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Colorado Definition of "Personhood" Initiative, Amendment 67 (2014)

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Amendment 67
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Colorado Constitution
Referred by:Citizens
Topic:Personhood & criminal law
Status:On the ballot
2014 measures
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November 4
Amendment 67
Amendment 68
Proposition 104
Proposition 105
Full text
Polls
Local measures
The Colorado Definition of Person and Child Initiative, Amendment 67 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in the state of Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment. If approved by voters, the measure would include unborn human beings under the definition of "person" and "child" in the Colorado criminal code.[1] Although initiatives can be placed on the ballot in odd-numbered years in Colorado, reports stated that this measure's proponents were shooting for the 2014 ballot.[2][3]

Personhood Colorado, the group behind the initiative, turned in over 140,000 signatures, surpassing the required threshold of 86,105 by a significant margin. On October 14, the Secretary of State's office confirmed that there were adequate valid signatures, securing a place for Amendment 67, also known as the "Brady Project", on the 2014 ballot.[4][5]

Personhood Colorado has said that the Amendment 67 is very different than their attempts in 2008 and 2010, which both failed with over 70 percent of voters rejecting against them. Amendment 67 focuses on including fetuses in the Colorado Criminal Code and the Colorado Wrongful Death Act, while past attempts sought to simply change the definition of a person to include fetuses in all areas of law. Jennifer Mason, a spokeswoman for Personhood Colorado said, “This will be the first time that an amendment of this nature will be on the ballot in Colorado. This is a very different take on a sort of personhood amendment."[4]

Text of measure

Ballot title

The official ballot question reads as follows:[1]

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution protecting pregnant women and unborn children by defining "person" and "child" in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings?[6]

Constitutional changes

See also: Article XVIII, Colorado Constitution

The following Section 17 would be added to Article XVIII of the Colorado Constitution:[7]

Section 17. Protection of Pregnant Mothers and Unborn Children

1. Purpose and findings. In 2009, Judges of the Colorado State Court of Appeals in People V. Lage 232 P.3d (Colo. App. 2009) concluded that:

(a) "There is no definition of 'person' or 'child' of general applicability in the Criminal Code" (majority opinion by Judge Roy); and
(b) "This is an area that cries out for new legislation. Our General Assembly, unlike congress and most state legislatures, has precluded homicide prosecutions for killing the unborn" (Judge Connelly concurring in part and dissenting in part).

2. Definitions. In the interest of the protection of pregnant mothers and their unborn children from criminal offenses and neglect and wrongful acts, the words "person" and "child" in the Colorado Criminal Code and the Colorado Wrongful Death Act must include unborn human beings.

3. Self executing, and severability provision. All provisions of this section are self-executing and are severable.

4. Effective date. All provisions of this section shall become effective upon official declaration of the vote hereon by proclamation of the governor pursuant to section 1(4) of Article V.[6]


Background

"Brady Project"

The supporters and proponents of the proposed Amendment 67 are calling it the "Brady Project" or the "Brady Amendment" in honor of Heather Surovik's unborn child who was killed in a car accident in Surovik's eighth month of pregnancy. The driver responsible for the accident pleaded guilty to vehicular assault and driving under the influence, but he was not prosecuted for the death of the unborn "Brady" because under Colorado law a fetus is treated as part of the mother's body until birth. Personhood Colorado literature has this to say about the incident and the initiative: “A drunk driver killed Heather Surovik’s eight month old preborn son Brady but avoided prosecution because Colorado law doesn’t recognize Brady as a person. In honor of her son, Heather Surovik has initiated the Brady Amendment to recognize unborn babies as persons in law.”[5]

Related legislation

House Bill 1032

House Bill 1032 was sponsored by Janak Joshi (R-16) and was supported by Personhood Colorado. Heather Surovik also testified in support of the bill recounting her own experience of losing her expected child in a car accident. HB 1032 claimed human rights for unborn members of the human species with respect to criminal actions and the Colorado criminal code. The bill was in committee when it was denied referral to the Committee on Judiciary and was tabled indefinitely in a 7-4 vote. All seven legislators that voted against the bill were Democrats while all four legislators that voted for the bill were Republicans.[8][9]

House Bill 13-1154

Amendment 67 proponents did not approve of the competing "Crimes Against Pregnant Women" bill that was passed by the Colorado General Assembly. Unlike Amendment 67, the “Crimes Against Pregnant Women” bill specifically does not “confer personhood, or any rights associated with that status, on a human being at any time prior to live birth.”[10]

The bill was sponsored by Mike Foote (D-12) and Pat Steadman (D-31) A summary of the bill is below:

The bill creates a new article for offenses against pregnant women. The new offenses are unlawful termination of a pregnancy in the first degree, unlawful termination of a pregnancy in the second degree, unlawful termination of a pregnancy in the third degree, unlawful termination of a pregnancy in the fourth degree, vehicular unlawful termination of a pregnancy, aggravated vehicular unlawful termination of a pregnancy, and careless driving resulting in unlawful termination of a pregnancy. The bill makes it clear that a court can impose consecutive sentences for a violation of this act and other associated convictions. The bill excludes from prosecution medical care for which the mother provided consent. The bill does not confer the status of "person" upon a human embryo, fetus, or unborn child at any stage of development prior to live birth.

The bill repeals the criminal abortion statutes.

The bill makes conforming amendments.[10][6]

On June 5, 2013, Governor John Hickenlooper (D) signed the measure into law. The bill was passed according to the following final reading votes:

Senate
HB13-1154
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 21 60%
No1440%
House
HB13-1154
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 41 64%
No2336%

Support

Personhoodcolorado-header4.png

Supporters

  • Personhood Colorado[11]
  • Personhood USA[12]
  • A Voice for Brady[13]

Arguments

Surovik said,

Brady was eight pounds, two ounces – he was a person! And Planned Parenthood and the media are trying to take the focus off of Brady, to ignore him to push their own agendas. Let me be clear: this amendment is about Brady, and his life, and justice for women who have suffered the tragedy that I have suffered."[14][6]

A Voice for Brady responded to the question "Is the Brady Amendment necessary?" by saying,

In 2009, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that “this is an area that cries out for new legislation.” The court also pointed out that the Colorado “general assembly, unlike congress and most state legislatures, has precluded homicide prosecutions for killing the unborn.” The Brady Amendment is vitally important to expectant mothers and their unborn children in Colorado, serving as a deterrent to anyone who thinks that they can injure or kill an unborn child with minimal consequences.[6]

—A Voice for Brady, [15]

Opposition

No Personhood Issue Committee's "Vote No on 67" campaign logo

Opponents

  • No Personhood Issue Committee
  • Planned Parenthood

Arguments

Those who are opposed to Amendment 67 claim that it is too similar to previous person hood definition attempts by the same group in 2008 and 2010, which were soundly rejected by voters. Opponents are concerned that this initiative might provide a disguised way to take legal action against abortion practices.[14]

No Personhood Issue Committee is sponsoring the "Vote No on 67" campaign against this measure. They provide the following three arguments against Amendment 67 on their campaign website:

Why Amendment 67 is Misleading and Has Far-Reaching Consequences: The measure expands the term person to include “unborn human being,” which has no established legal or medical definition, is not defined in the amendment, and would apply at all stages of pregnancy, including from the moment of fertilization. So once again we are giving legal and constitutional rights to a woman’s fertilized egg.

Why Amendment 67 Goes Too Far: The measure would make any abortion a crime, would make pregnant women and health care providers criminally and civilly liable for any pregnancy that does not result in a live birth, regardless of the stage of pregnancy.

How Amendment 67 puts the Government into Our Personal Private Lives: It would also outlaw any birth control options like the Pill, IUDs and emergency contraception, as they can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.[6]

—No Personhood Issue Committee, [16]

Media editorial positions

Opposition

  • The Pueblo Chieftan said,
In the past, Coloradans have rejected personhood amendments. This latest measure would be more restrictive than its predecessors due to its undefined language. And the wording could very likely expose the state to a cascade of expensive legal challenges that the taxpayers can ill afford.

For these reasons, we vote no on Amendment 67.[6]

Pueblo Chieftan, [17]

  • The Aurora Sentinel said,
Make no mistake, this measure has nothing to do with protecting the rights or health of women, and this has everything to do with usurping the medical privacy guarantees for women created by the U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision...Plain and simple, Amendment 67 would bestow constitutional rights on fertilized human eggs, creating a labyrinth of medical and legal nightmares for women, hospitals and doctors. It’s a dangerous idea that even the most ardent critics of legalized abortion have worked previously to defeat.[6]

Aurora Sentinel, [18]

  • The Denver Post said,
In redefining "person" to include "unborn human beings," the amendment could be construed to apply from the moment a woman's egg is fertilized. Birth control methods that work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman's uterus would be outlawed.

This is drastic, and Coloradans should vote this measure down the way they did similar efforts in 2008 and 2010.[6]

Denver Post, [19]

  • The Sky-Hi News said,
Be that as it may, on its merits — or, more precisely, its lack thereof — Amendment 67 deserves to go down in flames.

It would effectively ban all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in jeopardy. It would also restrict access to some forms of contraception.

The amendment would expand the legal definition of “person” to encompass “unborn human being,” which would remain undefined, raising the specter that for legal purposes a “person” is created at the moment of conception.[6]

Sky-Hi News, [20]

  • Steamboat Today said,
We see the amendment as a thinly veiled attempt to make abortion illegal in the state of Colorado, and we think it goes too far. A woman’s right to choose has been written into law and upheld since 1973 when the U.S Supreme Court made its landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Trying to reverse those laws with an amendment to the state constitution is not a direction we think Colorado should go, and once the state constitution is amended, the legislature is powerless to change it back.

Amendment 67 is wrong for women and wrong for the state of Colorado. We encourage voters to look beyond the tragic death of an unborn child and see the truth behind Amendment 67 and vote no.[6]

Steamboat Today, [21]

Path to the ballot

Colorado Constitution
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Preamble
Articles
IIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXIXIIXIIIXIVXVXVIXVIIXVIIIXIXXXXXIXXIIXXIIIXXIVXXVXXVIXXVIIXXVIIIXXIXSchedule
See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Colorado & Amending the Colorado Constitution

Personhood Colorado, the group behind the initiative, turned in over 140,000 signatures, surpassing by a significant margin the threshold of 86,105 valid signatures required to qualify an initiated constitutional amendment or an initiated state statute. On October 14, 2013, the Secretary of State's office confirmed that there were adequate valid signatures, securing a place for Amendment 67 on the 2014 ballot.[4] In Colorado, petitioners needed to obtain at least 86,105 valid signatures in order to place the measure on the ballot.

See also

External links

Support

Opposition

Additional reading

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Colorado Secretary of State, "Proposed Initiative 5," accessed April 1, 2013
  2. Christian News, "Mother of Baby Killed By Drunk Driver Files Ballot Initiative to Recognize Unborn as Persons," February 5, 2013
  3. News 4, "'Unborn human beings' question makes Colorado ballots," October 14, 2013
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The Washington Post, "Colorado will vote on personhood amendment," October 15, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Colorado Independent, "Anti-abortion group’s ballot initiative never mentions abortion," September 30, 2013
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. Colorado Secretary of State website, Text of Initiative # 5, Amendment 67, accessed February 27, 2014
  8. Final Bill Summary for HB13-1032
  9. RH Reality Check, "‘Personhood’ Backers in Colorado Push Ballot Initiative to Define ‘Person and Child’," April 30, 2013
  10. 10.0 10.1 The full text and summary of HB 13-1154
  11. Personhood Colorado website
  12. Personhood USA facebook page
  13. A Voice for Brady website, accessed February 27, 2014
  14. 14.0 14.1 LifeSiteNews, "Personhood makes 2014 Colorado ballot with over 100K valid signatures," October 16, 2013
  15. A Voice for Brady, "FAQs," accessed July 23, 2014
  16. Vote No on 67 campaign website, "Facts," accessed July 23, 2014
  17. Pueblo Chieftan, "Amendment 67: No," September 23, 2014
  18. Aurora Sentinel, "No on Amendment 67: Don't be fooled by end run on medical rights and privacy," September 30, 2014
  19. Denver Post, "Once again, "no" on Colorado personhood measure," October 2, 2014
  20. Sky-Hi News, "Our view: Vote no on 67 and 68," October 2, 2014
  21. Steamboat Today, "Our view: Vote no on Amendment 67," October 11, 2014