DENVER – Opponents of a ballot initiative that would assign so-called “personhood” to the unborn once again are hoping Colorado voters will widely reject the measure this November.
The Vote No 67 coalition officially launched Tuesday on the steps of the Capitol in Denver. A broad coalition of about 300 pro-choice advocates and doctors waved “No 67” signs and wore T-shirts that expressed the group’s sentiment that “it goes too far.”
Amendment 67 is a bit different than personhood attempts in previous years. There is more of a focus on fetal homicide this time around.
Proponents hope the new language will be more palatable for voters. The Colorado electorate killed an initiative in 2008 by 73 percent of the vote, and then again in 2010 by 71 percent.
Proponents this year call Amendment 67 the Brady Amendment, named after the son of Heather Surovik, who died before he was born during a horrific car accident in Longmont in 2012. When Surovik woke up in the hospital, she learned that a drunken driver had taken Brady’s life.
She hoped to see the Legislature pass a bill in 2013 that would have allowed prosecutors to file charges related to the death or injury of an unborn child. But the Legislature instead opted for a compromise bill that allows prosecutors to file similar charges without heading down the personhood path.
Opponents are worried because Amendment 67 focuses more on personhood by adding the words “person” and “child” in state criminal code and the Colorado Wrongful Death Act to include unborn children. They say it is simply another attempt at banning abortion, while criminalizing doctors and mothers, and making common forms of birth control and emergency procedures illegal.
“Amendments like Amendment 67 truly are an attack on family planning, an attack on women’s access to health care, an attack on the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship and an attack on the basic rights of women in Colorado,” Vicki Cowart, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, shouted from the Capitol steps.
“Trying to define a person in this way would have dangerous and very far-reaching consequences in our practice of medicine,” added Dr. Ruben Alvero, a Colorado OB/GYN who has long rallied against personhood proposals.
Speakers also offered comments in Spanish in an effort to reach Latino voters.
State health officials recently announced that a program to reduce teen pregnancy by offering low-income women birth control resulted in a 40 percent drop.
“Just last week, we heard about a huge decline in unintended pregnancies because of the increased use of birth control. ... Yes on access to birth control,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.
Proponents are not in denial. They know that Colorado voters have repeatedly rejected the measure, and they understand that they’re going up against a well-oiled political machine in the Vote No 67 coalition. Opponents have taken in about $125,000, compared with proponents, who are operating mostly off of grass-roots support and in-kind donations. They also operate a nonprofit social welfare organization, Personhood USA, that has been assisting with the effort.
Complicating matters for proponents is that the issue has become politically toxic. Republican candidates have been frantically abandoning support, including U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Mark Udall for U.S. Senate, and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora, who is running for re-election against former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in Congressional District 6.
But Surovik said she is not interested in the politics or the opposition. She said she is on a mission to honor the death of her unborn son.
“Having a picture and a story behind it makes it a lot easier for it to click in people’s heads that this is Brady, he’s a baby; he was a baby then, and all the other unborn babies are babies, and they deserve just as much justice as you or I do,” Surovik said while standing next to her mother as the two held a picture of Brady just steps away from where opponents organized their kickoff event.
“They tell you that’s just a loss of a pregnancy, that it doesn’t count,” said Surovik’s mother, Terry Koester.
She said there is nothing in the initiative that would lead to the unintended consequences outlined by opponents. The measure simply would offer justice, Koester said.
“To stand here and listen to them say we’re against birth control, we’re against this, we’re against that. … Show me on Amendment 67 where it says that …” Koester said.
Keith Mason, founder of Personhood USA, said it is the justice and educational components that keep proponents coming back.
“Each time we do, we convince a few more people. … ” Mason said. “We’re standing on truth, our cause is right … and the more we do this, the more it infuses into culture.”