Personhood Colorado not taking no for an answer

Jennifer Mason, spokeswoman for Personhood Colorado, told the Colorado Independent she believes it’s not too late for her group to land its anti-abortion initiative on the ballot in Colorado this year.

The state certified voter ballots for the November election Monday. Yet, Mason said “case law” suggests that if the secretary of state got it wrong when he declared her group failed to submit enough signatures to secure a spot on the ballot, then the state would have to rework and reprint the ballots.

“It’s taking time, but we’re building a very strong case that we have more than enough valid signatures,” she said. “And there is case law where, in a protest like this, the state will have to pay to reprint the ballots.”

The secretary of state’s office conducted a review of the more than 100,000 signatures submitted by Personhood Colorado this summer and announced on August 29 that the group fell roughly 4,000 valid signatures short of the 86,105 required to make the 2012 ballot.

Mason’s group has roughly another two and half weeks to file a protest of the Secretary’s tallies. A spokesman for the Secretary told the Denver Post, however, that, even if Personhood Colorado mounts a successful challenge to its findings, November 2014 is the earliest the personhood initiative could appear on a ballot.

The likely cost and logistical hurdles presented by the prospect of reworking and reprinting the state’s voter ballots just weeks before Election Day seem prohibitive.

Mason said her organization was in consultation with an attorney on the matter but she asked the Independent to direct questions instead to the legal department of the national Personhood USA group. Personhood USA didn’t return messages at press time, nor did the secretary of state’s office.

Personhood supporters have landed an initiative on Colorado ballots in the last two general elections, but voters rejected them by landslides.

The national personhood movement, headquartered in Arvada, Colorado, seeks to pass constitutional amendments in states around the country that would declare that human life begins at conception and grant legal rights to fertilized human eggs. The amendments would outlaw abortion without exception, including when the life of the mother is in danger, and ban popular forms of birth control. Critics say personhood would similarly jeopardize fertility treatments and stem cell research and subject pregnant women to a variety of laws that would govern their actions.

A personhood ballot initiative was solidly defeated last year in Mississippi, a state with strong bipartisan support for conservative social policies.

In a release, Cathy Alderman, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, said the news that the personhood amendment is unlikely to make the ballot reinforces arguments made by personhood opponents that the proposal is radical policy and bad politics.

“The defeat of the ‘personhood’ state constitutional amendment in Colorado sends a clear warning to anti-choice politicians: health-care decisions should be left to a woman, her family, her doctor, and her faith–— not politicians. This is just one more example of how out of touch anti-choice politicians are with women and the majority of Americans when it comes to women’s health.”

Colorado is a presidential-election year swing state and is increasingly a key front in the political battle over women’s reproductive health. U.S. Senator Michael Bennet won a close election against Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck in 2010. During the Republican primary election, Buck supported personhood, but he backed away from it in the general election. In the end, women threw their support to Bennet and made the difference in the contest.

Alderman said that, even though personhood is off the table in Colorado this November, women’s health remains “very much in play.”

“In a year where we have seen unprecedented attacks on women’s health, everything from forced trans-vaginal ultrasounds to 72-hour waiting periods [for abortions], the 2012 election is more important than ever.”

Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney has said he supports the personhood movement but has also said he supports exceptions to bans on abortion in some cases. GOP vice presidential nominee Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan sponsored national personhood legislation with Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who has drawn criticism on the left and right for comments he made on “legitimate rape” last month. The GOP 2012 policy platform includes a vow to ban abortion without exceptions.

[Image: Steve Rhodes via Flickr ]

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