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

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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.