News Abortion

Colorado Activists Rally Against Personhood USA-Backed Ballot Measure

Jason Salzman

Abortion rights organizations in Colorado launched a campaign Tuesday opposing a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would add “unborn human beings” to the state’s criminal code.

Read more of our articles on Amendment 67 here.

Abortion rights organizations in Colorado launched a campaign Tuesday opposing a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would add “unborn human beings” to the state’s criminal code.

Speakers at a rally on the west steps of the state capitol warned that the initiative, called Amendment 67, would go much further than allowing prosecutors, for example, to file murder charges against a drunk driver who hits a pregnant woman and terminates her pregnancy without killing her.

Instead, the “deceptive measure” is “truly an attack on family planning and women’s health,” Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told the crowd. With “unborn human beings” left undefined, the measure would lead to a ban on all abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, and restrict access to birth control, she said.

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“Amendment 67 would do exactly the opposite of protecting women and their babies from drunk drivers,” Cowart said.

“Amendment 67 would eliminate a woman’s right to make personal and private decisions about her health,” said Cristina Aguilar, interim executive director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), who delivered her speech in both Spanish and English. “For a woman who has suffered a miscarriage, this allows the government to investigate.”

“Amendment 67 is, put simply, bad medicine for women and for Colorado,” Dr. Ruben Alvero, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Colorado, told the crowd. “We want to protect pregnant women from harm, but Amendment 67 is not the way.”

Before being shuffled off by police to a public sidewalk near the “Vote No 67” rally, backers of Amendment 67 said the warnings about far-reaching impacts of their measure were unfounded.

Similar “fetal homicide” laws in other states have “never led to an abortion ban,” Personhood USA spokesperson Keith Mason told Rewire. Personhood USA supports Amendment 67.

“Who looks at Brady and says he wasn’t a person?” asks Mason, referring to a fetus killed by a drunk driver who slammed into Heather Surovik two years ago. A photo of Brady is on the campaign materials of backers of Amendment 67, which they refer to as the Brady Amendment.

Colorado law allows abortion throughout pregnancy, and a fetus doesn’t receive legal protection under state law prior to birth. A 2013 Colorado law, passed after Surovik’s tragic loss of her pregnancy, allows prosecutors to file charges if a pregnancy is terminated due to reckless acts of violence, but murder charges cannot be brought because the fetus is not considered a person under state law.

“Amendment 67 is just about protecting babies like my son Brady,” said Surovik, who wants murder charges to be filed in cases like hers.

Asked whether the passage of Amendment 67 could lead to government investigations of miscarriages, Surovik said, “My intent is that babies are protected.”

November will be the third time Colorado citizens vote on “personhood” amendments, which were defeated overwhelmingly by voters in 2008 and 2010. Activists fell just short of gathering enough signatures to place a “personhood” amendment on the ballot in 2012.

The 2010 “personhood” measure, like the similarly worded 2008 proposed amendment, would have defined a “person” in the Colorado Constitution as “every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.”

This year’s ballot question asks if voters want to protect “pregnant women and unborn children by defining ‘person’ and ‘child’ in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings.”

The presence of Amendment 67 on November’s ballot could intensify the election-year debate about abortion and contraception issues.

Already, Sen. Mark Udall has been pounding his opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner, for his previous support of a personhood ballot initiative and for his ongoing co-sponsorship of a federal “personhood” bill.

ProgressNow Colorado Director Amy Runyon-Harms sent an email to Gardner Tuesday, asking him, in light of his decision this year to un-endorse state personhood amendments, to attend the Vote No 67 rally.

You may have read that the NO on Amendment 67 campaign is kicking off their opposition to this year’s Personhood abortion ban amendment with a rally at the Capitol today. Can I tell them you’ll be joining us?

Runyon-Harms told Rewire she did not hear back from Gardner, who’s run TV advertisements emphasizing that he’s withdrawn his previous support for “personhood” bans.

In fact, Gardner has not withdrawn his support for the federal “personhood” bill. To do so, Gardner would have to make a brief speech from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

This month, Gardner’s spokesperson stated, erroneously, that the federal “personhood” legislation, co-sponsored by Gardner, “simply states that life begins at conception” and does not aim to confer legal protections on fertilized human eggs.

News Abortion

Colorado U.S. Senate Candidate Hedges on Anti-Choice Stance

Jason Salzman

A Republican running for U.S. Senate in Colorado was on record during the GOP primary as supporting a "personhood" abortion ban, but now, as Republicans have done in previous Colorado elections, he’s sounding more pro-choice.

During his successful primary campaign to take on U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Darryl Glenn clearly stated his opposition to the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, garnering the support of anti-choice organization Colorado Right to Life (CRTL).

Glenn’s “pro-life” rating from the group was based on a questionnaire revealing, “with no weasel-room,” that the candidate believes “government has an obligation to protect all human life from conception forward” and “every innocent human being has an inalienable Right to Life at every age or stage of development,” according to the CRTL blog.

Glenn, an El Paso county commissioner, is now hedging on his stringent anti-choice stance and angering his former anti-choice allies in the process.

“As a person who has two adult daughters, I put myself in that situation,” Glenn said during a July 19 appearance on Devil’s Advocate, a local public affairs television program sponsored by a conservative think tank. “And I want to make sure that when we’re talking about health care, you want to make sure that women have the ability and access to health care, so that they understand all the different options that are out there. And at some point in time, maybe they might have to make that decision. But that is a personal decision that they have to make between them and … God.”

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Anti-choice activists were unhappy with Glenn’s comments.

“I’m willing to say on behalf of our organization that his comments were not nearly as strong as we would hope,” Susan Sutherland, vice president of Colorado Right to Life, told the Durango Herald, which broke the story Monday. “He was just trying to play a little bit of political maneuvering there.”

Gualberto Garcia Jones, the author of Colorado’s failed 2012 “personhood” amendment, told Rewire via email that Glenn’s comments show that the “right to life is not a priory for him.” So-called personhood laws, rejected by voters in several states, would grant full rights to a fetus, therefore outlawing abortion care.

“As a politician, he knows that a consistent 100% pro-life position will make it much more difficult for him to get elected to a statewide elected position in Colorado,” wrote Jones, vice president of the anti-choice Personhood Alliance. “We know from past personhood campaigns that support for a 100% pro-life position at the present time can get you around 35% of the vote statewide, however, with that sizable support comes 45% or more of ardent opposition. This political reality leads candidates for statewide office to do the primary-general two-step.”

“Every politician has to make a call on fundamental issues,” Jones continued. “What call they end up making is simultaneously a reflection of the politician’s priorities (getting elected v. standing for a principle) and of the electorate who on fundamental questions such as the right to life is itself not consistent.”

One pro-choice group in Colorado downplayed the debate about Glenn’s choice of words to describe his abortion stance, focusing instead on the policy ramifications.

“We are not concerned about the label that someone has or is given,” said Cristina Aguilar, executive director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), in an email statement. “We are committed to ensuring that women have access to information and support to make the decision that is best for them and that they are able to seek quality health care without medically unnecessary barriers.”

In Colorado’s last U.S. Senate election, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner dropped his support for a state “personhood” amendment after years as a strong supporter, saying he did not understand the measure. U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) followed suit.

Even though Gardner refused to rescind his support for a federal “personhood” bill, Gardner defeated pro-choice Democrat Mark Udall in an election that emphasized choice issues from start to finish.

After winning the GOP U.S. Senate primary in 2010, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck withdrew his backing of a so-called personhood amendment, also saying he had not understood the anti-choice measure aimed at ending legal abortion.

Democrats hammered Buck on the “personhood” issue, like they did four years later in in the 2014 Gardner-Udall race. Buck lost to pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet (D), who faces Glenn this November.

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.

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