of pregnant people by shielding them from potentially wrongful prosecution while still subjecting people like Lane to severe sentences, like the 100-year prison term she received.

“Dynel Lane will spend the rest of her life in prison and rightfully so,” Rep. Mike Foote (D-LaFayette) said in an email to Rewire. “I am thankful the legislature passed my Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act in 2013 and that it was used in her prosecution. We gave prosecutors and courts the tools they need to hold criminals accountable while at the same time keeping personhood out of our statutes. I wish this tragic case would have never happened, but I am glad our law was in place when it did.”

But anti-choice activists argue that Lane should have faced murder charges for her violent act.

“Dynel Lane’s sentence reminds us of what we’ve noticed over the years, that those who support abortion typically oppose the death penalty for the guilty yet support the execution of the innocent,” Colorado Right to Life spokesperson Bob Enyart said in an email to Rewire. “We advocate protecting the innocent and executing the guilty.”

Lane lured Wilkins to her home with a Craigslist advertisement for baby clothes. She then beat Wilkins unconscious and reportedly used two knives to remove the fetus.

Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett asked Chief District Judge Maria Berkenkotter for a 118-year sentence, saying, “It won’t bring [Wilkins’ fetus] back, but it will send a message about human life,” according to the Post.

Republican legislators in Colorado have repeatedly advocated for legislation that would give legal rights to a fetus, including a legislative push after Lane attacked Wilkins in 2015.

Democrats defeated the GOP measure, arguing that it could be used to take away abortion rights and to prosecute pregnant people for reckless endangerment, if they damaged a fetus.

Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected a 2014 fetal “personhood” initiative that would have given legal standing to fetuses. The measure would have given broad legal rights to fetuses as well—and would have banned legal abortion care in the state.

So-called fetal homicide laws are on the books in 38 states, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS). Colorado’s law, which does not confer legal rights to a fetus, is among those listed. The NCLS lists 23 states that “have fetal homicide laws that apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy (‘any state of gestation,’ ‘conception,’ ‘fertilization’ or ‘post-fertilization’).”

Wilkins indicated to reporters that she felt justice was achieved in the case after Lane’s conviction in February on all six counts she faced, including multiple felonies.

She called the verdict “a triumph for justice, for Aurora [the name she’d chosen for her fetus], for myself … for the community.”