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Two Democratic state senators in Colorado are facing recall elections next month specifically because they lent their support to a package of gun violence prevention measures. They will run against stringently pro-life Republican opponents who, in addition to favoring looser gun regulations, support banning all abortions under “personhood.”
Colorado is somewhat of a ground zero for the far-right “personhood” movement, which seeks to endow fertilized eggs with all the rights of U.S. citizens. Abortion opponents have repeatedly tried to add a personhood amendment to Colorado’s constitution to define life as beginning at conception, but they have fallen short every year. Now, personhood activists are mobilizing yet again — although they may face an uphill battle, since they haven’t won over the state’s mainstream Republicans.
Nevertheless, personhood does have the support of both George Rivera and Bernie Herpin, the Republican candidates up against Sens. John Morse (D) and Angela Giron (D) in the upcoming recall election. Herpin has recently attempted to distance himself from the far-right issue, claiming he has never signed a personhood petition. But he did respond to a pro-life group’s questionnaire to say he agrees with the primary beliefs at the heart of the personhood movement, like the idea that humans “become persons” as “single cells.”
Although personhood proponents are on the far-right end of the pro-life spectrum — most mainstream anti-abortion groups have distanced themselves from the movement — they aren’t necessarily in favor of protecting life through gun violence prevention measures. In fact, a chapter of a personhood group in Ohio recently attempted to raise money for their cause by auctioning off assault rifles.
Colorado has been home to two of the nation’s most high-profile mass shootings — one in 1999 at Columbine High School, and one last summer at a movie theater in Aurora. Morse and Giron weren’t the only Democratic state senators targeted after supporting additional gun regulations, but they were the only ones whose districts collected enough signatures to actually force a recall election.
Even though an extreme personhood measure hasn’t yet been enacted in any state, there are still plenty of existing restrictions on abortion that threaten women’s access to their constitutionally-protected reproductive care. It’s already harder to get an abortion than it is to get a gun in the United States.