Colorado Fetal ‘Personhood’ Amendment Will Be on 2014 Ballot

Anti-choice organization Personhood Colorado collected more than 140,000 signatures in favor of the ballot measure, which would redefine the words "person" and "child" to include fetuses, far exceeding the required number.

If approved, the ordinance would have a significant impact not just on reproductive rights in Albuquerque but throughout New Mexico and the Southwest. Voting ballot via Shutterstock

Colorado voters will decide next year whether to pass an amendment that would redefine the words “person” and “child” to include fetuses, Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced this week.

Anti-choice organization Personhood Colorado collected more than 140,000 signatures in favor of the ballot measure, far exceeding the required 86,105. A statistical analysis indicated that more than 100,000 of the signatures are valid, which is enough to put the measure before the voters in November.

Personhood Colorado has tried three times to pass some kind of fetal “personhood” amendment in Colorado, which would effectively outlaw abortions. Those previous measures failed by a margin of 3 to 1 in 2008 and 2010, and did not receive enough valid signatures to appear on the 2012 ballot.

The so-called Brady Amendment, or Amendment 67, was initiated by Heather Surovik, who was struck by a drunk driver when she was eight months pregnant. She lost her fetus, which she had planned to name Brady. Surovik writes on her website that she wanted Brady to be legally recognized as a person so that the driver could be prosecuted on homicide charges.

“Homicide is an act that can only be perpetrated against a person,” Cathy Alderman, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told Rewire. “Once you define a fetus or embryo as a person, you pit the rights of a woman against her pregnancy. … We recognize that a pregnancy is part of a woman.”

A 2013 Colorado law, the Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act, mandates additional penalties for crimes resulting in the loss of a wanted pregnancy but does not define a fetus as a person.

Personhood USA is backing Amendment 67, and it is also appealing the 2012 ruling that its own personhood amendment did not have enough valid signatures, Personhood USA spokesperson Jennifer Mason told Rewire.

Personhood USA’s amendment language specifically defines a “human being” as “a member of the species homo sapiens at any stage of development.” Amendment 67, on the other hand, has language about “protecting pregnant women and unborn children” which vaguely defines “unborn human beings” as a person or child.

“This amendment is unique because it recognizes the personhood of babies like Brady and doesn’t go out of its way to affirm abortion,” Mason said. When asked whether the amendment would affect access to safe abortion care, she said, “It’s a very interesting question before the legislature. … If babies in the womb are people who deserve protection, what’s the difference from other babies?”

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ Alderman noted that while the language in the amendment is slightly different than in previous years, this amendment has the same potential to restrict access to abortion and other reproductive health services, including some forms of contraception or infertility treatments. “We think the ballot language is very misleading because it doesn’t actually tell voters what the true impacts of the measure would be if it were to pass,” she said.