For the third time, Colorado voters defeated a measure to legally define life as beginning at conception, but backers of the amendment called it a victory because its 2-to-1 loss was an improvement over more crushing defeats in the past.
The personhood amendment was the same measure that Sen.-elect Cory Gardner supported in the past but disavowed early in his campaign to unseat Democratic incumbent Mark Udall.
Voters also rejected constitutional amendments that would require labeling of foods with genetically modified materials and a measure that would allow for casino gambling in horse tracks.
The only statewide ballot measure that passed was one requiring that school boards meetings at which teacher compensation or collective bargaining agreements are discussed be open to the public.
The personhood amendment was the most visible of the four, in large part because women’s reproductive rights were practically the sole issue in Udall’s ultimately unsuccessful campaign.
Gardner had championed such measures, which would ban abortions and some forms of birth control, until he began his Senate campaign earlier this year.
But despite reversing himself on the state-level efforts, he famously refused to withdraw his name as a cosponsor of a nearly identical bill at the federal level.
The proposed law would have added “unborn human being” to the definition of “person” and “child” in Colorado legal codes, thereby extending legal protections to fetuses.
Keith Mason of Personhood USA told Politico the measure was intended to allow for prosecutions of people who harm pregnant women’s unborn children.
But it would also have defined abortion as murder, opponents of the measure have charged. In fact, critics have said the wording of the amendment was so broad that women who miscarry could theoretically be prosecuted.
“If you get a prosecutor who wants to make a statement about unborn life, absolutely you could have prosecutions for miscarriages,” Aya Gruber, a law professor at the University of Colorado, told Politico. “This law allows it. It allows it!”
Voters rejected the personhood amendment by a whopping 64 percent, but it was spun as a victory by the measure’s backers.
“We are proud to have run an honest, hard-fought campaign,” said Jennifer Mason, Personhood USA spokeswoman, in a statement. “With a major grassroots effort, Personhood USA was able to counter the lies of the opposition with enough voters to see a larger percentage of voters vote for life than in any other previous Colorado election. It is becoming apparent that Planned Parenthood is forced to spend enormous amounts of money to mislead voters in order to win, and I’m sure they are afraid to face us again in the future as voters are beginning to see through their lies.”