‘No on 48’ kicks off pro-choice campaign to defeat ‘Personhood’ amendment

Measure would give legal status to embryos

By John Schroyer

Warning of unintended legal side effects, dozens of opponents of the controversial “personhood” amendment rallied Wednesday on Denver’s Auraria campus to kick off their official campaign against Amendment 48.

Fofi Mendez, the “No on 48” campaign director, described the amendment’s backers as “a narrow minority with an extreme political view,” and said the measure, which would redefine “person” in the Colorado Constitution to include fertilized eggs, “simply goes too far.”

Mendez and others warned that the measure would grant the unborn “the same rights as your sister, your mother or your best friend,” and would result in a “legal nightmare” that would tangle Colorado’s court system for years.

Ryan Osmond, a spokesman for the national fertility organization RESOLVE, said the measure also contains a “hidden danger” because it potentially could outlaw in-vitro fertilization, a method that involves implanting women with eggs that have already begun to grow into fetuses.

Dr. Andrew Ross, chair of the Colorado Gynecological-Obstetrical Society, said Amendment 48 also could hamper lifesaving surgeries for such conditions as ectopic pregnancies. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants in one of the mother’s Fallopian tubes instead of her uterus. If such a pregnancy is allowed to proceed, the growing fetus ruptures the tube, killing both the mother and the fetus.

“I’ve been in the emergency room with a woman with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, literally dying in front of me,” Ross said. “We didn’t have an attorney on call, and if I’d had to consult with a lawyer and a judge, I’m not sure I could have saved that woman’s life.”

The campaign also plans to portray the issue as one of personal freedom from “government intrusion,” said Jeremy Shaver, director of community outreach for the Interfaith Alliance.

“Women … should be able to rely on their doctors and their pastors and their clergy for guidance, not the government courts and lawyers,” Shaver declared, to a rousing round of applause from several dozen supporters.

Kristi Burton, the 20-year-old law student and driving force behind Amendment 48, derided her opponents’ arguments as “hysterical scare tactics.”

“Amendment 48 is not going to prevent women from getting the treatment they need. That’s just ridiculous,” she said when asked about Ross’ fears over ectopic pregnancies.

Burton predicted that the courts would not intervene in such a case, when the life of the mother is clearly at risk. She also said the other concerns raised by the opponents are “side issues that will be dealt with through the courts and the legislative process.”

Burton said the fundamental difference between the two campaigns was revealed earlier in the week, when she had debated Mendez. Mendez had asserted that life begins at birth.

“That’s the difference in the two campaigns,” Burton said, speaking from Greeley, where she was campaigning as part of a statewide tour to promote the personhood amendment.

Mendez said the No on 48 campaign also will be active throughout the state, and will rely heavily on a number of other organizations that oppose Amendment 48 to help spread the word.

“All of our organizations are reaching out to all their members through phone calls, letters and word of mouth,” Mendez said.

She said the group plans media buys, including radio and TV time, in the near future.

“Our polling is showing that part of the problem is that three-quarters of voters don’t know anything about (Amendment 48) or even that it’s going to be on the ballot,” Mendez said, adding that her organization will focus mainly on voter education and awareness.

The No on 48 campaign has gained the endorsements of more than 70 organizations and 7,000 doctors. The personhood campaign has gathered support from more than 70 doctors and dozens of state and national organizations.

As of Sept. 2, the Protect Families, Protect Choices Coalition, which is funding the No on 48 campaign, had raised $589,000 and has $62,000 cash on hand. The Amendment 48 issues committee, Colorado for Equal Rights, has raised $183,000 and has $46,000 cash on hand.