No Home-Field Advantage: Personhood USA Can’t Get Its Amendment On Colorado Ballot

This is now the third time since 2008 that a “personhood” amendment has failed in Colorado.

The latest incarnation of a “personhood” amendment has failed in the backyard of the group that has been pushing these measures nationwide.

The amendment, which would have codified that life begins at the moment of conception and a fertilized egg has full legal rights as a person, fell almost 4,000 signatures short of making it onto the Colorado ballot this November.

Colorado-based Personhood USA, which has pushed this theologically grounded measure before in its home state as well as in Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and Mississippi, claims to have gathered the necessary 86,000 signatures and that some of the signatures were wrongly invalidated.

A spokeswoman for the group said her organization will challenge the rejected signatures in court, the Associated Press reported.

This is now the third time since 2008 that a “personhood” amendment has failed in Colorado, though the previous two times Personhood USA got its initiative onto the ballot.

These developments are not insignificant: not only is Colorado home to Personhood USA, it is also the home of well-funded Religious Right juggernaut Focus on the Family, which has long been adamantly opposed to abortion.     

It seems the citizens of Colorado are growing wise to Personhood USA’s game. If a personhood amendment ever passes, it would lead to a slew of problems. It would also likely be found unconstitutional since it directly challenges Roe v. Wade

In fact, the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected one such personhood amendment in April, calling it “clearly unconstitutional.”

These types of measures often have unintended consequences as well. In Mississippi, for example, the personhood amendment would have banned abortion in virtually all cases (including rape and incest), as well as making many forms of contraception illegal. The language of the amendment was so broad, it could have allowed for criminal investigations of women who miscarry.

The Colorado ploy was Personhood USA’s only planned ballot initiative for the 2012 elections. While it is extremely unlikely that this setback will have the group closing up shop, it makes it more likely that the proposal won’t get serious consideration from anyone going forward.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which has opposed personhood schemes for years, was especially pleased to see the amendment fail.

“This year they're not even getting people to sign on to the concept,” said Monica McCafferty, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, according to the AP. “Hopefully that signals that Coloradans understand the concept, that they don't like the outcome of what this would mean.”

Let’s hope she’s right.