Controversial ban on abortion returns to ballot
Colorado voters will again be asked this fall to decide whether to legally apply the term “person” to a fertilized human egg.
Amendment 62, known unofficially as the Definition of Person amendment and the Fetal Personhood amendment, seeks to apply the term “person” to “every human being from the beginning of biological development of that human being.”
Similar to the proposed Amendment 48 in 2008, this year’s ballot initiative aims to legally recognize fertilized human eggs as people, giving them the same “inalienable
right, equality of justice and due process of law” that the Colorado constitution grants fully gestated humans.
Granting a fertilized egg the legal status of person would effectively criminalize abortion procedures in all circumstances, as well as outlaw certain — but not all — forms of birth control, and would also affect medical procedures such as in vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research.
The proposed amendment is cosponsored by Leslie Hanks, vice president of Denver-based Colorado Right To Life, and Gualberto Garcia Jones, Colorado director of Personhood USA. Colorado Right To Life spokesman Bob Enyart says the amendment would “protect the smallest boys and girls” by banning abortions at any stage of pregnancy for any reason, as well as prohibiting embryonic stem cell research.
Groups such as Planned Parenthood, however, say that Amendment 62 “goes too far” and opens the door for government involvement in personal health decisions.
“It would also prohibit abortion in the case of rape, incest or danger to the mother,” says Monica McAfferty, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
Opponents also find the wording of the amendment troubling.
“The phrase ‘the beginning of biological development’ — there’s no legal definition of that,” McAfferty says.
In a statement issued on Amendment 62, the Colorado section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agreed, saying, “The phrase ‘the beginning of biological development’ is not an accepted scientific or medical term, and does not refer to any specific point in the process of human reproduction.”
The ballot language, available from the Colorado Secretary of State’s elections website (www.elections.colorado.gov), reads, “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution applying the term ‘person,’ as used in those provisions of the Colorado constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law, to every human being from the beginning of biological development of that human being?”
In a written response to the Colorado Legislative Council, however, co-sponsors of the amendment say the phrase refers to “the beginning of the process of fertilization, or first contact of the sperm with the oocyte.”
So just how similar is this year’s amendment to 2008’s Amendment 48, which was defeated by a margin of 3 to 1?
“Amendment 62 is Amendment 48,” says McAfferty.
Enyart concurs, saying, “Practically, they’re very similar.”
The primary difference between the wording of this year’s measure and that of the 2008 initiative is the use of the phrase “from beginning of biological development” in place of “from the moment of fertilization” in 2008. This difference, according to Enyart, makes Amendment 62 more comprehensive and would ensure that children conceived “in all situations” — Enyart mentioned in vitro fertilization, “twinning” and cloning — are “protected.”
Another difference between this year’s campaign and 2008 is experience.
“We have two years’ education,” Enyart says. “[We’ve learned] personhood needs a face.”
That face is the “snowflake children,” frozen embryos left over from in vitro fertilization procedures and “adopted” out to other couples to implant.
Fofi Mendez, campaign director for NO on 62, says opposition to the amendment is “broad-based and bipartisan,” and her group will campaign as aggressively as opponents did in 2008 to defeat the measure. The NO on 62 Campaign is working to remobilize the more than 90 organizations involved in 2008’s campaign to defeat the “personhood” amendment and will focus on educating voters, Mendez says.
“We’re not taking anything for granted,” she says.
Some of the most contentious aspects of the bill, apart from the complete prohibition of abortions, are the effects on birth control, doctor liability and the laws and legal system.
Supporters of the amendment say it would not ban all forms of birth control, only those like the “day after” pill that terminate an early stage pregnancy. The traditional birth-control pill would not be outlawed, and IUDs, or inter-uterine devices, would likely not be affected either, as they work by preventing fertilization, rather than preventing implantation of an already fertilized egg.
In vitro fertilization procedures would also become more legally complicated, Mendez says, because doctors and couples could potentially be charged with murder for disposing of any unused fertilized eggs that are produced.