Reproductive Rights

Here We Go Again: Personhood Returns to Colorado

Update 9/12/2012:Colorado Personhood Will Not Appear on November 2012 Ballot Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced today that the Colorado Personhood Coalition has missed the Monday deadline for ballot certification for the “Personhood” Amendment to appear on the November 2012 ballot. On August 29, Gessler determined that the amendment did not have enough valid signatures to qualify for the November 2012 election. While the proponents of the amendment were allowed 30 days to file an appeal of the signature decision, Gessler said it is now too late to get the measure on the ballot for this election cycle. Should ruling on the signatures be overturned by the courts, the “Personhood” Amendment would have to to wait until the 2014 election.

We beat the Personhood amendment in Mississipi last fall. Thirty-two states saw grassroots personhood initiatives in 2009, to no avail. It’s not gaining enough steam to get on the ballot in Ohio or Montana. It’s dead in Virginia. We even beat it twice in Colorado, in 2008 and 2010. But here’s the thing: it’s just not going away.

On Monday the Colorado Personhood Coalition announced that they submitted 112,121 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State — surpassing the 86,105 signatures required to get its anti-abortion initiative on the ballot in November for the third consecutive general election.

Does this look like a person to you?

Personhood amendments are extreme anti-abortion amendments with far-reaching consequences.  Led mostly by the national organization Personhood USA, those organizing for an amendment seek to grant through law full “personhood” rights to human embryos–fertilized eggs. Personhood amendments define life as beginning at the moment of conception, and their effects are so severe that they could outlaw all abortions, including in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is at stake. Personhood amendments may also outlaw forms of birth control (including IUDs), in vitro fertilization, and treatment for women with cancer and other serious illnesses. It could even lead to the investigation and criminalization of miscarriages.

The amendment language submitted by the Colorado Personhood Coalition reads

(1) Purpose. In order to affirm basic human dignity, be it resolved that the right to life in this constitution applies equally to all innocent persons.

(2) Effect. The intentional killing of any innocent person is prohibited

Read the full text of the amendment on the coalition’s website. Clearly, it is already against the law in the state of Colorado to kill “innocent persons.”  The amendment would add to the “innocent persons” section “a member of the species homo sapiens at any stage of development” and “a human being prior to and during birth” part later on.

Listen, there’s a huge part of me that would love to believe that this is a lunatic fringe division of the American public. I would love to take comfort in the absurdity of these claims and rest on my faith in humanity a little here.

Does THIS look like a person to you?

We can’t get that comfortable. We’re living in a political climate where every single Republican presidential candidate came out in support of Personhood amendments during the primary race. Every. Single. One. Three of them even participated in a Personhood USA cadidates forum. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican candidate for president of this country, said that he “absolutely” supports Personhood amendments. Absolutely.

We’re living in a version of the United States of America where politicians stall flood insurance bills (during flood season!) by attaching Personhood amendments to them. And the scariest part of all this, for me, is that I often speak to people I know and love, people who are well-informed, politically conscious, and care about women’s rights and women’s lives, but who happen to live outside the hyper-aware political bubble of the DC beltway. They have no idea that this is happening. They don’t know what Personhood amendments are. They don’t know that actual elected officials in this country are writing, supporting, and promoting this kind of legislation.

CNN recently covered a story about a 16-year-old girl dying from leukemia in the Dominican Republic without any effort being made to treat her, because her doctors were afraid. Why were they afraid? Because she was pregnant. The Dominican Republic passed Article 37 in 2009, which reads:

“the right to the life is inviolable from conception until death.”

Sound familiar? These are the real life consequences of these wild political antics. Real live women, teens, and girls have to live in a world where their own lives are at risk because they had the unfortunate luck of being born with uteri, and the even more unfortunate luck of getting pregnant. These laws blatantly disregard the value of women’s lives, and the personhood of women  in their zealous advocacy for the ‘life’ of the embryo. CNN reports that this teen in the Dominican Republic is now, finally, being treated for her cancer. She might have a chance to survive.

Here’s a bit of herstory you might not know: Colorado became the first state to legalize abortion in 1967. The Colorado Personhood Coalition is determined to make Colorado the first state to ban abortion in 2012. We cannot let that happen. And we cannot sit by idly and assume that it won’t. If it does, similar amendments will gain steam in other states. Too much is at stake.

Top photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Bottom photo via the Feminist Majority Foundation.

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