Personhood drive fails to clear signature hurdle in Colorado; supporters plan protest

DENVER– The Colorado secretary of state announced today that the petition drive to land an anti-abortion “personhood” initiative on the November ballot failed to qualify, missing the mark by roughly 4,000 signatures. Personhood Colorado plans to protest the signature tallies released by the secretary of state and is confident the measure will appear for a vote this year.

“Out of the 112,000 signatures we submitted, the secretary declared 3,700 invalid. We have carefully reviewed the signatures and we think we do have enough. We will be filing a protest of the decision in the next few days,” Personhood Colorado Spokesperson Jennifer Mason told the Independent. “We want to make sure every voice is heard and counted.”

There is some discrepancy in the numbers released by the secretary of state and by Personhood Colorado.

In a release, the secretary reports that the personhood campaign turned in 106,119 “qualified signatures.” Personhood Colorado reports turning in 112,121 signatures.

At press time, the secretary’s office didn’t return messages asking for elaboration on the different numbers or to comment on the likelihood that Personhood Colorado’s protest of the tallies would reverse the secretary’s decision to reject the ballot initiative this year.

Secretary of state personhood petition checkers threw out 23,873 signatures as invalid, according to the press release. The campaign needed to submit 86,105 valid signatures to land on the ballot.

“This is just great news,” Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains spokesperson Monica McCafferty told the Independent. Her organization is part of the No Personhood coalition recently formed in Colorado to campaign against the measure.

“Now we can direct our attention and our resources elsewhere,” McCafferty said. “The past two years, personhood made it onto the ballot. This year, you know, not so much– so perhaps it shows that signatures have been harder to get, that more Coloradans are deciding not only to vote against it at the polls but to not sign for it in the first place.”

The news that Personhood Colorado may well not make the ballot this year is another recent major setback for the movement, which aims to win full legal rights for fertilized human eggs as a way to outlaw abortion. Personhood measures have been voted down by Colorado voters in landslides the last two general elections and a similar measure was solidly defeated in conservative Mississippi last year.

Personhood has been criticized widely as a radical proposal. Its opponents say it would not only outlaw abortion but also outlaw some of the most popular forms of birth control, fertilization techniques and stem cell research. They say it would also subject pregnant women to a host of laws governing their actions, from smoking and drinking, for example, to exercising and driving in carpool lanes.

Conservative politicians here have struggled with the movement.

In 2008, Colorado Republican candidates mostly opted against supporting the personhood initiative. In the 2010 Tea Party wave election, nearly all of Colorado’s Republican candidates supported the measure. This year, Colorado’s Republican candidates for federal office, at least, have mostly backed away from the measure and declined to discuss it with the press.

Likely GOP vice presidential nominee Congressman Paul Ryan has recently drawn criticism from the left for sponsoring national personhood legislation with Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who has been embattled for comments he made on “legitimate rape” this month. The GOP policy platform unveiled this week in Florida includes a vow to ban abortion without exceptions.

[Image: Denver Personhood rally by Joe Boven ]

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