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'Personhood' Ballot Measures Rejected by Wide Margins in Colo., N.D.

'Personhood' Ballot Measures Rejected by Wide Margins in Colo., N.D.

November 5, 2014 — Voters in Colorado and North Dakota on Tuesday rejected antiabortion-rights "personhood" amendments to their state constitutions, with the ballot measures losing by roughly 2-to-1 margins in both states, the Huffington Post reports (Bassett, Huffington Post, 11/5).

Colorado

With nearly 93% of precincts reporting, Colorado's Amendment 67 was defeated roughly 64% to 36%, Politico reports (Politico, 11/5).

The ballot initiative would have amended the state's constitution to state that "the words 'person' and 'child' in the Colorado Criminal Code and the Colorado Wrongful Death Act must include unborn human beings."

The vote marks the third time Colorado voters have rejected personhood amendments, which also lost in 2008 and 2010 (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/17).

This year, supporters of the amendment attempted to frame it as a way to prosecute people who harm a fetus during a crime, rather than as an antiabortion-rights initiative. However, opponents of the amendment -- including the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the Colorado Bar Association and NARAL Pro-Choice America -- said it would grant constitutional rights beginning at fertilization and could be used to criminally charge abortion providers and women seeking abortions. In addition, opponents said that the amendment could restrict access to some contraceptives in the state (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/18).

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement, "Despite backers trying to hide their real intent with deceptive language this year, voters saw through this gambit and Amendment 67 met the same defeat as its predecessors in 2008 and 2010." She added, "Hopefully the third time is the charm, and opponents of women's rights will learn their lesson and stop trying to restrict the freedom of Colorado women" (Sneed, U.S. News & World Report, 11/5).

North Dakota

In North Dakota, voters rejected Measure 1 64.1% to 35.9%, with 100% of precincts reporting, Politico reports (Politico, 11/5).

The ballot measure would have changed the state's constitution to state that "the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected."

In addition to outlawing abortion, the amendment's broad language could have allowed the state government to interfere in other medical services, including end-of-life care, access to contraception and in vitro fertilization, according to abortion-rights supporters. The state's three specialists on IVF stated that they would have stopped conducting the procedure in the state if Measure 1 had passed (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/3).

The North Dakota amendment was thought to be the "best chance of victory" for personhood supporters this year, given the state's "strongly anti-abortion" sentiments, according to Politico.

Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup said, "The voters have sent a loud and clear message: Women know what's best for their lives, their health, and their futures," adding, "It's time for North Dakota politicians to remember that message when they return to the capital for a new session in January" (Pradhan/Haberkorn, Politico, 11/5).