Trending Away from Choice in ColoradoNovember 02, 2010
Today, Americans across the country will arrive at the polls and participate in the democratic process by casting ballots for senators, representatives, and county sheriffs (among others). Some voters will also have the opportunity to vote on ballot measures, which are questions or initiatives that can — if passed by the general public — establish or repeal laws or amend state constitutions. Ballot measures are a rather unique way for people to directly shape laws and policies at the state level, and for that reason they are worth paying very close attention to.
Because ballot measures can effect sweeping change with a bare majority of the mere 37 percent of eligible voters who will likely show up for the midterm elections, a very small number of people will have enormous influence over changes in state law. And because ballot measures can address any issue, they are a favorite avenue for anti-choice advocates to erode existing reproductive rights.
The latest example of this is in Colorado, where a measure on the ballot would amend the Colorado Constitution to apply all legal rights associated with personhood to a fetus at conception. This “personhood amendment” would render illegal any abortion under any circumstances, including in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.
There are other problematic implications of the amendment — limitations on the sort of health care a pregnant woman can get and illegalization of birth control and emergency contraception. While there may be little common ground between pro-choice individuals and those who believe abortion is wrong, there is a strong history of including exceptions to anti-abortion laws that make room for pregnancy termination when a woman has suffered the trauma of rape or incest or when carrying the fetus to term would kill her. This Colorado ballot measure is so extreme; it goes so far toward stripping away a woman’s right to self-agency that the National Right to Life Committee (which ousted the Colorado affiliate from the organization in 2007 for extreme, out-of-step viewpoints) doesn’t endorse the measure.
This amendment will probably lose, as it did in 2008. But it will likely garner more votes than it did in 2008, and this will strengthen its proponents’ resolve to bring it back year after year. This unflagging resolve is indicative of a disturbing trend of anti-choice individuals seeking to bring down even the threefold exceptions to anti-abortion laws — people such as Sharron Angle, running for Senate in Nevada, who said she would tell a girl who was raped and impregnated by her father to make “lemonade out of lemons” — they don’t give up.
The NO on 62 Campaign is a Colorado coalition (of which AAUW of Colorado is a part) dedicating time and energy to defeating the “personhood amendment.” To find out where many of the Senate and gubernatorial candidates stand on reproductive rights and other elements of the 2009–11 AAUW Public Policy Program, see the AAUW Action Fund voter guides on the Action Fund website.