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Many "Lives" of Colorado's Personhood Amendment

October 27, 2014

DENVER - Colorado's airwaves and newspapers are a-chatter with campaign ads for and against Amendment 67 also known as the Personhood Amendment. If approved by voters, the proposal would include unborn human beings under the definition of "person" in the state's criminal code.

If it sounds familiar that's because a similar proposal failed on the ballot in 2008 and 2010. Kenneth Bickers, political science professor with the University of Colorado at Boulder, says unlike other amendments that have to do with things like funding, it's hard to shift personal beliefs.

"With personhood, it's kind of where do you stand on what's essentially a huge philosophical issue, and that's another reason why I don't think it's likely we're going to see a different outcome this time than has been the pattern in the past," says Bickers.

Under Colorado law, there is no limit to the number of times an amendment can be on the ballot, provided it has enough signatures. Bickers says other amendments have had multiple failed attempts on the ballot, and ultimately passed.

Wendy Underhill, program manager with the National Conference of State Legislatures, says the fact groups can make repeated attempts at similar proposals is part of the state's system.

"They can, in fact, bring it up, and bring it up again, and bring it up again," Underhill says. "They can change the argument a little bit. They can reach out to different people. Yes, the process is such that more or less the same measure can be brought to voters more than once."

Reproductive-rights groups insist Amendment 67 ultimately would make any abortion in Colorado a crime. Recent polling from Public Policy Polling shows 37 percent of Colorado voters support the Personhood Amendment, and a majority of voters must approve the amendment for it to become part of the constitution. Supporters insist this amendment is different than those in years past, and will not impact abortion.

Colorado's TABOR Amendment, passed in 1992, which prevents state and local governments from raising tax rates without voter approval had two versions on previous ballots. Bickers says over time supporters modified their proposal to be more amenable to a majority of the population and he is skeptical the results will be different than in years past with Amendment 67.

"When there isn't an effort to recraft the proposal based on the prior attempt, proposals don't, they generally don't do better than they did in the past," Bickers says.

Colorado's midterm election is Nov. 4. All active, registered voters should have received a mail ballot by now; it must be returned by mail or dropped off at a Ballot Drop-off station by that date.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - CO