Far-right abortion opponents in Colorado have successfully collected enough signatures to put a “personhood” measure on the next state ballot. The initiative, which would redefine “person” and “child” in the state’s criminal code to include unborn fetuses, will be up for voters’ consideration in November of 2014.
Colorado is somewhat of ground zero for the “personhood” movement, which ultimately seeks to outlaw abortion by endowing fertilized eggs with all the same rights as U.S. citizens. Personhood proponents have repeatedly attempted to amend Colorado’s constitution to redefine life, but they haven’t been successful so far. Similar ballot initiatives have failed twice, both by large margins. The issue tends to divide even the anti-choice Republican lawmakers in the state.
“What part of No don’t they understand? The third time isn’t a charm and this same small group of proponents, who don’t represent the majority of Coloradans, needs to stop wasting our time and money,” Karen Middleton, the executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, noted in a statement.
This year’s amendment is worded a bit differently than previous ballot initiatives. It doesn’t actually mention “abortion,” and may not seem like a personhood measure at first glance. Instead, it’s structured around crimes committed against pregnant women, and seeks to expand the Colorado Criminal Code and Wrongful Death Act to include “unborn human beings.” Proponents of the measure claim that it will simply ensure that pregnant women will receive justice if any crimes committed against them cause them to miscarry.
But women’s health advocates say that’s misleading — and point out there’s no loophole in Colorado’s current law that currently allows people to get away with those types of crimes against pregnant women. In fact, earlier this year, Planned Parenthood worked closely with state lawmakers to pass a new law that strengthens the legal penalties for crimes that “result in the loss of a wanted pregnancy.” That initiative was carefully worded to avoid an inadvertent threat to abortion rights.
Efforts to ensure that crimes against pregnant women are properly prosecuted typically create murky situations for reproductive rights. Women’s health advocates contend that abortion opponents often use this area as a foothold to insert their anti-choice agenda, and warn that defining embryos as people in criminal codes represents a “slippery slope.”
“The 2014 ballot initiative, again, has slightly different language, than years past in an effort to deceive the voters,” Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado said in a press release this week. “But it has the same dangerous outcomes which would lead to more government intrusion in our personal lives, including getting into our medical records to investigate miscarriages, dictating the kinds of birth control we use, and interfering with medical decisions made by women with their doctors in treating fertility problems.”
Over the past several years, personhood initiatives have failed in states acros the country, including deeply red states like Mississippi. Nevertheless, far-right abortion opponents keep trying. Personhood advocates are attempting to get similar measures up for consideration in states like Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio.