Yes/no sides battle over Amendment 62

By Anthony Bowe
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Amendment 62, which would outlaw all abortions and some forms of contraception in Colorado if passed, is sneaky and far reaching, according to opponents of the ballot initiative who rallied Tuesday afternoon in front of the state capitol.

"Yes on 62" signs mixed with "No on 62" signs during the "No on 62" rally.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
Moments after she signs the anti-Amendment 62 resolution, former First Lady Dottie Lamm watches other women add their names during the rally at the capitol.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
Reverend Dawn Riley Duval of the African Methodist Episcopal Church expresses concern for the impact Amendment 62 would have on women and their families who live in poverty.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
Opponents and supporters of the 62 amendment issue show their colors during the rally in close proximity to each other.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
District 31 State Senator Pat Steadman and “No on 62” communication consultant Laura Chapin confer with a security representative from the Governor’s Office before the rally.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
Boulderite Leslie Durgin signs the “Resolution in Opposition to Amendment 62” below Dottie Lamm’s signature.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

The proposal “would amend the Colorado constitution and give legal and constitutional rights to fertilized eggs,” said Fofi Mendez, campaign director for “No on 62,” the coalition that organized the rally. “Amendment 62 would eliminate a woman’s right to make personal, private decisions about her body and her health. This proposal would impact literally thousands of laws that include the term ‘person’ for everything from property rights to inheritance rights and even with regard to those who can file a lawsuit.”

About 50 volunteers lined the west steps of the state capitol as the No on 62 campaign initiated its effort to defeat practically the same amendment as one from 2008. That amendment attempted to apply the term “person” to include “any human being from the moment of fertilization.”

“Coloradans saw through this and overwhelming voted down this amendment just two years ago by a 3-1 margin,” Mendez said.

“What part of “no” don’t they understand,” asked state Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, frustrated that the amendment is reappearing on the ballot in November.

Amendment 62, the so-called personhood amendment, would add a new section to Article II of the state constitution that would apply the term “person” to “every human being from the beginning of the biological development.”

Voices of the speakers rose above a smattering of hecklers yelling “liar” and “traitor” several times during the rally. About 20 protestors stood toward the back holding signs for the amendment.

Vicki Cowart, president of and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said Amendment 62 violates a woman’s privacy and endangers women’s health care equality.

“Amendment 62… would prohibit women from gaining access to the basic reproductive health care that they need and deserve,” Cowart said. “Women need secure health care and they need health care options that cover them wherever they are in their family planning decisions.”

The ballot measure would ban abortion in all cases, including rape and incest, said Cowart. Stem cell research and emergency contraception would also be outlawed, proponents said, since a fertilized cell would be counted as a person with the rights of a full citizen. Birth-control pills, condoms and inter-uterine devices would still be allowed since they work only to prevent pregnancy.

Questions remain on the legal aspects of the law pertaining to implementation of in vitro fertilization and also health threatening pregnancies.

“What do you if the pregnancy is going to kill the woman but the pregnancy can’t survive in a tubal pregnancy? We’ve got a problem there,” said Dr. Mary Fairbanks, a family physician in Westminster, who spoke at the rally.

Protect Families Protect Choices, the name of the issues committee, includes Planned Parenthood and a broad coalition of 48 organizations against the measure. Represented at the rally were the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and the American Methodist Episcopal Church. Other opponents of the measure include the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Colorado Medical Society, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado and the National Council of Jewish Women — Colorado Section.

Personhood Colorado, Colorado Right to Life and Colorado for Equal Rights are supporting the ballot issue again this year.

Gualberto Garcia Jones, director of Personhood Colorado, said the initiative has gained ground since 2008 and will be boosted by a higher conservative voter turnout.

“I think there has been about a 20 percent swing in voter turnout for traditional conservatives so I think they’re going to be surprised,” Jones said at the rally. “I think we’re actually within shot.”

Leslie Hanks, vice president of Colorado Right to Life, likened protesting the event to combating evil. A day after the rally, she said, “On my way to the event, Dennis Prager was on the radio talking about how it’s every generation’s duty to fight evil. And I said what could be more evil than killing the most innocent and helpless members of our families for profit?”

“In my book… the rally was for death and I just feel sad for those people that they get so worked up and excited about killing kids,” she said.

Jones, a constitutional lawyer, said this year’s amendment is purposely tailored to have a larger scope.

“It’s broader in that it encompasses some of the emerging technologies like stem cell research or cloning,” he said. “As technology evolves we’re able to create life in different ways and so the term fertilization no longer encompasses all human beings.”

If the measure passes Steadman said a legal nightmare would unfold.

“There’d be years and years of litigation over questions like: does a fertilized egg frozen in a freezer somewhere become an heir to someone’s estate; what sorts of property rights do they have; can a guardian ad litem be appointed to advocate for them in court while they’re sitting there in a freezer? — there’s a lot of pretty extreme and perhaps even absurd scenarios and yet they would all have to be litigated,” said Steadman, who campaigned against the initiative two years ago.

Jeremy Shaver, executive director of The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, opined that the initiative would be locked down in the courts based under religious freedom protections.

“The wording of the amendment would make one religious view point the law of the land when it comes to health care,” Shaver said. “Individuals look to their own faith or other ethical considerations as they make these choices, but the government must never mandate that all Coloradans follow one religious viewpoint as the law of this state.”

The hecklers attempting to interrupt the rally were asked by a state patrol trooper to tone down their protests or move to the sidewalk west of the capitol. Tensions remained high and a brief physical tussle between two opponents went unnoticed by police.

Rosalinda Elozano, 42, and daughter Amanda Soto, 22, protested the rally together with Soto’s 13-month-old son.

“I think that all human beings have a right to live no matter what the situation — every human being from conception to natural death has a right to live,” Elozano said.

Mike Elliott, 29, said he attended the rally as a concerned citizen and left as a volunteer for the No on 62 campaign. Elliott said conservatives in favor of banning abortion are flip-flopping philosophies.

“In one breath they want smaller government and in the other breath they want the government to prevent a woman who’s been raped by her father, for instance, from getting an abortion,” he said. “That is the biggest governance that I can imagine.”

Mendez said the No on 62 coalition will soon roll out a boots-on-the-ground campaign in every county in the state. The campaign plans to spend around $1 million, down from $1.7 million from 2008, she said. TV ads fighting the measure should debut by October.

Personhood Colorado already began its campaign with the release of a controversial radio ad in July comparing an American slave’s journey for freedom to that of an unborn baby. The ad capitalizes on the campaign’s slogan “Persons are not property.”

“Amendment 62 declares unborn children persons, not property. And that’s the America I fought for,” said the commercial through the voice of a fictitious American slave.

Hanks said the grassroots campaign for Amendment 62 would spend less than its opponents, but she couldn’t estimate an exact dollar amount because donations are still rolling in. Hanks said the campaign will most likely purchase a TV ad, additional radio ads and is also filming a short video intended for churches across Colorado to show in the weeks before voting begins.

Anthony@coloradostatesman.com