Coalition rallies to defeat personhood amendment

A broad-based coalition opposing Amendment 67 kicked off its statewide campaign this week, hopng that Colorado voters will once again defeat the controversial ballot measure.

Opponents of the amendment view it as another attempt to ban all abortions in Colorado, including in cases of rape and incest and when the health of a woman is at risk.

Vote NO 67 Campaign Manager Fofi Mendez (at podium) addresses a rally at the state Capitol this week as fellow speakers congregeate around her.
Photo Courtesy of Mark Silverstein

Amendment 67 seeks to include unborn human beings in the Colorado Criminal Code and Wrongful Death Act. If approved by voters, it would change the definition of “person” or “child” to include an unborn human being. The emotional issue has been at the forefront of political debate in the state since 2008, when voters initially went to the polls and defeated a similar ballot item with 73 percent of the vote. The personhood measure was shot down again in 2010, this time with 71 percent.

The issue has spilled over into the 2014 campaigns, with U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, withdrawing his previous support of personhood in his effort to defeat incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall. Similarly, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, has put conditions on his support, angering some in the pro-life movement and allowing the issue to become a lightning rod in his close race in CD 6 with Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff.

Supporters have not been deterred and turned in more than 140,000 petition signatures last October to have the measure placed on the 2014 ballot. A little more than 86,000 valid signatures were required.

This year, Amendment 67 is known as the Brady Amendment — named after the son of Firestone resident Heather Surovik, who was eight months pregnant with her son, Brady, when a drunk driver struck her car in 2012 and killed her unborn child. Supporters contend that this year’s proposal is similar to those in 30 other states which aims to protect pregnant women from violent assault.

This year’s ballot focuses on the issue of fetal homicide. Surovik lobbied at the state Capitol in 2013 for legislation that would have allowed the prosecution for injury or death of an unborn child. The legislature ultimately passed a compromise bill, but it was not strong enough for Surovik and supporters.

Surovik doesn’t view this year’s attempt in political terms. She insists that her intent is to make sure that babies like Brady receive justice and protection against acts of violence.
Dissenters who gathered at the state Capital on Tuesday, however, view this latest ballot measure as dangerous, with far-reaching consequences.

“Amendment 67 truly is an attack on family planning, an attack on a woman’s access to health care, an attack on the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship, and an attack on basic rights of women in Colorado,” said Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

“Amendment 67 would remove a woman’s ability to make her own reproductive health care decisions,” she said.

Dr. Ruben Alvero, a Colorado doctor of obstetrics and gynecology, warned that Amendment 67 would restrict access to emergency contraception and commonly used forms of birth control — including the Pill and IUDs. It could impede the use of in-vitro fertilization for infertile couples who are hoping to have a family, Alvero said. And, stem cell research that is being used to fight chronic disease and disabilities could be restricted.

“Amendment 67 is bad medicine for women and for Colorado,” Alvero added. “It would allow the government and the courts to violate the sanctity of doctor/patient privacy, and allow government access to women’s private medical records.

Cristina Aguilar, executive director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), said Amendment 67 “is written in language that tries to trick us. It would actually do the opposite — it would criminalize women and outlaw all abortion, including women who are the victims of rape, incest, and when a women’s life is at risk.”

Aguilar pointed out that if approved by voters, there could be far-reaching and negative consequences for Latinas and their families.

“This amendment would eliminate a Latina’s right to make personal, private decisions about her body and her health,” she said. “It would allow the government access to her private medical records.”

Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, described how Amendment 67 would invite the government into peoples’ personal, private lives.

“Quite simply, it means that the term ‘unborn human being’ would apply to all stages of pregnancy — all the way back to a fertilized egg,” Woodliff-Stanley said. “Amendment 67 would make pregnant women and health care providers criminally liable for any pregnancy that does not result in a live birth, right from the very first moments of a pregnancy.”

The message was echoed by Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. “Women need the full range of health care options when it comes to family planning. Every woman is different and every situation is different,” she stated. “Amendment 67 does the opposite of giving women informed choices. It’s dangerous and it limits their freedom to live their own lives.”

The Rev. Jann Halloran, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice of Colorado, emphasized that, “Decisions about family planning, pregnancy, birth control and emergency contraceptives should be resolved privately, based upon our own faith, our beliefs and values.”

“Denying women access to medical treatments, and even contraception, does not protect women, their children and families,” added Fofi Mendez, campaign manager for Vote NO 67.

“Once again we need to deliver the message in November: No means no.”

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