News Abortion

‘Personhood’ Backers to Submit Signatures to Qualify for 2014 Ballot in Colorado

Jason Salzman

Despite repeated setbacks since 2010, including two overwhelming losses at the polls, anti-choice activists are planning to submit signatures Monday to put another “personhood” amendment on next year’s election ballot in Colorado.

Anti-choice activists in Colorado are rushing to meet Monday’s deadline to submit 86,105 signatures required to place an amendment on the 2014 election ballot that would change the definition of “person” and “child” under Colorado law to include “unborn human beings.”

Backers of the vaguely worded measure describe it among themselves as “personhood” and say it would ban all abortion, even though the measure is promoted to the public as an effort to protect “pregnant mothers and their unborn babies from violent and dangerous criminals.”

If it makes next year’s ballot, Colorado citizens will have their third chance to vote on “personhood” amendments, as two measures were defeated overwhelmingly in 2008, when Colorado was the first state in the country to vote on the “personhood” concept, and again in 2010.

Last year, a “personhood” initiative didn’t qualify for the ballot after Colorado’s Secretary of State rejected 23,873 of the 106,119 signatures submitted, leaving a shortfall of 3,859 signatures.

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“People have said, ‘When are you going to give up?’” Colorado Right to Life spokesperson and talk-radio host Bob Enyart told his radio audience Monday. “What do you mean give up? If they are killing Jews, when do you give up? I mean, you don’t give up, right? You fight for the innocent. You fight for the Lord.”

Enyart is confident that he and his allies have corrected signature-gathering mistakes that led to the disqualification of so many signatures last year.

“Over the years, we’ve lost tens of thousands of signatures because the notaries were disqualified,” he told his radio audience, explaining that this year “every one of the petitions that has been turned in has gone through a quality-control system, and many have been returned to notaries or to the circulator to get them re-notarized correctly.”

Backers of this year’s initiative, including Personhood USA, hope that, if their measure makes the ballot, it will have a better chance of being approved because the ballot language focuses on “pregnant mothers and their unborn children.”

Pro-choice groups reportedly spent a total of $2 million fighting “personhood” amendments in 2008 and 2010, and they say they are ready to fight again next year, if necessary.

“If Personhood Colorado has collected enough signatures to be placed on the ballot in 2014, we will again fight to make sure Coloradans know the truth that this measure punishes women who are victims of rape or incest and who become pregnant by these violent acts,” said Cathy Alderman, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, in a statement.

For now, “personhood” backers aren’t thinking about next year’s fight with Planned Parenthood and its allies. Their focus is Monday’s deadline for submitting their petitions, which they’re collecting at their office in a Denver suburb.

“No signature left behind,” Enyart chanted to his radio audience. “No signature left behind.”

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 LGBTQ

Anti-Trans Petition Fails to Make November Ballot in Washington State

Nicole Knight Shine

"Washingtonians stood up against discrimination and secured this significant victory—for our state and our nation—ensuring that transgender people and their families will continue to be protected equally under the law," Kris Hermanns, CEO of The Pride Foundation, an LGBTQ advocacy group, wrote on Friday.

LGBTQ rights advocates in Washington state were cheering the news Friday that a discriminatory proposed bathroom measure requiring individuals to use facilities corresponding to their assigned gender at birth failed to qualify for the statewide ballot.

“Washingtonians stood up against discrimination and secured this significant victory—for our state and our nation—ensuring that transgender people and their families will continue to be protected equally under the law,” Kris Hermanns, CEO of the Pride Foundation, an LGBTQ advocacy group, wrote on Friday, after hearing the news.

The measure’s backer, a group called Just Want Privacy, announced Thursday night the petition hadn’t gathered the required 246,000 signatures to go before voters in November.

Just Want Privacy launched the petition, known as I-1515, shortly after the state Human Rights Commission, in a December rule, affirmed a 2006 state law protecting the right of individuals to use the bathroom or locker room corresponding to their gender identity, among other provisions. The rule applied to private and public facilities, and included stores, schools, restaurants, and most places of employment.

Major corporations like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Airbnb had opposed I-1515, as the Seattle Times reported.

Organizers with Just Want Privacy said they’d intended to deliver the signatures to the Washington state Secretary of State’s office Friday morning. They said in an online announcement that they will “not give up the fight.”

In a filing with the Washington Secretary of State, the petitioners argued that the state’s transgender protections would cause “potential embarrassment, shame, and psychological injury” to those sharing a bathroom or locker room with a transgender individual. They contended that the law and recent rule “interferes with a student’s right to privacy and a parent’s right to determine when their children are exposed to sensitive issues and subjects.”

Proponents of discriminatory measures targeting transgender individuals often cite such a “need for safety,” but evidence doesn’t bear that out.

“Over 200 municipalities and 18 states have nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender people’s access to facilities consistent with the gender they live every day,” a statement from a coalition policy and advocacy group recently noted. “None of those jurisdictions have seen a rise in sexual violence or other public safety issues due to nondiscrimination laws.”

As a June article in the New England Journal of Medicine noted, “It is transgender people who have generally been the victims of verbal harassment and physical assaults when trying to use public bathrooms.”

Discriminatory bathroom bills forcing individuals to use facilities that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate have been challenged multiple times in court. This includes North Carolina’s recent HB 2, which the U.S. Department of Justice has sued to block. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the North Carolina measure “state-sponsored discrimination.”