By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
So-called “Christian soldiers” announced Friday that they have handed in the thousands of signatures needed to place the Personhood Colorado amendment on the 2010 ballot.
But proponents of the anti-abortion measure fell well short of the 131,000 signatures submitted for a similar amendment in 2008. This year they will be handing in only 79,817 signatures, just 3,770 more than then 76,047 valid signatures needed for the Secretary of State’s office to certify the initiative for the ballot.
It is possible that enough of the signatures will be invalidated by the Secretary of State, forcing proponents to scramble within a 15-day period to collect the additional valid signatures to place the measure on the ballot.
A news conference Friday with proponents felt more like a Christian revival meeting than a press conference, complete with cheers for Jesus and the singing of “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” Proponents made no secret of their mission — to ban abortion.
“The point of what we’re trying to do, just for everyone who thinks we’re trying to be sneaky, we’re trying to end abortion,” said Gualberto Garcia Jones, co-sponsor of the ballot initiative.
A similar effort failed in 2008 when it received only 27 percent of the vote. The initiative would give human rights to embryos, effectively banning abortion in the State of Colorado. If passed, the measure would likely be challenged in court because federal law contradicts the intent of the initiative.
Proponents this year have slashed the term “fertilization” from the ballot question, instead using the phrase “biological development.” The amendment would read, “The term ‘person’ shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.”
Opponents say they aren’t running scared this year, considering voters so overwhelmingly rejected the question in 2008, and given the struggle volunteers had this year in collecting signatures for the proposal.
“The overwhelming majority of Colorado voters (1.7 million), including voters in every Colorado county, rejected the ‘definition of person’ initiative in 2008,” said Dr. Savita Ginde, medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and a member of the Protect Families Protect Choices coalition. “It was bad medicine then. It is bad medicine now: it could ban all abortions, even those necessary to save the life and health of the woman.”
One of the biggest concerns for opponents is that Personhood measures could turn doctors into criminals by making it illegal to perform in vitro fertilization procedures, prescribing birth control pills, or even conducting emergency procedures on pregnant women, such as if a fertilized egg becomes lodged in a woman’s fallopian tubes.
Opponents also raise fears over the possibility of the ballot initiative essentially banning abortion and paving the way for a challenge of Roe v. Wade, setting a precedent for cases across the country.
Despite its failure in 2008, proponents say they are making progress, with Personhood initiatives taking place in 40 different states.
Keith Mason, director of Personhood USA, based in Arvada, said he believes the “political winds have changed” and voters are thinking differently about conservative issues.
“The Saints won the Super Bowl and now Washington, D.C. is frozen — so hell’s frozen over — the political winds are changing,” said Mason, referring to the recent historic Super Bowl win of the New Orleans Saints and the epic snowfall that has shut Washington down.
“I am confident that we will get a higher percentage of the vote if not pass it this year,” he said.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters