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

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 Politics

Colorado Republicans Pick Anti-Choice County Commissioner for U.S. Senate Race

Jason Salzman

Darryl Glenn, an anti-choice Colorado Springs County Commissioner, defeated a pro-choice GOP rival and three other anti-choice Republicans in the race to take on pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet in November.

In Colorado’s Republican senatorial primary Tuesday, Darryl Glenn, a conservative county commissioner from Colorado Springs, scored a decisive victory over Jack Graham, a former Colorado State University official, who stood out from the GOP field of five candidates for his atypical pro-choice stance.

Glenn received about 38 percent of the primary vote versus nearly 25 percent for Graham, who finished second.

Glenn made no secret of his anti-choice stance during the primary election, describing himself in interviews as an “unapologetic Christian, constitutional conservative” and supporting “personhood” rights for fertilized human eggs (zygotes), a stance that could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception.

Consistent with this, Glenn is also opposed to the Roe v. Wade decision.

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Glenn frequently brought up his faith in interviews. For example, Glenn broke out from his Republican rivals at the GOP state convention in April, where he gave an impassioned speech during which he discussed Planned Parenthood and opposing abortion ​before delegates voted him on to the GOP primary ballot.

Asked about the speech by conservative radio host Richard Randall, Glenn said, “Well, that wasn’t me. That was the Holy Spirit coming through, just speaking the truth.”

Seriously?” replied the KVOR radio host.

Absolutely,” Glenn replied on air. “This campaign has always been about honoring and serving God and stepping up and doing the right thing.”

Political observers say Glenn’s position on abortion, coupled with his other conservative stances and his promise never to compromise, spell trouble for him in November’s general election against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

“Glenn’s stance on abortion isn’t necessarily disqualifying,” Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, which offers non-partisan election analysis, in Washington D.C., told Rewire via email. “Colorado has sent pro-life Republicans to the Senate. But, the cumulative effect of all Glenn’s conservative positions on social, economic, and foreign policy, as well as his association with Tea Party-affiliated groups and his lack of funding make it very, very difficult to see a path to victory for him.”

In the final weeks of the primary, Glenn was supported by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Glenn’s ties to the right wing of the Republican Party drew criticism during the campaign from GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He criticized Glenn for accepting the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which gave Glenn $500,000.

Duffy doesn’t expect the race to be “very competitive,” an observation that aligns with the “Democrat favored” assessment of the race by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. Last year, Bennet was widely considered one of only two vulnerable U.S. Senate Democrats.

“Darryl Glenn’s support for ‘personhood’ puts him on the wrong side of Colorado voters’ values, including many pro-choice Republicans and unaffiliated voters,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, in an email to Rewire. “Support for reproductive freedom crosses party lines in Colorado, as demonstrated by the landslide losses by three ‘personhood’ ballot measures. Glenn’s chances of beating pro-choice champion Michael Bennet were already slim. This puts it closer to none.”

Glenn did not immediately return a call for comment.

In 2014, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who is anti-choice, defeated pro-choice Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who hammered Gardner on his abortion stance throughout the campaign. 

Gardner threw his support behind Glenn Wednesday, reportedly saying to Roll Call that Glenn has fundraising challenges ahead of him but that he’s “winning when nobody expected him to.” And that, Gardner was quoted as saying, “bodes well for November.”