Commentary Abortion

Colorado ‘Brady Amendment’ Is Really a ‘Personhood’ Initiative

Jason Salzman

Anti-choice activists in Colorado are promoting a 2014 ballot initiative on their website as a way to protect "pregnant mothers and their unborn children from criminal offenses and negligent and wrongful acts." But an email to supporters tells a different story, calling it a "personhood" measure.

If you visit the website of backers of Colorado Referendum 5, which would change the definition of “person” and “child” under Colorado law to include “unborn human beings,” you won’t find the word “personhood” mentioned at all.

The site frames the initiative as a way to protect “pregnant mothers and their unborn children from criminal offenses and negligent and wrongful acts.”

In the frequently-asked-questions section of its website, the initiative’s backers state, “[The a]mendment is not about politics, it is an amendment that will protect pregnant mothers and their unborn babies from violent and dangerous criminals.”

Backers call their initiative the “Brady Amendment,” which refers to a fetus killed by a drunk driver in Longmont, Colorado. Prosecutors couldn’t press charges of vehicular homicide because the pregnant woman, Heather Surovik, survived, and a loophole in Colorado law did not allow prosecution for reckless acts against the fetus.

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All this might make you think the Brady Amendment is a “fetal homicide” initiative, designed to allow prosecution in cases like Surovik’s.

Apparently, the narrow language has confused anti-choice activists in Colorado, prompting Gualberto Garcia Jones, who’s listed on the secretary of state’s website as a “designated representative” of the initiative, to send an email July 24 to supporters clarifying the issue. In his email, Jones said:

Some of our supporters have asked whether the Brady Amendment is a personhood amendment. The answer is yes! A personhood measure is any proposal that constitutionally seeks to recognize (without exceptions) that unborn babies are persons deserving of our love and protection by law. …

One need look no further than the section of the Colorado law that deals with homicide to see how central the concept of personhood is: the homicide section is appropriately titled “Offenses Against the Person.” The Brady Amendment recognizes that all human beings, not just those who are born, are persons and amends the criminal code to that effect! …

Whether it is a drunk driver who avoids facing any charges for the death of a baby that is just days from birth, or a hospital that avoids malpractice liability for the death of unborn babies in its care, or an abortionist who kills children in the womb for a living, the fact is that all three rely on the same reasoning: the baby in the womb is not a person and therefore his or her life has no value in the eyes of the law.

So Jones is firing up his anti-choice troops by telling them his initiative is “personhood.” But the public face of the “personhood” campaign tells a different story.

A “personhood” law would ban all abortion, even in the case of rape and incest, as well as common forms of birth control and procedures threatening zygotes (fertilized human eggs).

I emailed Jones, who’s also a legal analyst with Personhood USA, to find out why his website doesn’t mention “personhood.” He said, “Not calling the Brady Amendment the ‘Personhood Amendment’ is not about running away from ‘personhood,’ it is about honoring the short life of Brady Surovik.”

Jones added,

Heather and Brady’s story stands on its own and it is a powerful real-life example of what happens when the preborn are not considered persons.

Planned Parenthood is in trouble and they know it, they can talk about fertilized eggs all day long, but they can’t answer the simple question: was Brady Surovik, a baby only days from being born a person with basic rights? …

Obviously, Planned Parenthood understands that if a child in the womb like Brady is recognized as a person then the logic behind the lucrative abortion industry is severely shaken.

I asked Monica McCafferty, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, to comment on Jones’ email describing the Brady Amendment as “personhood.” I also asked her to respond to Jones’ view that Brady Surovik was a person. Her response:

Questions about when life begins are personal. For some, it’s based on faith, for others it’s a matter of science or medicine. But this isn’t a question that belongs in the state constitution.

From a policy standpoint, the majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade. Yet what we also know based on polls conducted by our national office, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, is that most voters don’t identify with the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” It’s a complicated topic and one in which labels don’t reflect the complexity.

What most Americans get behind is the ability for women to make their own decisions about pregnancy, and that politicians do not. This sentiment rings true for Colorado voters and in relation to the past three “personhood” attempts, all of which have failed.

Whether you agree with Jones or McCafferty, the scope of the debate about Jones’ initiative, which would go on the 2014 election ballot if enough signatures are gathered by the end of next month, clearly goes beyond reckless acts of violence against pregnant women. In fact, a 2013 law in Colorado already protects them.

What’s on the table here is a “personhood” measure, aiming to ban all abortion.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to Philly.com, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Clarifies Position on Federal Funding for Abortion, Is ‘for the Hyde Amendment’

Ally Boguhn

The Democratic Party voiced its support for rolling back the restriction on federal funding for abortion care in its platform, which was voted through this week.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Hillary Clinton’s running mate, clarified during an interview with CNN on Friday that he still supports the Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

During Kaine’s appearance on New Day, host Alisyn Camerota asked the Democrat’s vice presidential nominee whether he was “for or against” the ban on funding for abortion. Kaine replied that he had “been for the Hyde Amendment,” adding “I haven’t changed my position on that.”

Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, told CNN on Sunday that Kaine had “said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment.” Another Clinton spokesperson later clarified to the network that Kaine’s commitment had been “made privately.”

The Democratic Party voiced its support for rolling back the restriction on federal funding for abortion care in its platform, which was voted through this week.

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“We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment,” reads the platform.

Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard that he was not aware that the party had put language outlining support for repealing Hyde into the platform, noting that he had “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Clinton has repeatedly said that she supports Hyde’s repeal, calling the abortion care restriction “hard to justify.”

Abortion rights advocates say that Hyde presents a major obstacle to abortion access in the United States.

“The Hyde amendment is a violent piece of legislation that keeps anyone on Medicaid from accessing healthcare and denies them full control over their lives,” Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said in a statement. “Whether or not folks believe in the broken U.S. political system, we are all impacted by the policies that it produces. … Abortion access issues go well beyond insurance and the ability to pay, but removing the Hyde Amendment will take us light years closer to where we need to be.”