Personhood bill has chilling effect even with no chance of passing, advocate says

Sinice 2008, Colorado voters have repeatedly rejected personhood ballot measures, each time by wide margins. But another version of the proposal has already been certified for the November 2014 election -- and a group of anti-abortion legislators have just introduced a bill, HB 14-1133, with very similar language.

A pro-choice advocate believes the bill, on view below, has zero chance of passage. But she feels speaking out against it is important nonetheless.

"This has potentially negative impact on medical providers," says Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. "And it has a chilling effect on women who are faced with difficult decisions."

The bill is sponsored by Steve Humphrey, a representative from Severance, with ten other Republican reps serving as co-sponsors: minority leader Brian DelGrosso (Loveland), Perry Buck (Windsor), Justin Everett (Littleton), Chis Holbert (Parker), Lois Landgraf (Colorado Springs), Daniel Nordberg (also Colorado Springs), Kevin Priola (Henderson), Lori Saine (Dacono), Jerry Sonnenberg (Sterling), Spencer Swalm (Centennial) and Jared Wright (Fruita). Entitled "A Bill for an Act Concerning Protecting Human Life Beginning at Conception," the legislation prohibits abortion and makes a violation a class-3 felony.

The only exceptions are when a licensed physician "performs a medical procedure designed or intended to prevent the death of a pregnant mother, if the physician makes reasonable medical efforts under the circumstances to preserve both the life of the mother and the life of her unborn child in a manner consistent with conventional medical practice" or when such a doc "provides medical treatment to the mother that results in the accidental or unintentional injury or death to the unborn child."

By the way, "unborn child" is defined as "an individual living member of the species Homo Sapiens, throughout the entire embryonic and fetal ages of the unborn child from fertilization to full gestation and childbirth."

This isn't the first time abortion foes have tried to accomplish their goals via legislation. "They have introduced this bill year after year," Middleton points out. "So it would shortcut the ballot measure if it had any chance of success, which I don't think it does."

Then why bring attention to it? In Middleton's words, "it's important to show how out-of-touch these politicians are with the will of Colorado voters. Whenever it's on the ballot, 70-75 percent of Colorado voters soundly oppose it, and we're sure the 2014 personhood ballot measure will undoubtedly fail, too."

Even if those backing the measure are doing so mainly to play to their base at this point, Middleton argues that their efforts are "insulting to women and to Colorado voters in general. Colorado is a place where we value privacy and oppose government interference on all kinds of matters, but particularly on health care. It's really part of the fabric of our state whether we're talking about abortion or some other invasive action of government."

As such, she goes on, "we think it's time for voters who oppose these issues at the ballot box to be more vocal in their opposition at other times, too. If they speak up along the way on how they feel about this issue, perhaps it will have an impact on if we continue to see these kinds of bills year after year."

Don't bet on it. Here's the complete bill.

House Bill 14-1133

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Politics archive circa November 2011: "Personhood Amendment reboot Q&A with Kristi Burton Brown, face of original 2008 campaign."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts