Colorado voters reject anti-abortion amendment

[JURIST] Colorado voters struck down [Denver Post report] a ballot initiative [text, PDF] Tuesday that would have amended the state's constitution [text] to extend rights to fetuses and would have effectively outlawed abortion [JURIST news archive]. Proposed Amendment 62 [Project Vote Smart backgrounder], commonly known as the "Personhood Amendment," would have changed the definition of "person" to include "every human being from the beginning of the biological development." Such a measure would have extended to fetuses inalienable rights, equality of justice and due process of law under the Colorado Bill of Rights [text] and would have potentially ended legal abortion in the state. Supporters of the amendment argued that, currently, legal rights are not granted until after birth even though the state constitution does not define "person," and they hoped the changes would move Colorado toward the making abortion illegal. However, opponents claimed that the changes would harm individuals' ability to make health care decisions, would possibly inhibit access to birth control methods and would limit stem cell research. Critics also argued that since the proposed amendment did not define the term "beginning of the biological development," the use of such a definition would have forced the courts to decide its meaning in a wide array of legal situations. Supporters of Amendment 62 sued [Denver Post report] the Colorado Legislative Council [official website] in September for including allegedly biased descriptions of the measure in its ballot information booklet [text, PDF] that was widely distributed to voters. However, a district court judge dismissed the case [Personhood CO report] last month, saying that the books had already been circulated when the lawsuit was filed and that it was not feasible for the government to re-collect the books from voters.

While Colorado's "personhood" debate has surfaced in ballot initiatives [JURIST report] since 2007, other states have also been addressing abortion law. In August, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning [official website] announced [JURIST report] that he agreed to a permanent injunction of a Nebraska abortion law [LB 594 materials] because he believed there was little chance that the law would withstand a court challenge. A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law was filed [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] in June by women's rights group Planned Parenthood of the Heartland [advocacy website], and a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] the same month prohibiting the law from going into effect. Also in June, Florida Governor Charlie Crist [official website] vetoed a bill [JURIST report] that would have required women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound or listen to a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure would be performed. In May, Oklahoma lawmakers approved a bill [JURIST report] requiring women seeking an abortion to complete a questionnaire containing information on marital status, reason for seeking the abortion and whether the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

 

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