Abortion foes to try ‘personhood’ measures again
November 21, 2011
DENVER – An anti-abortion group that sponsored an unsuccessful constitutional amendment in Mississippi said Monday it will try again with a revised version next year in Colorado, Montana and Oregon.
Denver-based Personhood USA has campaigned for state constitutional amendments defining life as beginning at fertilization. While the amendments sought to ban abortion, many physicians said they could make some birth control illegal and deter in vitro fertilization.
Those personhood amendments failed twice in Colorado, and Mississippi voters rejected an amendment this year.
On Monday, Personhood USA proposed adding a new section that states “the intentional killing of any innocent person is prohibited” and that the right to life “applies equally to all innocent persons.”
Only birth control, in vitro fertilization and assisted reproduction “that kills a person” would be affected by the amendment.
The term “person” would apply to “every human being regardless of the method of creation.” A human being is “a member of the species homo sapiens at any stage of development,” it states.
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While spontaneous miscarriages and medical treatment for life-threatening physical conditions would not be affected, no exception would be made for abortions in cases of rape or incest.
The proposed measure seeks to better explain to voters what would and would not be affected, said Jennifer Mason, spokeswoman for Personhood USA.
“We’ve seen the opposition use scare tactics to convince people to vote ‘No,'” Mason said. “We cannot ban in vitro fertilization. So we explain this would affect only those practices that kill human embryos.”
Personhood USA said it would submit its proposed language to the Colorado secretary of state’s office for approval before collecting signatures to place it on the ballot.
Mason said Personhood USA planned to submit amendments in Montana and Oregon “at the request of citizens in both states.” She did not elaborate other than to say the Denver group was supporting local activists.
Any successful measure would likely trigger legal challenges because it would conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a legal right to abortion.
In Mississippi, which has some of the nation’s toughest abortion regulations, voters rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment 58 percent to 42 percent on Nov. 8. Republican Gov. Haley Barbour said he thought proponents erred by putting the amendment on the ballot instead of going through the Legislature.
“If it had gone to the Legislature, the wrinkles in it would have been worked out,” Barbour said after the vote.
“Instead, these were some people from Colorado who had an initiative they tried twice to pass in Colorado and they couldn’t,” Barbour said. “And they thought, ‘What’s the most pro-life state in the country?’ Well it’s Mississippi. So they came to Mississippi with a half-baked initiative.”
In 2008 and 2010, Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected anti-abortion proposals that would have granted constitutional rights at the moment of conception under the state constitution. Opponents warned the amendments would ban fertility treatments and emergency contraception if they harmed fertilized eggs. Backers argued 21st century DNA experiments make it imperative to give fetuses human rights.
Abortion rights advocates raised nearly 10 times the cash that abortion foes did to defeat the 2010 effort. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains issued a statement Monday saying it will fight any new measure in Colorado.