The goal of proposed Amendment 67 on the November ballot — popularly referred to as the “Personhood Amendment” — is to gut women’s reproductive rights.
The constitutional amendment proposes to revise the Colorado Criminal Code and the Colorado Wrongful Death Act. The amendment intends to expand the deﬁnition of “person” to include “unborn human beings.” The wording plays to the notion of protecting pregnant women and their fetuses, and, with that in mind, the amendment sounds good. However, the measure is misleading and an exercise in manipulation. If enacted, this amendment will mainly serve to further the cause of the individuals and groups determined to erode the reproductive rights of girls and women.
Moreover, if enacted, Amendment 67 will have a deleterious impact on existing laws and further the cause of those who attempt to control the social and the political landscape of American society.
Legal protections already exist in Colorado both for mothers and for their fetuses. In 2013, the Colorado Legislature passed the Concerning Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act (HB 13-1154), which permitted prosecutors to pursue criminal charges for unlawful termination of a pregnancy. The Colorado Legislature adopted a second law in 2014, the Civil Damages Unlawful Termination of a Pregnancy Act (HB 14-1388). This law allowed women to seek damages for the unlawful termination of a pregnancy. So, rather than offer a needed protection, if passed, Amendment 67 would complicate implementation of existing law. The amendment would also pave the way for further restrictions on women in their pursuit of appropriate reproductive health care. Ironically, with passage of the amendment, fertilized eggs (wherever located) would attain the legal and constitutional rights of a “person,” while women’s reproductive health choices would be sharply curtailed.
Emergency contraception, certain forms of in-vitro fertilization, some routine birth control interventions, and abortions — including those in the cases of child and adult rape, incest and when the mother’s life is endangered — would all be subject to legal scrutiny. As in the days prior to Roe vs. Wade, women and medical providers would risk violating the law when making judicious medical decisions regarding reproductive health. Essentially, decisions of lawmakers and law enforcement would trump the recommendations of trained medical personnel. Passage of Amendment 67, with such a broad and far-reaching scope, would leave few unaffected; on some level, the harmful effects of such legislation will touch all members of our community.
In recent years, an array of social issues including access to birth control and other basic reproductive rights has been ﬁercely politicized. Supported by members of various religious and other conservative special interest groups, so-called personhood measures have been on the Colorado ballot twice. Though voters saw through the ﬂimsy jargon both times and rejected the amendments, the persistence of those intent on slashing hard-won reproductive freedoms is troubling.
Personhood USA sponsored the current initiative — Amendment 67. According to its website (www.personhoodusa.com), the Colorado campaign reﬂects only one of several nationwide actions to insinuate its supporters’ reactionary agenda into the mainstream of society. Take the time to visit the Personhood USA website and decide whether the group’s platform is consistent with your social justice values and concerns.
With full understanding of the proposed amendment, please join with me and others who share a commitment to protect women’s reproductive rights and Vote no on 67.
Marie Schaffner is a semi-retired clinical social worker who lives in Fort Collins.