Campaign Against ‘Personhood’ Amendment

I pass along the following media release as an item of interest.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Campaign to Defeat So-Called “Personhood” Amendment Launched

DENVER (May 6) — On Tuesday, May 6, a broad-based coalition of nurses, doctors, religious leaders, community groups and health care advocacy organizations launched the campaign to defeat the proposed so-called “Human Life Amendment.”

“If passed, this amendment would permanently alter Colorado’s constitution and allow government intrusion into Coloradans’ personal, private medical decisions,” said Toni Panetta, spokesperson for Protect Families Protect Choices. “This dangerous and deceptive measure would lay the legal foundation to deny Coloradans the health care they need.”

“As a physician, this proposed constitutional amendment really scares me,” said Dr. Mary Fairbanks, a family physician who has practiced for more than 20 years. “‘The moment of fertilization’ is not a medical definition, and so defining a person in that way interferes with the practice of medicine. This proposed amendment jeopardizes women’s health and will interfere with my ability to treat my patients.”

The change to Colorado’s constitution as it relates to inalienable rights, due process and equality of justice could provide the legal foundation for the government to investigate women or their doctors in the event of a miscarriage. The supporter of a similar measure in Montana has said this type of amendment could be used to investigate women to see what they may have done to cause a miscarriage.

“There’s no denying that this amendment would open the door to government control over some of the most personal choices facing Coloradans today,” said Gayle Berry, former state representative of House District 55 in Grand Junction. “This is not a partisan issue. Both sides of the aisle can agree that if this amendment passes, Coloradans will lose the right to make decisions about their own families.”

Proponents of the initiative have until May 13 to submit at least 76,000 valid signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office to qualify the amendment for the November 2008 ballot.

Protect Families, Protect Choices is a broad-based coalition of nurses, doctors, religious leaders, community groups and pro-choice advocacy organizations including the League of Women Voters, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and many others.

Speaker Biographies, Current Coalition Members, and Campaign Overview Follow

Speaker Biographies

Jacinta “Jacy” Montoya is executive director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). Montoya was born and raised in the Denver area to a Chicano father and a mother of Irish-German descent, whose families have lived in Colorado for more than 7 generations. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in the growth & structure of cities program at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Upon graduation, Montoya returned to Denver to work in the community in which she was raised. Her goal is to contribute to healthy communities, healthy Latinas, and healthy families by working to turn policy into action.

Dr. Mary Fairbanks is a family physician who has practiced in Colorado since 1990 After receiving her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College, she completed medical school and her residency at Columbia University. Dr. Fairbanks is currently a faculty member at St. Anthony’s Family Medicine Residency where she instructs future family practice physicians.

Senator Betty Boyd (D, Lakewood, SD 21) understands that the majority of Coloradans trust women to make their own personal health-care decisions, in consultation with their doctors, their families, and their conscience. On issues related to reproductive health, Boyd has sponsored legislation signed into law that ensures sexual assault survivors receive information about emergency contraception in the emergency room and that will allow more low-income Coloradans to receive family planning services through Medicaid to prevent unintended pregnancy. Prior to serving as state senator, she served as state representative to Colorado House District 26. Before seeking legislative office, Boyd worked for eight years as a legislative advocate for social justice.

Gayle Berry is the former state representative to Colorado House District 55 in Grand Junction. During her eight year tenure in the legislature (1996-2004), Berry was a member of the powerful Joint Budget Committee, the House Appropriations Committee, and was chair of the House Transportation Committee. Known among her colleagues as a member who could build coalitions on both sides of the aisle, Berry sponsored legislation as diverse as revising the Colorado Consumer Code, to protecting abandoned babies. She also received over 30 awards for legislative excellence during her tenure from business, economic, and human services groups. Nationally, she served on a number of legislative committees concerned with tax & fiscal policy, transportation, and women’s issues. A graduate of Fruita Monument High School and Mesa State College, Berry is a life-long resident of the western slope, and has been active in a wide range of community affairs including business, education, and family welfare.

Dr. Andrew Ross is a native of New York City and a graduate of University of Michigan with a degree in Biological Anthropology, and of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He did his residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Dr. Ross moved to Denver a little over 5 years ago. He is an OB/GYN in private practice in the south metro area. He serves on the executive and legislative committees of the Colorado Gynecological and Obstetric Society and is the director of Continuing Medical Education for the OB/GYN Department at Swedish Hospital. Dr. Ross also serves as Board Chair to the Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountain Action Fund.

Member Organizations & Endorsements


ACLU Colorado
American Association of University Women of Colorado
Americans for Cures
Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center
Center for Reproductive Rights
Colorado Gynecological-Obstetrical Society
Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights
Colorado Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Colorado Women’s Agenda
Colorado Women’s Bar Association
Denver Women’s Commission
Freedom Fund
Indigenous Youth Sovereignty Project
Interfaith Alliance of Colorado
League of Women Voters
LUZ Reproductive Justice Think Thank
NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado
National Abortion Federation
National Council of Jewish Women – Colorado Section
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains
Republican Majority for Choice
White House Project
Women’s Lobby of Colorado

State Legislators

Sen. Betty Boyd
Sen. Dan Gibbs
Sen. Bob Hagedorn
Sen. John Morse
Sen. Chris Romer
Sen. Nancy Spence
Sen. Sue Windels
Rep. Alice Borodkin
Rep. Terrance Carroll
Rep. Randy Fischer
Rep. Sara Gagliardi
Rep. Gwyn Green
Rep. Cheri Jahn
Rep. Joel Judd
Rep. John Kefalas
Rep. Andy Kerr
Rep. Claire Levy
Rep. Alice Madden
Rep. Anne McGihon
Rep. Joe Rice


2008 Protect Families Protect Choices Campaign Overview
Defeating the so-called “Human Life Amendment”

This fall, Colorado voters may be asked to amend our constitution to redefine “person” and to grant constitutional rights from the moment of conception. The proposed amendment is vague, dangerous and simply goes too far. It seeks to restrict women’s access to health care, it invites government intrusion into our personal lives, and, if it passes, it’s permanent.

The Protect Families Protect Choices Coalition is leading the campaign to defeat this dangerous measure.

What’s at stake:
Access to affordable health care is tough enough for many families in Colorado and this deceptively written ballot measure would make matters worse by putting women’s lives at risk and further restricting access to health care.

It is so vaguely worded that its true impact is impossible to predict but what we do know is bad enough.

This amendment would ban all abortion, including in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is at risk.
If a pregnant woman were diagnosed with cancer, she may be denied access to life-saving medical treatment because it would endanger the fetus.
This amendment is so extreme it could ban the most popular forms of birth control.
This amendment attempts to place politicians and lawyers in the middle of our most personal, private medical decisions.
The wording is so unclear it could open the door to government interference in decisions about birth control, infertility treatments and stem cell research.

The Colorado Constitution was created to protect us. Amending it should not be taken lightly and it should not be done at all for this deceptively written measure. If this proposed amendment were to pass, it would permanently change our constitution to restrict access to health care.

Our opponents:
Like the initiative they are promoting, the group promoting this measure is deceptively named. The so-called “Colorado for Equal Rights” organization is made up of extreme anti-choice groups from beyond our state borders. Although the leader of the organization, Kristi Burton, is a Colorado native, the group’s funding comes from outside groups including the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan, Bound4Life in Washington, DC, and the Alliance Defense Fund in Arizona.

The challenges:
In this presidential election year, Coloradans will also decide one of the most competitive senate races in the country, several strongly contested congressional races and as a many as a dozen statewide ballot initiatives. Reaching Colorado voters through all the political advertising will be more difficult than usual.

Our opponents are hoping their deceptively written initiative, with its short and simple-sounding language, will sneak through the clutter. They are counting on people not understanding the full ramifications of the proposed amendment.

Our challenge is to get beyond the clutter, be heard over the noise and let voters know that the so-called Human Life Amendment restricts access to health care and invites government intrusion in our private medical decisions.

We need to reach out to voters with a strong grassroots effort as well as earned and paid media campaigns.