By Peri Duncan
Special to Under the Flatirons
For the third time in the last four elections, Coloradans voted down a “personhood” amendment to the state constitution.
This time, it was Amendment 67, which lost by about a 2-to-1 margin. As of noon on Wednesday November 5, the amendment had garnered only 35.5 percent of the votes cast versus 64.4 percent against. Should that margin stand, however, it would be the greatest percentage of Coloradans voting for the measure in the history of personhood legislation. Colorado voters also revoked similar issues in 2008 and 2010. The 2008 legislation was shot down by 73 percent of voters, and in 2010 by 71 percent.
Amendment 67 included some different language than previous proposals. This year’s measure attempted to redefine person and child to include unborn human beings specifically within the Colorado Criminal Code and Wrongful Death Act, as opposed to being a straightforward personhood amendment as Colorado has seen before.
A Voice for Brady, the campaign that provided the most support for Amendment 67, was started by Heather Surovik. In July 2012, at eight months pregnant, Surovik lost her unborn child in a car crash when her car was hit by a drunk driver.
Despite being sentenced to 20 years in prison and taking his own life shortly after the sentencing, the driver was not prosecuted specifically for the loss of the fetus. The Colorado legislature responded in 2013 to Surovik’s loss by passing two laws that criminalized causing the “wrongful death” of a fetus: HB13-1154 Concerning Crimes Against Pregnant Women in 2013, and HB14-1388 in 2014, which allows a woman to sue someone who causes an unlawful termination of her pregnancy. Personhood USA, the national organization behind Amendment 67 and another failed measure in Montana, did not support either of these measures.
Personhood USA is a national organization who claims “to serve Jesus by being an Advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves, the pre-born child,” or in other words, aims to gain legal personhood for unborn human beings. If they succeed in passing personhood nationally, an unborn child “will have the same right to life as all Americans do,” which would overturn the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, and therefore allow each state to separately choose whether or not to ban abortion.
“We’re not interested in passing any kind of amendment that makes special exceptions for abortion providers. Abortion is dangerous for women and I don’t think there’s any reason to specially exempt them from abortion laws,” said Jennifer Mason, the communications director for Personhood USA since its start in 2008, about the future endeavors of Personhood USA after the failure of Amendment 67.
The main opponents of Amendment 67 were Planned Parenthood Votes and Vote No 67, both of which claimed throughout the campaign that 67 “would ban all abortions including in cases of rape, incest and when the health of the mother is at risk,” as well as potentially ban certain forms of birth control and criminalize women and their doctors.
“If it were to pass, providers of abortion services and fertility treatment and birth control would not know if they could continue to provide those services, and without a court order protecting them, they may stop providing those services,” said Cathy Alderman, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Vote Colorado, referencing Amendment67.
When asked about the future of such legislature, Alderman said: “We are hoping that [Personhood USA] will respect Colorado voters; if things go the way we think they’re going to go tonight, we will have rejected this now three times, as well as multiple times in the legislature.”
Amendment 68 also fails
An attempt to add casino gambling to Arapahoe Park in Aurora was also roundly defeated in Tuesday’s election. The constitutional amendment would have established a fund from 34 percent of the enterprise’s profits and funneled that money to state education coffers. It’s the second year in a row that a constitutional amendment attempting to fund education has failed.
— Paola Fernandez also contributed to this report.