Voters reject ‘personhood’ again

Saying she hoped that the proponents of Amendment 67 “have finally gotten the message that no means no,” Cara DeGette and fellow opponents of the “personhood” measure celebrated what was looking like an early defeat for the amendment. With 78 percent of precincts reporting, “no” votes led 64 percent to 36 percent.DeGette, communications director for the Vote No on 67 campaign, said the measure’s defeat was due to the efforts of “the women who told their stories, the doctors who were willing to come forward” and everyone who worked to support the ability of women to make choices about their health care.”We said no in 2008; we said no in 2010, and we spoke it loud and clear in 2014,” said Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.  “Personhood has gone down to the defeat it so richly deserves.”

Saying that Planned Parenthood did more to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies than any other organization, she offered this slightly bent olive branch to Personhood USA, the chief proponents of the measure: “Join us. Help us reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies in Colorado.”

That message didn’t go over well with Jennifer Mason, communications director of Personhood USA. “No way we’re interested in collaborating with them in any way,” she said. “If they agree to stop killing children, if they repent for killing children, we may consider working with them.” Mason accused the opposing group of deceptive and damaging messages, and pointed to the amount of funds raised by Planned Parenthood and other groups to oppose the measure — $2.5 million, compared with Personhood USA’s $21,000. “We are very proud that no matter how much money they throw at it, we are still here.”

After defeats in 2008 and 2010, Mason said she was cheered that the margin of votes was narrowing. “It’s an exciting trend,” she said.

The Personhood Initiative has long been an emotional and hot-button player in elections, and this year was certainly no different. When results came in signaling the defeat of the measure, Personhood Colorado and its chief supporters kept a low profile, choosing instead to pay respect to what they consider their smallest beneficiaries rather than hold a public event. This year’s defeat follows similar losses in 2008 and 2010, though the margin was closing slightly.

Amendment 67 also became a focal point in the heated battle between incumbent Sen. Mark Udall and challenger Rep. Cory Gardner, particularly after Gardner revoked his support of the Personhood Amendment early this year — fueling attack ads questioning his honesty and alienating him somewhat from Colorado conservatives.

But this year’s initiative had a powerful human face on it as well. Supporters and proponents of Amendment 67 were calling it the “Brady Amendment” in honor of Heather Surovik’s unborn child, who was killed in a car accident in Surovik’s eighth month of pregnancy. The driver responsible pleaded guilty to vehicular assault and DUI; he was not prosecuted for the death of the unborn “Brady” because under Colorado law, a fetus is treated as part of the mother’s body until birth.

Amendment 67 aimed to change that definition, expanding the term “person” to include “unborn human beings” in the Colorado Criminal Code. Though similar personhood measures failed in 2008 and 2010, Personhood USA maintains that this bill goes beyond simply redefining “person” to include fetuses in all areas of law, and protects pregnant mothers and unborn children by declaring that those involved in crimes that result in the miscarriage of a fetus can be charged with fetal homicide.

Since the definition would apply to all stages of pregnancy, opponents maintain that it’s a thinly disguised attempt to criminalize abortion, making pregnant women and medical practitioners criminally responsible for terminating pregnancies in all cases; it would also outlaw most common forms of birth control, according to detractors.

An award-winning journalist who has worked at The Denver Post, The Hartford Courant and other metro newspapers, Ingrid currently works in marketing and web design in Boulder.