Spin Watch: Colo. personhood initiative would have major consequences

The Colorado Personhood ballot initiative would be something altogether new. The initiative is about more than merely outlawing abortion. According to Crystal Clinkbeard, communications director for the No on “Personhood” initiative, in the history of the United States, a fetus has never been afforded full rights, “not even before Roe v. Wade.”

Clinkenbeard was responding to comments made last week on former-state Senate President John Andrews’ KNUS Backbone Radio.

John Andrews
John Andrews

Talking about the initiative with Andrews, Colorado Right to Life board member Lolita Hanks played down the effects.* Stories of the legal troubles pregnant women might face were false, she said– just “scare tactics” used by opponents of the amendment.

Andrews promised to back the initiative by personally gathering signatures and he agreed that in the time before Roe when abortion was illegal, no mother was ever sued by a fetus.

Clinkbeard rejects the premise of the debate as misleading. It’s not fetuses of course who would bring the suits. The state, medical professionals, husbands, church groups– in short, there are many who would look, or who might even be obligated, to bring legal action on behalf of a fertilized egg or fetus. Clinkbeard said the issue should not be simplified. The initiative is about the 20,000 places in the Colorado Constitution where “person” would be redefined to include a human fertilized egg.

“Creating a new definition for the word person in the Constitution is scary because it could change everything from access to birth control services to the families decision to terminate a pregnancy even in cases of rape and incest, to property rights.”

Clinkbeard is concerned that proponents are looking to define the amendment as simply affecting the coverage of women’s access to birth control or stem cell research. It’s not an innocent interpretation, she said. “This is something that is completely untested in the United States legal system.”

This kind of pervasive legislation doesn’t exist anywhere in the States, she said. The personhood laws that exist are statutory and do not affect those constitutions.

“The proponents of this initiative don’t want voters to know how very dangerous it is. It didn’t exist pre-Roe and it is incredibly threatening to Colorado women and families.”

* Edit note: Lolita Hanks was identified as Vice President of Colorado Right to Life in the original version of this article. She is a board member and secretary of the board.

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