Amendment 67: the definition of personhood

Jessie Trudell

Amendment 67 is set to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot for the state of Colorado.  If the amendment passes, unborn human beings will be included under the definition of “person” or “child.”

“This will be the first time that an amendment of this nature will be on the ballot in Colorado,” said Jennifer Mason, a spokesperson for Personhood Colorado. “This is a very different take on a sort of personhood amendment.”

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In 2008 and 2010, Personhood Colorado attempted to pass an amendment regarding the definition of a person under Colorado criminal code.  The initiative proposed in 2008, known as Initiative 48, would have declared personhood from the moment of fertilization. Similarly, in 2010, Initiative 62 was proposed, declaring personhood from the beginning of biological development as a human being. Both initiatives failed by voter margins of over 70 percent.

“In my opinion, it wouldn’t be considered a person until later on in the pregnancy,” said Mia Senz, a senior biology major at CSU.  “Once a sperm gets in the egg, it’s a fertilized egg. Not a person.”

The appearance of Amendment 67, also known as the Personhood Amendment or the Brady Amendment, surfaced after July 5, 2012.  A drunk driver hit the car of Heather Surovik, resulting in the loss of her 8-month-old fetus. The drunk driver was charged with vehicular assault and driving under the influence, but avoided further prosecution because a fetus is treated as a part of the mother’s body until birth, according to Colorado law.

“The Brady Amendment is vitally important to expectant mothers and their unborn children in Colorado, serving as a deterrent to anyone who thinks that they can injure or kill an unborn child with minimal consequences,” according to A Voice for Brady, an organization founded to publicize Amendment 67 and advocate for the rights of unborn children.

If Amendment 67 is passed, an egg will be declared a person from the moment it is fertilized. Amendment 67 would effectively outlaw abortion in the state of Colorado, including in cases of rape, incest and those in which the life of the mother is in danger. It may also restrict access to birth control such as birth control pills and IUDs, as well as emergency contraceptives.

“I believe that it is the woman’s body and her choice,” Senz said.  “In Fort Collins, we have had a number of sexual assault cases, and if I was one of them and got pregnant I’m not so sure if I would want to become a mother with that child.”

Speculation has surfaced regarding wording of the ballot question that has been labeled potentially misleading to voters.  The exact ballot question for Amendment 67 reads:

“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?”

“The government declared that life is an unalienable right,” said Kris Kersnick, an undeclared sophomore. “I don’t think an unborn child should be excluded from that.”

The precise impact of Amendment 67 on access to birth control remains unclear.

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“Outlawing birth control is a terrible idea, since people will have sex either way and stopping people from having protected sex is going to set up a whole other train of issues,” said Kate Slifer, undeclared freshman.  “By outlawing birth control, you can mistakenly increase the number of abortions.”

Ginika Okocha, junior student athlete and accounting major, agreed with Slifer’s point regarding the tendency for individuals to have sex, with or without protection.

“People do how they please no matter what,” Okocha said. “I understand that it would scare people to be safe or limit the amount of sexual interaction they have, but I believe as college kids people will do what they want whether there’s consequences or not.”

Kathy Sisneros of the Women and Gender Advocacy Center of CSU explained why the center has a neutral stance on Amendment 67.

“We don’t want to intentionally or unintentionally push away any of our students,” Sisneros said.  “We want them to feel comfortable coming into our center.”

Collegian Reporter Jessie Trudell can be reached at news@collegian.com and on Twitter @JessieTrudell.