A Colorado constitutional amendment that would define personhood as “any human being from the moment of fertilization” has collected enough signatures to be placed on the ballot for the November election.
The Denver Post reports that 131,245 voters signed petitions supporting the proposed Human Life Amendment’s presence on the ballot. State law requires 76,000 signatures for a proposal to be placed on the ballot.
The petition drive was organized by Colorado for Equal Rights, founded in mid-2007 by Kristi Burton of Peyton, Colorado. The group’s grassroots campaign was able to draw more than 1,100 volunteers and about 500 participating churches.
"The main thing the constitution is supposed to do is to protect us," the 20-year-old Burton said on Tuesday. "But who is that 'us'? There is currently no definition of person in the constitution.”
If approved by voters, the amendment would guarantee every person, whatever their stage of life, the right to life, liberty, and due process under law. The proposal is believed to lay a foundation for challenging legalized abortion.
The state has 30 days to validate the signatures. According to the Denver Post, Burton said she expects notification of the number of valid signatures within one or two weeks.
Critics of the proposal argued it is vaguely worded and would have unpredictable consequences.
"This amendment could make abortion illegal, even in cases of rape, incest, or when the life or health of a woman is at risk," said Toni Panetta, spokeswoman for the group Protect Families, Protect Choice.
"It may encroach on everything from birth control to stem cell research to inheritance rights," she said.
Burton said that any changes to the law would be up to lawmakers and courts, who would have to balance the interests of the unborn with everyone else’s.
Judy Brown, President of the American Life League, welcomed the success of the petition drive.
“American Life League has worked tirelessly to focus attention on the personhood of the preborn child for the past 30 years,” Brown said. “It is therefore with the deepest sense of gratitude that we commend the leaders of Colorado for Equal Rights and Kristi Burton in particular, for the historic announcement that was made today.
"We realize that the real struggle in Colorado is just beginning and we hope to be able to assist in educating the public in that state and around the nation, regarding the definition of personhood and the real existence of the human being from the point his life begins regardless of the method of reproduction.”
A similar measure is proposed for the Montana 2008 ballot. Organizers there need 44,615 signatures by June 20.