Using an A-Bomb to Kill an Ant: Colorado Personhood and RoeJanuary 18, 2013
Roe v. Wade advocates at AAUW of Colorado and our coalition partners are yard-sign collectors. Why? Biennial efforts to confer personhood in our state’s constitution for increasingly earlier prebirth stages of development seem to crop up like noxious weeds with a two-year life cycle. Thus Colorado sign wars ensued in 2008 and 2010 when amendments 48 and 62 made it onto the ballot. Proponents and opponents squared off in yards, on roadsides, and in various media outlets, hotly debating whether select uterine contents should have the same rights as a person under Colorado law.
Think about the implications of such proposed constitutional amendments, which also appear on ballots in states other than Colorado. While the goal of these measures is to make abortion illegal, the consequences are much farther-reaching. Pull up your state’s constitution on the Internet and do a search on the word “person.” Then pull up your state’s compiled statutes and search that word again. You’ll see thousands of hits highlighting laws that affect nearly every aspect of life! Rolling back abortion access through prebirth personhood disrupts the legal system because there are countless instances in which a law cannot effectively be interpreted and enforced when a fertilized egg has personhood status.
Opponents of Colorado personhood amendments hammered upon these law-compromising ramifications, as well as the illegalization of procedures like in vitro fertilization and the total ban on abortion — even in cases of rape, incest, and risk to the life of the mother — to create a groundswell of “no” votes. In 2008, Coloradans rejected Amendment 48, with 73 percent voting no. The vote count against 2010’s Amendment 62 was 71 percent to 29 percent. It’s a cautionary tale, however. The nearly 3-to-1 defeats do not mean that Coloradans overwhelmingly favor abortion access. Amendment 48 and 62 opponents, in large part, thought that the measures simply went too far.
Perhaps opponents’ decline-to-sign petition efforts are finally taking root. In August 2012, AAUW of Colorado and other pro-choice advocates breathed a huge sigh of relief when Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced that personhood ballot petition circulators had failed to submit the required number of signatures. Personhood proponents launched a legal protest, but the 2012 measure did not make the ballot.
We Colorado choice champions celebrate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and hope that our yard-sign collecting days are over — but we remain vigilant lest another personhood ballot initiative crops up.
This post was written by AAUW Director and AAUW of Colorado Public Policy Co-Director Amy Blackwell.