Colorado Rights Blog

Nathan Woodliff-Stanley By: Nathan Woodliff-Stanley 9.22.2014

Denver Post editorial: “Should Colorado voters approve “personhood” ballot measure (Amendment 67)? No”

This editorial by our Executive Director appeared in Sunday’s Denver Post

Colorado’s anti-abortion extremists have a clear goal: They want to ban all abortions in all circumstances, even in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is in danger.

Twice, in 2008 and 2010, they gathered enough signatures for Colorado ballot initiatives that would have defined a fetus, or even a fertilized egg, as a legal person, subjecting women and their doctors to criminal liability and banning all abortion. The attempted 2010 amendment, in fact, was very explicit with regard to forcing women who are raped to bear the children of their rapists.

When Colorado voters rejected this extreme agenda both times by wide margins, fetal-personhood proponents rethought their strategy. This time around, they have focused their pitch to voters on the genuinely tragic case of a woman whose pregnancy was ended by a drunken driver days before she was due to give birth. Because she had not yet given birth, the accident could not be treated as a homicide.

That was in 2012. The Colorado legislature responded thoughtfully, and has since passed laws that provide strong criminal and civil penalties for unlawful termination of a pregnancy through criminal or negligent acts, including drunken driving.

You might think Personhood USA and the proponents of Amendment 67 supported that legislation, but they did not. They opposed it because it protected pregnant women without doing what they really wanted, which was to define a fetus as a legal person and ban all abortion in the process.

Under Amendment 67, every place that the word “person” or “child” occurs anywhere in the Colorado Criminal Code, it “must” be interpreted to include “unborn human beings.” The phrase “unborn human beings” has no established legal or medical definition, so it would apply without limitation to all stages of pregnancy, all the way back to a fertilized egg.

With this alteration to the criminal code, women and their doctors could be jailed for participating in an abortion at any stage of pregnancy, and women who suffer a miscarriage could very well be investigated to determine if they were culpable and criminally liable for manslaughter.

The cascade of potential consequences from defining a fetus, zygote, fertilized egg or frozen embryo as a legal person is mindboggling. It would allow the government and courts to violate the sanctity of doctor/patient privacy and allow government access to women’s private medical records. It would prevent couples who want to have children from having them through in-vitro fertilization. It would ban many forms of contraception, resulting in more unwanted pregnancies and illegal abortions. It would prevent women from receiving treatments for cancer or other diseases that might affect a known or possible pregnancy.

Family planning and privacy rights and are crucial to the dignity and freedom of women and their families. Neither the government nor religious crusaders should be allowed to intervene and take control of difficult, personal decisions best left to a woman and her doctor. Amendment 67 goes far beyond what it appears to be at first glance, threatening basic rights and opening a legal Pandora’s box that would be very hard to close, because it would be written into the Colorado Constitution.

Learn more about Amendment 67 here.

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Videos

  • Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley spoke at the marriage equality rally on March 3rd

  • Leisel Kemp, whose brother Jason was killed by CSP after they entered his home without a warrant, spoke at the 2013 Bill of Rights Dinner about the ACLU’s legal advocacy on behalf of her family.

  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind is an original short film from the ACLU of Colorado about a man who has spent 17 years in solitary confinement and now suffers from debilitating mental illness.