By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Proponents of a ballot initiative aimed at banning abortion in Colorado lost a court challenge yesterday to change contested language in the so-called Blue Book state voter guide.
Denver District Judge Robert Hyatt threw out the challenge ruling that the plaintiffs did not have jurisdiction to intervene in advance of a general election. He ruled that the language of the Blue Book is a legislative function, not a decision to be made by the courts.
An 18-member bipartisan council decides the language of the Blue Book.
Personhood Colorado says the language in the analysis is not “fair or impartial, but in fact glaringly biased against Amendment 62.” Proponents sharply disagreed with Hyatt’s ruling yesterday, arguing that the ruling places no pressure or accountability over the Legislative Council. Proponents said they plan on appealing the decision.
“It is apparent that the court believes there is no authority over the Colorado Legislative Council, and that is scary,” said Gualberto GarciaJones, co-sponsor of Amendment 62. “The Colorado Legislative Council can print anything they want to based on their own prejudices, and my tax dollars have to pay for it.”
Amendment 62 would define a “person” as being “from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.”
Critics of the initiative are concerned that the Personhood drive 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.
The opposition campaign states that Amendment 62 “still goes too far,” and concerns have been raised that re-defining the term “person” in Colorado could have far-reaching legal repercussions, both intended and unintended.
A similar effort failed in 2008 when it received only 27 percent of the vote.
Proponents were facing an uphill battle with their lawsuit. The Blue Book has already started to show up in voters’ mailboxes, though proponents were seeking to not only have the language changed, but for new copies to be sent to voters.
Since 1996, there have been five challenges in Denver District Court to the content of the Blue Book, according to the Office of Legislative Legal Services. Each of those cases was dismissed, according to the office.
The most recent case, a challenge in 2006 by proponents of a marijuana-legalization initiative, set a precedent when it was dismissed because the court found that the plaintiffs did not have jurisdiction to intervene in advance of a general election, according to the Office of Legislative Legal Services.
The group of pro-lifers say none of more than 70 pages of notes that they submitted to Legislative Council was used in the Blue Book. They say that the final language was not sent to them, and they didn’t find out about the language until recently when they looked online. Proponents say had they been notified of the final language sooner, they could have filed objections without having to file a lawsuit in Denver District Court.
The Blue Book states in the “Arguments Against” section for the initiative that the “beginning of the biological development” is a term which is “not defined within the measure, has no established legal meaning, and is not an accepted medical or scientific term.” Proponents call the statement “erroneous and misleading,” and provided evidence of peer-reviewed medical and bioethics journals, as well as medical textbooks, which use the term “beginning of the biological development.”
Other complaints from proponents include statements in the Blue Book from opponents that women would be denied health care for certain emergency procedures, such as for miscarriages, if Amendment 62 is backed by voters this fall. Proponents are also concerned that the Blue Book includes language from opponents suggesting that the measure could subject doctors and nurses to legal action.
“The Blue Book’s false claims are so egregious that we were forced to take action,” said GarciaJones. “Outright lies were printed about Amendment 62 É That is why we plan to appeal this dismissal and right the grievous wrong that has been committed against our campaign.”