DENVER (BP) A proposed constitutional amendment that gives legal protections to people from the moment of conception and takes direct aim at Roe v. Wade has officially qualified for the ballot in Colorado, giving citizens there a historic opportunity this November to grant legal status to the unborn.
Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman announced May 29 that an estimated 103,000 signatures for the proposed amendment were valid, far more than the 76,000 required. A sampling method was used. Colorado for Equal Rights, the group behind the amendment, submitted 130,000 signatures.
It will be the first time in U.S. history that citizens will vote on such an amendment. The core of the proposal is only 15 words and states, "The term 'person' or 'persons' shall include any human being from the moment of conception."
Pro-lifers are calling it a new front in the legal, cultural and political battle over abortion. The amendment was the idea of 20-year-old Kristi Burton, who says she developed a deep passion for the pro-life movement at age 13.
"All humans should be protected by love and by law, and this amendment is a historic effort to ensure equal rights for every person," Burton said in a press release. "We at Colorado for Equal Rights are incredibly thankful for our many volunteers who worked so hard for each signature we delivered to the Secretary of State's Office and the churches who stood behind us and supported us. This victory is the voice of the people and all credit goes to our Creator."
The fact that the debate is focusing on personhood is significant: In the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, writing for the majority, stated that if personhood for the unborn is established, then the case for abortion "collapses" because "the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [Fourteenth] Amendment."
The proposed amendment specifically states that the definition of person applies to three sections in the Colorado constitution the section declaring that citizens have certain "inalienable rights," the section guaranteeing equality of justice and the section guaranteeing due process of law. If the amendment is adopted, then every unborn person from conception would be guaranteed, among other things, the "right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties."
The proposal has the support of Gerald Wilberforce, the great-great grandson of 19th-century British abolitionist William Wilberforce, the subject of the 2007 movie "Amazing Grace."
Pro-lifers in Montana also are trying to get a personhood amendment on the ballot (information is available at www.life2008.org).