Personhood provision confronts voters again

Here we go again. Backers of the so-called personhood amendment — whose aim is to outlaw abortion — turned in petitions with enough signatures this week to likely get the proposed constitutional amendment on this November’s Colorado election ballot.

If they succeed in getting it on the ballot, it will mark the third successive general election in which Coloradans have been asked to cast ballots on this issue. The voters shot similar measures down by substantial margins the past two elections. We hope they do so again.

The personhood amendment is not only bad policy for Colorado, but it is a reflection of what’s wrong with our process for amending the state Constitution. Because it’s relatively easy to collect enough signatures to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, even proponents of repeat losing measures are encouraged to keep trying and trying. They might add a tweak here and there in an attempt to make the latest iteration of their proposal more palatable to voters.

That’s exactly what the Colorado Personhood Coalition has done with the 2012 ballot amendment. In response to criticism during the past two elections, backers of this year’s version have added language to say “spontaneous miscarriages” won’t be affected — they won’t lead to criminal charges — under the amendment. It also says medical procedures such as cancer treatment of a pregnant woman that could result in a miscarriage won’t run afoul of the law.

However, the 2012 version of the amendment would still criminalize abortion in most circumstances. It makes clear abortions will be prohibited, even in cases of rape or incest.

And, in attempting to describe a fetus as a person — defining a child to include “a human being prior to and during birth” — the measure would undoubtedly raise legal issues about fetal rights for many years to come.

The Colorado Personhood Coalition submitted petitions with more than 125,000 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State Monday. If at least 86,0000 of them are verified, the measure will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Colorado was the first state in the country to legalize abortions in certain circumstances — six years before Roe v. Wade was decided. It’s extremely unlikely this purple state will now approve a constitutional amendment that would prohibit abortion even when a woman has been a victim of rape or incest.

Still, personhood proponents keep trying, unsuccessfully, to get a ballot measure approved in at least one state so they can set up a legal case to challenge Roe v. Wade.

It’s unfortunate that Colorado’s amendment process makes it so easy for groups like this to keep pushing a measure that the majority of Coloradans clearly don’t want.


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