131,000 Coloradans endorse 'personhood' plan
Ballot initiative would extend constitution's protections to pre-born
May 13, 2008
More than 131,000 Coloradans have endorsed a plan to put an initiative on the fall 2008 election ballot that would
allow voters to extend the U.S. Constitution's protections to those who haven't been born yet, something supporters
say the U.S. founders intended all along.
In a campaign that opponents fret is a direct challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in which the Supreme Court
discovered the right of a mother-to-be to abort her unborn child, the Colorado personhood amendment is a simple
"This proposed constitutional amendment will define a person in Colorado as a human being from the moment of
fertilization, the moment when life begins," according to a statement at the sponsoring group, Colorado for Equal
At a news conference today, Colorado for Equal Rights spokeswoman Kristi Burton was asked by a reporter about
the "Christian" perspective of the campaign.
Not so fast, she said, because this campaign is based on "biology 101."
"This amendment will establish a cornerstone for protecting human life in our society …. and we all know this is the
right thing to do," the organization's statement said. "This campaign is not about the power of money – it is about the
power of truth.
"We are giving Colorado voters an opportunity to vote their conscience and protect the most innocent and helpless
ones among us. If life is protected from the very beginning, Colorado for Equal Rights believes that we can transform
our nation from a culture of death into a culture of life," the group said.
Burton discussed the situation with WND before an afternoon news conference when officials announced that
131,245 signatures had been gathered to put the issue on the ballot, which cannot happen until an official
determination from the Secretary of State's office over the next month.
The required number of signatures was 76,048, and while a few names probably will be disqualified, Burton said she's
confident there will be more than enough to qualify the issue.
"We should have a good validity rate. The majority of the signatures came from volunteers going to their friends and
neighbors and churches," she said.
She said the effort puts Colorado, where the nation's first state law allowing abortion was written by Dick Lamm, a
former government and state lawmaker, at the front of efforts to protect life in the United States.
"It gives us a foundation before we can make other pro-life laws," she said. The same plan has been put forward in
several state legislatures, but Colorado's campaign is the most advanced across the nation, she said.
"We are extremely excited," she said. "We have a great chance to win this in November."
Abortion industry leaders such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado are opposed to the
But such personhood arguments started gaining momentum after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the procedure known
as partial-birth abortion can be restricted.
Groups including Focus on the Family noted it was the first court opinion in years that actually supported abortion
restrictions and said it was a moral victory, while others, including the America Life League, countered that the court
ruling actually would not prohibit a single abortion, just a way of doing them.
The Colorado plan targets a loophole U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun created when he wrote the
original abortion opinion.
He concluded: "(If the) suggestion of personhood [of the preborn] is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course,
collapses, for the fetus' right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment."
By defining the unborn as a person, supporters believe, voters can simply spread the covering of constitutional
protection over them, too.
As WND reported, a recent Colorado case highlighted what supporters describe as the need for the change.
In that case, a Colorado judge dismissed some charges against a man who caused a fatal car crash, because the
victim, at 8½ months of a pregnancy, had only been scheduled for a C-section to be born, and that had not yet
happened at the time of the crash.
"'Person' is a defined term for purposes of the homicide statutes," wrote Judge Richard Gurley in a March decision
in the case involving the death of Lileigh Lehnen, the born-alive daughter of 26-year-old Shea Lehnen.
"The definition states that 'person,' when referring to the victim of a homicide, means a human being who had been
born and was alive at the time of the homicidal act," the judge said.
Lileigh Lehnen was born during an emergency C-Section after the November 2007 accident that was triggered
when Logan Lage, 24, apparently drove on the wrong side of the road and crashed his vehicle headon into Lehnen's
Lileigh Lehnen lived several hours and died of asphyxia, according to Mesa County Deputy Coroner Rob Kurtzman,
who concluded the baby's death was a homicide and said the collision damaged the mother's placenta, limiting blood
flow to the newborn.
Lage was facing a series of charges because of the baby's death, but his public defender, Will McNulty, challenged
them on the grounds that the state law excluded the baby from the possibility of being a homicide victim.
The judge's order said Colorado law doesn't allow Lileigh Lehnen to be considered either a "person" or a "child" at
the time of the crash.
"This outrageous ruling is a clear example of they hypocrisy of Colorado law," said Burton at the time. "If a child like
Lileigh is not a person, what is she? There is no other answer. However, this case effectively illustrates the current
state of our laws in Colorado and across the nation. Some states would recognize Lileigh's rights as a person, yet
Colorado does not. It's high time we change this and clarify what a person actually is in Colorado. Our Human Life
Amendment can lay the needed foundation to bring justice to people like Shea and Lileigh Lehnen."
Leslie Hanks, a longtime activist in the pro-life movement in Colorado, has said the affirmation that all "persons" have
certain natural, essential and inalienable rights including the right to life is exactly what the nation's founders had in
mind when they established the United States.
"Colorado, which regrettably was in the forefront of the movement to deny the right to life to millions of the unborn,
has now taken the first step to restore the right to life to all Americans, regardless of age, dependency, national
origin or condition," said John Archibold, a founder of Colorado Right to Life as well as National Right to Life.