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Proposed Abortion Ban Clears Colorado Hurdle

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Colorado flag (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (AP) — Abortion opponents making a third attempt to get voters to outlaw abortions in Colorado are trying a new tactic: details.

The abortion foes have put forward a lengthy so-called “personhood” amendment for ballots this fall that goes far beyond earlier, unsuccessful attempts to outlaw abortion.

The measure’s new language, cleared by a state title board Wednesday, states that abortions are illegal even in cases of rape and incest. It also states that human stem-cell research and fertility treatments that kill fertilized embryos, such as in-vitro fertilization, would be banned. It states a mother would not be held liable for “spontaneous miscarriage” and that the measure wouldn’t apply to “medical treatment for life-threatening medical conditions.”

Why the additional descriptions? The “personhood” crafters say that previous attempts to recognize constitutional rights for the unborn – which failed badly with Colorado voters in 2010 and 2008 – were criticized as being too vague.

In those campaigns, opponents said in campaign arguments that the measure – which previously simply defined “person” to include a fetus – could have banned more than just abortion. Fertility treatments and even the birth-control pill were said to be under attack.

The longer, four-section amendment proposed for 2012 ballots goes into more detail. It bans “only birth control that kills a person.” It repeatedly uses the phrase “innocent person,” so the amendment could not be interpreted as an end to capital punishment.

Abortion-rights supporters still tried unsuccessfully to block the more-precise language. A lawyer for several women, Lila Bateman, argued before the three-person title board Wednesday that the 2012 version is still vague. She argued that the “innocent person” phrase is not defined.

“It’s going to cover an officer who shoots a fleeing suspect,” Bateman argued.

Later, one the of the measure’s backers scoffed at Bateman’s argument.

“Nobody is going to think that,” Gualberto Garcia Jones said.

Bateman also argued that the amendment could prohibit doctors from honoring advanced directives or do-not-resuscitate orders.

“It’s not at all certain what this initiative actually does,” Bateman said.

One of the members of the title board, Dan Domenico, conceded that the “personhood” amendment could bring sweeping changes if adopted by voters – but he said that isn’t the concern of the title board.

“It doesn’t mean we can’t set a title for it … just because we can’t predict all the consequences,” Domenico said.

The title board voted 2-1 to clear the language. Soon after the ruling, the head of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said in a statement the group would appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Vicki Cowart blasted the measure as “blatantly flawed, unfair and misleading” and said it would confuse voters.

Personhood USA, based in suburban Denver, has pushed legislation and constitutional amendments to challenge federal abortion rights in several states. Last November, Mississippi voters rejected a “personhood” amendment in that state.

- By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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