DENVER – Supporters of a ballot initiative that would constitutionally assign personhood to the unborn believe their drive this year is different than in previous years.
But that hasn’t changed the narrative.
Personhood has become a toxic topic for candidates, especially Republicans trying to curb their pro-life positions.
U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman and gubernatorial challenger Bob Beauprez, all Republicans, have frantically run from the initiative.
Democrats have tied the debate to a “war on women,” in which they suggest that supporting personhood is a vote for banning common forms of birth control and criminalizing doctors and women for performing and undergoing emergency medical procedures. The initiative also would effectively ban abortion in Colorado.
Proponents say it’s the same song and dance from opponents like Planned Parenthood.
“It’s just politics,” said Jennifer Mason, spokeswoman for Personhood USA and the Amendment 67 drive. “We don’t take it personally. We never sought the endorsements of any of the candidates at all. Their defection doesn’t really affect us at all.”
For the record, Mason said that a federal Life at Conception Act and Amendment 67 are different because the state initiative applies to Colorado criminal code, specifically the Wrongful Death Act.
Several Republicans, including Gardner, support the federal measure but oppose the state initiative.
Mason said that candidates like Gardner supported personhood ballot drives in the past, and that the “language is nearly identical to the Life at Conception Act.”
Voters rejected an initiative in 2008 by 73 percent of the vote, and then again in 2010 by 71 percent.
Proponents have repackaged the question this year by focusing more on fetal homicide. It is called the Brady Amendment, named after the son of Heather Surovik, who died before he was born during a car accident in Longmont in 2012. When Surovik woke up in the hospital, she learned that a drunken driver had taken Brady’s life.
The Legislature failed to pass a bill in 2013 that would have allowed prosecutors to file charges related to the death or injury of an unborn child. The Legislature instead opted for a compromise bill that allows prosecutors to file similar charges without heading down the personhood path.
“This does recognize that the child is a person, and that’s the only way to change the law and ensure that the law recognizes two victims,” Mason said.
But opponents say a re-branding of the initiative does not change the consequences.
“Our commitment to the women we serve motivates us because they deserve the right to make their own health-care decisions,” said Vicki Cowart, chief executive and president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
Opponents held a news conference on Friday at a Planned Parenthood in Denver, where doctors spoke of their fears.
“Amendment 67 would criminalize doctors like myself who committed our lives to helping women have safe and healthy pregnancies,” said Dr. Aaron Lazorwitz, an OB-GYN at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine.
Fofi Mendez, campaign manager for Vote NO 67, said that even though the political backlash has been strong, her group is still working to let voters know of the possible consequences.
“This has dangerous consequences for women and their families,” Mendez said. “So, it is making them understand that Amendment 67 is, in fact, a personhood initiative that they do want to vote down.”