Tomorrow is the Colorado primary, which will set much of the November 4 ballot. But there are dozens of campaigns for state and local initiative efforts already under way around Colorado, and they could determined what issues we'll be voting on four months from now.
At the moment, only one initiative has collected enough signatures to guarantee a spot the ballot: Amendment 67, also known as Definition of Person and Child, or the Brady Project. Amendment 67 is backed by Personhood USA, a pro-life group that has pushed for Colorado personhood amendments in the past.
In July 2012, Heather Surovik was eight months pregnant when she was hit by a drunk driver. Surovik ended up in the ICU; her in-utero child, whom she had named Brady, was killed. Since Brady had not yet been born, the drunk driver could not be charged for his death under Colorado statutes. After Surovik failed to change the law through the legislature, she approached Personhood USA for help with a citizen ballot initiative, "A Voice for Brady," which became Amendment 67.
This is the fourth personhood amendment that the group has attempted to pass in Colorado. The past three attempts have either been soundly defeated by Colorado voters or did not receive enough signatures to be put on the ballot.
Any group that wants to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot must come up with at least 86,105 valid signatures. Personhood USA turned in 140,000 signatures last year; in October 2013, the Colorado Secretary of State's office verified that those signatures more than met the requirement, and the measure was placed on the ballot.
The campaign website, avoiceforbrady.com, features the story of Surovik and her unborn baby, including a video with interviews of family members and their pastor. Every page also includes a countdown to election day.
According to the site's FAQ page, the amendment is not political: "It is about preventing violence against pregnant mothers and their unborn children." The site dodges the issue of abortion entirely. But during Personhood USA's 2011 attempt at a personhood amendment in Colorado, spokeswoman Jennifer Mason told the Denver Post the proposed measure explained that "every human being is a person from their earliest moments."
This year, the legislature passed the Violence Against Pregnant Women Act, which itemized new legal offenses against pregnant women but included language making it clear that an unborn child would not be considered a "person." Afterward, Surovik lent her voice to the opposition. She called the bill deceptive and said the penalties were too minimal. "Now there are no criminal recourses at all for women who are harmed or killed in a Colorado abortion clinic," Mason says.
If Amendment 67 passes, it will insert this language into the Colorado Constitution: "In the interest of the protection of pregnant mothers and their unborn children from criminal offenses and negligent and wrongful acts, the words 'person' and 'child' in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act must include unborn human beings."
Amendment 67 is different from past personhood initiatives, Mason says, and she argues that it has an excellent chance of passing. "It's primarily geared toward educating the voters about what Colorado law is and how it's failing women and children," she adds.
Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado opposes the measure. The group says: "The 2014 ballot initiative, again, has slightly different language than years past in an effort to deceive the voters, but it has the same dangerous outcomes which would lead to more government intrusion in our personal lives, including: getting into our medical records to investigate miscarriages, dictating the kinds of birth control we use, and interfering with medical decisions made by women with their doctors in treating fertility problems."
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Here's the Amendment 67 wording you'll actually see on the ballot:
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution protecting pregnant women and unborn children by defining "person" and "child" in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings?
We'll be profiling all the ballot measures over the next few months. To find out more about proposed initiatives in Colorado in the meantime, visit http://www.sos.state.co.us/.
From our archives: "Personhood bill has chilling effect even with no chance of passing, advocate says."