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Personhood Amendment petition drive launches with event at Planned Parenthood

At 2 p.m. today, the Colorado Personhood Coalition will hold a press conference at a very pointed location -- a local Planned Parenthood office -- to tout the beginning of a petition drive for the latest version of a Personhood resolution. And campaign reps including Kristi Burton Brown, the face of the 2008 effort, are confident that the measure will find its way to the November ballot. But victory at the polls may be a bigger challenge.

The coalition stresses that this year's amendment isn't a clone of ones that lost by wide margins in 2008 and 2010. The language of the proposal, on view below, still defines a human being as a child at any stage of development (meaning, presumably, the moment of conception). However, it states that only methods of birth control, in vitro fertilization and assisted reproduction that "kill a person" are covered by the text. Moreover, neither spontaneous miscarriages nor medical treatments used to preserve life in life-threatening situations will be outlawed by the initiative.

It remains to be seen whether these tweaks will boost the measure, but Brown maintains that "every year personhood amendments are tried, the support rises, whether you're talking about Colorado, where the numbers and percentages both increased, and in Mississippi, where it was even closer than in Colorado. And I think the more people talk about how every unborn child is a human being scientifically speaking and morally speaking, and how we need to protect every human being, the more people look into their hearts."

Denver's petition-drive press conference follows an event in Glenwood Springs yesterday, as well as one in Colorado Springs scheduled for 10 a.m. today. However, Susan Sutherland, the initiative coordinator for the 2012 petition drive, notes that "technically, it launched a little earlier in the week. We have mailed out about 3,500 petitions; they hit the post offices on Monday. And in addition, we have several thousand more petitions out to our base of volunteers locally and statewide. And that builds every day as the word gets out and we receive information about additional people who want to get involved."

An image from the Personhood USA website.
An image from the Personhood USA website.

At this point, Sutherland says the coalition has no plans to employ paid signature gatherers, even though petitioning was delayed over a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood that failed earlier this month. "They knew what that would do: delay the process," she maintains. "And it did set us back a few weeks. But we were very pleased by the unanimous decision the Colorado Supreme Court came back with. It kind of bolstered our resolve. We were like, 'We can do this.' And we have no problems. We have great numbers of people out there willing to help. And that's what we're counting on."

Sutherland says the coalition has set a self-imposed deadline of July 8 to gather the 86,105 valid signatures to earn inclusion on the ballot. When she's asked if she has any concerns about meeting that standard given the experience of the folks behind Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which had almost 80,000 signatures disallowed on their first attempt at qualification, she replies, "None. Zero. We all know that with signature gathering, you have to account for a percentage that is going to be thrown out. But I would say the greater percentage of people who sign our petitions are registered voters, and we make sure up front that every single person petitioning knows what they're doing."

As for the troubles experienced by the Amendment 64 forces, she jokes that they may be rooted in the substance they're trying to legitimize.

Adds Sutherland, "I think we've got an excited group working with us once again, and we're are going to be hard at it -- and right in the face of Planned Parenthood. After we were defeated in 2008, they probably thought we were going to go away, but we're not going away. This issue to us as personhood people, as people who value life, is something we're committed to, because our goal is to protect every single life, and every single baby. The pre-born deserve to be protected by love and by law, and we will not be deterred until they are."

Brown echoes this philosophy. "Win or not," she says, "we're promoting the message that every human being is valuable and deserves protection."

The press conference gets underway at 2 p.m. at Denver Stapleton Planned Parenthood, 7155 E 38th Avenue. Here's the text of the latest personhood amendment.

Article II of the constitution of the state of Colorado is amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION to read:

Section 32. The right to life.

(1) Purpose. IN ORDER TO AFFIRM BASIC HUMAN DIGNITY, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE RIGHT TO LIFE IN THIS CONSTITUTION APPLIES EQUALLY TO ALL INNOCENT PERSONS.

(2) Effect. THE INTENTIONAL KILLING OF ANY INNOCENT PERSON IS PROHIBITED.

(a) ONLY BIRTH CONTROL THAT KILLS A PERSON SHALL BE AFFECTED BY THIS SECTION.

(b) ONLY IN VITRO FERTILIZATION AND ASSISTED REPRODUCTION THAT KILLS A PERSON SHALL BE AFFECTED BY THIS SECTION.

(c) MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR LIFE THREATENING PHYSICAL CONDITIONS INTENDED TO PRESERVE LIFE SHALL NOT BE AFFECTED BY THIS SECTION.

(d) SPONTANEOUS MISCARRIAGES SHALL NOT BE AFFECTED BY THIS SECTION.

(e) NO INNOCENT CHILD CREATED THROUGH RAPE OR INCEST SHALL BE KILLED FOR THE CRIME OF HIS OR HER FATHER.

(3) Definitions. AS USED IN THIS SECTION,

(a) "PERSON" APPLIES TO EVERY HUMAN BEING REGARDLESS OF THE METHOD OF CREATION.

(b) A "HUMAN BEING" IS A MEMBER OF THE SPECIES HOMO SAPIENS AT ANY STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT.

(c) "SPONTANEOUS MISCARRIAGE" IS THE UNINTENTIONAL TERMINATION OF A PREGNANCY.

(d) "CHILD" INCLUDES A HUMAN BEING PRIOR TO AND DURING BIRTH.

(e)"MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR LIFE THREATENING PHYSICAL CONDITIONS INTENDED TO PRESERVE LIFE" INCLUDES BUT IS NOT LIMITED TO TREATMENT FOR CANCER, ECTOPIC AND MOLAR PREGNANCY, TWIN-TO-TWIN TRANSFUSION SYNDROME, AND PLACENTA PREVIA.

(4) Self-executing, and severability provision. ALL PROVISIONS OF THIS SECTION ARE SELF-EXECUTING AND ARE SEVERABLE.

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More from our Politics archive: "Personhood Amendment reboot Q&A with Kristi Burton Brown, face of original 2008 campaign."


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