Stealth “Personhood”

Since there’s been more discussion of “Personhood” initiatives this year than in past years, and since Colorado’s a state where such initiatives have been voted down twice, it’s worth being aware that the Colorado antichoicers have gotten craftier about framing their next ballot text. This time around, they’re trying to amend the state’s criminal code and wrongful death law to include the “unborn” in the definition homicide. Here’s a report from TNR’s Jessica Schulberg:

The initiative has tied its campaign to the story of a 29-year-old woman named Heather Surovik. In 2012, Surovik was 8-months pregnant with her third child when a drunk driver struck her car. The unborn baby, whom she planned to call Brady—the initiative is also known as the “Brady Amendment”—did not survive the crash. The driver, Gary Sheats, pleaded guilty to drunk driving and vehicular assault. But Surovik felt that at 8 pounds and 2 ounces, Brady warranted the same protections under criminal law as a living being. She wanted Sheats charged with homicide as well.

Sympathetic as this story is, the amendment could have truly damaging consequences for women’s reproductive freedom. “Amendment 67 is extremely misleading in its language,” said Diana Hsieh, Ph.D, in a recent press release by the Coalition for Secular Government. “The proponents of the measure apparently want voters to believe that it is about protecting pregnant women from vicious criminal attacks, but the reality is that the measure would treat women as murderers for getting an abortion or even for using certain types of birth control or in vitro fertility treatments,” she added.

It’s an even bigger bait-and-switch than all those “medical regulations” that are shutting down abortion clinics around the country under the guise of protecting “women’s health.” And its prospects rely entirely on perpetuating that deception. It’s unlikely to work, but it’s still reprehensible. Colorado voters clearly don’t want to make zygotes quasi-citizens, or create a legal foundation for attacks on early-term abortions, IV fertility clinics, or contraception. Tricking them into indicating otherwise won’t exactly enhance the already thin reputation for integrity of the antichoice folk.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.