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Pro-life activists in Colorado have cleared a major hurdle in preparing an initiative for the 2008 election that would grant personhood to the unborn and create a possible confrontation to the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling that created abortion rights.
The state Supreme Court has granted permission for supporters of Colorado for Equal Rights to move forward with collecting the estimated 76,000 signatures needed to put the issue on the state election ballot.
It would grant personhood to the unborn from the moment of fertilization, meaning state and local laws protecting any individual life would be applied to the unborn. It 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.”
Several other states also are pursuing the same arguments, either through legislative efforts or, such as in the cases of Georgia and Colorado, through a process that would allow citizens to move forward with protections for the unborn.
Officials told WND the Colorado initiative would amend the state constitution in three places to redefine the term “person” to include those who are yet unborn.
The newest ruling from the state Supreme Court concluded the petition is a single-subject issue, as the state Title Board earlier had determined.
“We fully expected this positive decision from the Colorado Supreme Court. We are pleased that they supported the Title Board’s previous decisions. Plans to begin our petition drive are under way,” Kristi Burton, a spokeswoman for Colorado for Equal Rights, said.
Leslie Hanks, a longtime activist in the pro-life movement in Colorado, 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.
Former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm, while a state lawmaker, wrote the nation’s first law allowing abortion, and it took effect after the Roe decision was announced.
Burton said while the requirement is for about 76,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot, she expects organizers will collect in the range of 100,000.
“It has a really good chance. What we’re doing is defining life, at the moment of fertilization that is a human being, that is a person,” she said.
“Our whole goal is to protect human life in general, at whatever age,” she said. “I don’t believe that approach has ever been tried in Colorado before.”
She said the issue, if approved by voters, could establish what eventually would be a direct challenge to Roe vs. Wade, but she said she expects the influence of the abortion industry to be felt during the campaign.
“I don’t see there’s much they can do about collecting signatures,” she said. “But once we get those collected and it’s on the ballot, we’ll see the opposition.”
The personhood arguments, which have been around for some time, started gaining momentum after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this year that the barbaric 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.
Dan Becker, spokesman for the Georgia Right to Life, which also is working on a state constitutional amendment that would declare that an unborn child is a person from the moment of fertilization, said the concept of personhood pointed out by Blackmun shows Roe. vs. Wade is living on borrowed time.
Robert Muise, of the Thomas More Law Center, has argued the Georgia amendment, like Colorado’s, recognizes the “inviolable right of every innocent human being to life” as well as defining “person” as applying to all human beings, irrespective of age, “including … unborn offspring at every state of their biological development, including fertilization.”
“It is important to bear in mind that the proposal establishes a constitutional principle; it does not enact criminal or civil legislation. And it establishes a constitutional principle that provides a direct challenge to the fundamental holding of Roe v. Wade,” he wrote. “Without a direct challenge to Roe, any proposal to protect innocent human life from abortion is utterly meaningless.”
He said for 30 years pro-life activists have “shied away” from a direct challenge to Roe, choosing an approach that advocates for victory one step at a time.
“After these 30-plus years, we still have Roe and abortion-on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy. The proposed constitutional amendment seeks to change that. Consequently, this proposal is not for the faint of heart. It is for those who are committed to changing the status quo and who have the will to see it through,” he said.
Roe determined that “the unborn is not a person within the meaning of the law,” he said, and that can be its downfall.
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