When Heather Surovik was within a month of giving birth, a terrible car accident ended the pregnancy. The man responsible for the accident was convicted of vehicular assault and driving under the influence of alcohol. From any angle, this series of events is a tragedy that justifies discussion of substantive changes in a range of laws. How Colorado defines “person” and “child” is not among them.
Surovik and her unborn son, Brady, are the public faces of the Amendment 67 campaign to amend Colorado’s Constitution, so that a “person” – therefore anyone protected by the state’s criminal code – would include unborn children. With that change, the drunken driver could have been charged for Brady’s death. Perhaps, but in that avenue to potential justice, Amendment 67 would compromise the rights of all women in Colorado to access to birth control and abortion. Plus, it is not necessary.
After Surovik’s accident, the Colorado Legislature in 2013 passed the Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act which created a class of crimes – unlawful termination of a pregnancy – under which offenders can be prosecuted for a mother’s loss. The act is clear in excluding medical care and procedures that the mother consented to endure. It is also careful not to confer personhood on “unborn human beings” – a term that Amendment 67 fails to define. That omission means that any potential future human being – from fertilized egg on – would be protected from any crime, including wrongful death. Of course, if any potential life is a person, any loss of that life is potentially wrongful: birth control that prevents implantation, emergency contraception, abortion.
Fortunately, history shows that Colorado voters have no patience for such offensive measures. Similar attempts from Amendment 67’s proponents were decisively defeated; in 2008 and 2010, personhood initiatives went down 73 percent and 71 percent, respectively. Voters in 2014 should follow suit. Vote no on Amendment 67.
Amendment 68 is a transparent attempt to use Colorado’s initiative process to benefit a single, out-of-state company, almost certainly at the expense of existing Colorado businesses and jobs. It would allow casino gambling at the Arapahoe Park horse-racing track near Aurora. It would also allow gambling at as-yet nonexistent tracks in Pueblo and Mesa counties.
Now, the only racetrack in the state, Arapahoe Park is owned by Mile High Racing and Entertainment, which is, in turn, owned by Twin River Worldwide Holding Inc. That company also owns Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island, which is threatened by neighboring Massachusetts officials’ decision to allow a slots parlor and three casinos.
The selling point is that Arapahoe Park’s backers wrote into Amendment 68 a provision for a 34 percent tax on gambling revenue, to be devoted entirely to education. Supporters claim it would yield $100 million per year in funding for K-12 and charter schools.
Opposition to the Arapahoe Park casino scheme comes largely from the owners of existing Colorado casinos in Cripple Creek, Blackhawk and Central City. They fear Denver-area gamblers would rather make the short drive to unincorporated Arapahoe County than the longer one to their casinos. They are probably right. Arapahoe Park would be the only casino actually in the Denver metro area, and it would be large. The worry is that while Arapahoe Park might offer new jobs, they would ultimately come at the expense of jobs at existing casinos. Hiring one Coloradan while eliminating another’s job is not a move forward.
Likewise, the money for education is unlikely to appear out of thin air. Much of it will be money that would already be collected by other casinos. If that money shifts to Arapahoe Park, it will largely go from one state pocket to another.
What Amendment 68 would do is put existing jobs at risk, threaten historic towns and clutter up Colorado’s Constitution for no other reason than to boost an East Coast company. We do not need it.