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'Personhood' Abortion Issue Is Back on the Colorado Ballot

3 years ago
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DENVER -- Twenty-three college students pace along the sidewalk, reciting the rosary, holding their beads.

Completing their prayers, they head across the street to their cars. It's just another day in their mission with Christ in the City, sponsored by Denver's Catholic Charities.

It's also just another day at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, where inside men and women are coming and going from the busy medical clinic that provides health care, birth control and, yes, abortions. The protesters -- and the Christ in the City kids are considered particularly peaceful -- are often part of the scenery.

It is, if you want to simplify it, all about the fertilized human egg.

Of course, it's also far more complicated than that.

Just ask Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its political arm, Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Last week, Richards spent the day at the second-floor offices at the Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountain headquarters, meeting with supporters and reporters, taking calls and formulating strategy to battle a proposal that would basically designate fertilized eggs as "persons." It's an effort that failed miserably in 2008, with 73 percent of voters opposing it. But this year, the effort is being resurrected in Colorado and other states as well.

Actually, this year's Colorado ballot measure, Amendment 62, doesn't refer to "the moment of fertilization," as the 2008 bill did. Instead, it says "the term 'person' shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being."

And while a state group, Personhood Colorado, is promoting the constitutional amendment, Colorado is also home to Personhood USA, a group trying to get voters and lawmakers in other states to adopt "personhood" laws.

"I think there are some national funders who like to use Colorado as a petri dish," Richards said last week.

Primary among the funders, donating $10,000 of the $15,000-plus collected by the Colorado effort so far this year, is the American Life League. It's a national organization that opposes abortion, contraception, assisted suicide, in vitro fertilization and stem-cell research.

Personhood Colorado's website acknowledges that Amendment 62 would ban all abortions, without exceptions for rape, incest or to save a mother's life. It also would ban stem cell research and birth control other than "barrier methods."

"It reaches into birth control, it reaches into fertility treatments," Richards said. "The legal turmoil this could create is so immense. I think that's just the purpose of this amendment . . . to go far beyond choice; it's to take away women's right to family planning."

Why bring back a ballot measure that suffered resounding defeat in 2008?

"They are still murdering children, and that must stop," said Cal Zastrow, a co-founder of Personhood USA. "Anybody can plan their family anyway they want to, but if they use surgery or drugs . . . then those are innocent children who need to be protected."

His organization also advocates offering fertilized eggs from in vitro fertilization to couples who want to have children.

"There are thousands of frozen children in IVF clinics," Zastrow said. "Those children need to be loved and cared for and adopted out."

The organization is trying to spread its efforts beyond Colorado, though its success is a mixed bag. Organizers failed to collect enough signatures for a ballot issue in Nevada. They're trying to get the issue on the Montana ballot this year, with Zastrow, his wife and four children living in Billings to work on the effort. Mississippi will vote on the issue in 2011, and signatures are being collected in Florida. They're also encouraging state lawmakers to introduce "personhood" laws.

"This issue is beginning to burble up in a number of other states," Planned Parenthood's Richards said.

But she noted that there are positive side effects to such efforts: They activate voters who support abortion rights, and those voters not only vote against such initiatives but support candidates who oppose them. That could be a factor this year, when many Republican candidates are embracing such efforts to appeal to conservative voters.

In Colorado, for instance, GOP Senate candidates Jane Norton and Ken Buck and GOP gubernatorial candidates Scott McInnis and Dan Maes says they support Amendment 62. That's a switch from two years ago, when GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams and U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer failed to endorse it. Even National Right to Life and Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput stayed silent on the measure. Zastrow said he doesn't know if they'll weigh in this time around.

As Personhood Colorado gears up for the fall election, so to does Protect Families, Protect Choices, the organization that worked against the 2008 measure. The group raised and spent more than $1.7 million to fight the initiative two years ago, compared with $336,471 spent by Colorado for Equal Rights, the opposing group in 2008.

Planned Parenthood's political arm is part of that coalition, as well as a larger roundtable of Democratic-leaning interests that's known for coordinating strategy, fundraising and voter turnout. That gives Richards and others hope to defeat Amendment 62, as well as to elect candidates who support it in a state that became the first to legalize modern-day abortion in 1967.

"The political winds in the Republican primaries are creating some unintended consequences," Richards said. "This is a state of moderation, a state of not wanting government interference in people's lives."

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27 Comments

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johmich5

The zygote/fetus is a mass of human cells but so are you. Are you not a human person? By human cell count a Zygote is 2,500 times closer biologically to a newborn baby than a newborn baby is to an adult. Exactly how many living human cells do you propose equals human life? The zygote is one living human cell that contains the complete genetic instructions and essential life force necessary to become the entire human person that it is, just like you. That is science, not "belief". It is radical religious belief that claims that unborn children are not alive human persons! Granting rights to in-utero person does not diminish a mothers rights! Both have rights which need consideration!

February 04 2011 at 12:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
roxysrfrgrl99

I am a strong believer in the fact that it's a woman's right to choose. Could I do it? Probably not. But it's still my right. And it's my constitutional right to privacy not to have other people poking their noses in my business if I do choose to get an abortion. Still, I understand the reasoning behind wanting to make abortion illegal. But to not make exceptions for rape, incest or the mother's help? That's absurd and absolutely disrespectful. How would one of these men feel if his wife got pregnant, the baby was going to kill her, and she had no way to choose whether or not she wanted to keep living. Or say one of them has a crazy son who rapes his sister and impregnates her. Well, not only is she psychologically damaged from the rape (and the incest!), she now has to keep a baby she doesn't want, didn't plan for, and that will probably have so many developmental problems from inbreeding that she can't pay for medical help for her child. And not even because of a mistake she made, but because a man took advantage of her body, and another man has dictated her choices for her. Also, you can't be against abortion and birth control. Sorry. At some point you have to take a step back and say, "What is the most reasonable and rational thing we can do here." People are going to have sex and not want to face the consequences. Irresponsible and selfish? Maybe. But we're human and that's life and you can't expect the world to conform. And, if you do outlaw abortion and birth control, women are still going to find ways to get both. Those ways will just be harmful and sketchy. It happened in the 20's, it would happen in the 2000s. Yet another problem I have with Amendment 62 is outlawing all forms of birth control that aren't barrier methods. A male condom has a theoretical failure rate of 2 percent. If you use it correctly and nothing goes wrong. The actual-use failure rate is 15 percent. It's a woman's right to decide how she wants to family plan. Not only that, but birth control is used for more than just preventing pregnancy. One major use of birth control is to control the symptoms of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, PMDD. It's basically PMS so bad that you can't function for 3 days to a week. I would know, I have it. Spikes in my unregulated hormone levels that cause me to faint. Stomach pains for 4 straight days so bad I can't eat. Being so fatigued I would sleep 15 hours a day for almost a week. Missing classes, practices, tests for a week every month. Welcome to my life for one week a month before I started birth control. It interferes with a woman's life and her health. Would someone really make women have to go through with that EVERY MONTH? How would these men feel watching their daughters suffer the way I did? Thankfully I've outgrown it in my 20s, but I remember, and I would never make another girl go through that because she wasn't allowed to have birth control. Now, I'm a Christian, and my boyfriend and I have decided to wait for marriage. But our choices aren't everyone else's. So doesn't this country have a separation of Church and state, making religious arguments for banning abortion in the Constitution a moot point?

October 12 2010 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jackie

Seriously people, it's just a small collections of cells! Do you realize that you are getting rid of the same amount of cells by scratching your face as you are by having an abortion (granted its in the first trimester)??!! I'm completely pro-choice. A lot of laws similar to this proposed one say that an abortion can only be performed in the case of danger of the mother's life- having a child at my age (19) would endanger my life! I'd have to pay for a child I wasn't expecting to have, drop out of college, probably go on unemployment and be another burden on the government, not to mention my parents. That means I can't do what I want and have a successful life, and the kid probably won't either. Laws like this just make me so mad because it's like, if you don't agree with abortions, great! Don't get one! But don't take away the opportunity for me to decide for myself. I don't believe in your God or Bible, so how can you force your ideals on me? I will control my own body, thank you very much, no government has any right trying to make decisions for me.

June 15 2010 at 8:36 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jackie's comment
tlsagirl

Just so you realize, YOU began as this same physical component of procreation. Do you believe your mother had the right to end your life at this stage of life? Do you want your society to protect your devine right to Life, Liberty and the Persuit of Happiness? This in an UNalienable, Creator bestowed right. Do you not get it? Human life is not anybodies but Gods. He created it-He owns it-only He can begin or end it. Who exactly do you think you are? What power do you think you have? You cannot begin life-You have no right to end it. Sorry that this does not suit you. It is, however, the truth. Yours, in Christ, tulsagirl.

October 22 2010 at 11:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ImOnlyAnne

This isn't about abortion. Just as in the first attempt, it's about passing a law that is TOO broad, and will put the general health of women at risk, not to mention stealing her right to choose a birth control method. Condoms are the least reliable of most available methods - if you don't want to see so many "pregnancy prevention" abortions, do not try to legislate birth control as well. Moreover, the fact that there are NO exceptions here for the health of a woman are just unbelievable. Are these organizations going to pay money and provide nurturing to the children who lose their mother before they are even born and leave a father to raise them on his own? So sad this even made the ballot again.

June 15 2010 at 2:15 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Rebekah

how much of the funding given to PPH goes to education, health and wellness, maternal/child health, prevention? how much of it goes to abortion? i have never heard of someone regretting using birth control. i have never heard of anyone regretting being educated? but i have heard of women regretting having an abortion. the taking of a life is still the taking of a life. whether new or old. the creator said He knit us together in the womb. He put us together in the secret place. He know the numbers of the hairs on our heads. He created us for His pleasure.

June 15 2010 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Rebekah's comment
retromoderne

Actually, a great deal of what PP does focuses on women's health and birth control.... not abortion. They see patients on a sliding scale for pap smears, routine exams, etc and also provide bc on a sliding scale or even free depending on income.

June 15 2010 at 12:47 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
ettu

Where do these people get their funding? As a moderate/conservative who is PRO-CHOICE, I suggest they stop throwing money into this black hole. Roe v Wade will never be overturned. The majority of American women support their right to decide this issue for themselves, whether they will admit it to your face, or not. What many of us do not support is the length of time allowed to make the decision to give birth, or not. Anything beyond the FIRST TRIMESTER is an abomination. If you haven't decided by that time, then you lost your right to choose.

June 15 2010 at 10:15 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ettu's comment
retromoderne

Most abortions that take place AFTER the first trimester are because of gross fetal abnormalities that aren't discovered earlier. It's not because someone "hasn't decided".

I think most people would agree that the earlier an abortion is performed, the better. However, many of the "popular" abortion restrictions being imposed these days are, at heart, intended to make it more difficult and more expensive to obtain. With fewer providers, women sometimes have to travel hundreds of miles to obtain a procedure. Waiting periods mean that they have to make the trip twice, or pay for an overnight stay. Ultrasounds, consultation that must be given by the physician... all these things drive up the cost, making it take longer for a poor woman to obtain the necessary funds.

June 15 2010 at 12:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
tausands

Imagine that, the Republicans, the party that says government should get out of people's lives now wants to tell people how they will act in bed, during pregnancy, before conception, after conception, etc....
Gee, next they'll be trying to pass a bill allowing wiretaps, library list checks, email hacks....oh...wait...they already did that one.

June 15 2010 at 12:47 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
eyeforeye42

If you want to ban abortion, also include prevention too as that is just as unnatural. Toss hysterectomies out except in cases of eminent death. Condoms got to go. Birth control pills out too! This should do the trick in overpopulating the world and finishing our race off once and for all. Nature likes moderation and doesn't tolerate overabundance for long. The sooner we do the wrong things the quicker the earth will recover from us not being around

June 14 2010 at 10:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
geraghtyd59

Have any of you ever heard of something called overpopulation?

June 14 2010 at 8:52 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
kloel

Those who choose, participate in, or conduct abortions will someday have to answer for the murder of the innocents. Do you really think God doesn't care about 50 million dead babies?

June 14 2010 at 8:40 PM Report abuse -9 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kloel's comment
retromoderne

They're not babies until they're capable of surviving on their own, outside the womb. And no, if there is a God I don't think he cares.

June 14 2010 at 10:53 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

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