Proposed Colo. amendment to protect unborn crime victims

Image of the unborn baby Brady Surovik Courtesy of The Brady Project CNA US Catholic News 4 5 13 Image of the unborn baby, Brady Surovik. Courtesy of The Brady Project.

A Colorado woman whose nine-month-old unborn baby boy was killed by a drunk driver says a proposed state constitutional amendment is needed to recognize the personhood of unborn crime victims.

"People should support this amendment because it is for unborn children like Brady and it gives them the voice that they never got to have," Heather Surovik told CNA April 4.

On July 5, 2012, Surovik went to one of her last prenatal appointments nine months into her pregnancy. She saw Brady, her almost-born son, on an ultrasound. Doctors told her she could go into labor at any time.

On her drive home from the doctor's office through Longmont, Colo., a four-time convicted drunk driver struck Surovik's car. The accident severely injured her and killed Brady.

The drunk driver was charged for the accident, but he faced no charges in relation to Brady's death because he was not considered a person under Colorado law.

"For them to sit there and say Brady was not a person is just ridiculous to me, because I saw his heartbeat on the ultrasound. I saw everything about him. Just because Brady didn't take a breath, they say he wasn't a person," Surovik said in a YouTube video titled "The Brady Project."

Surovik, who has two other children, said Brady had a distinctive personality and was very active in the womb.

"The law says that Brady wasn't a person. Brady was 8 lbs, 2 oz. Brady was a person. His life was worth defending," she said.

She is now backing an amendment to the state constitution that would recognize unborn victims of crimes and negligence as persons under Colorado law.

Surovik and other backers of the "Brady Amendment" began the petition drive for the amendment at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo. on April 4. Amendment backers must secure about 86,000 valid signatures from registered Colorado voters for the amendment to go on the ballot.

"In the interest of the protection of pregnant mothers and their unborn children from criminal offenses and negligent and wrongful acts, the words 'person' and 'child' in the Colorado Criminal Code and the Colorado Wrongful Death Act must include unborn human beings," the amendment reads.

Gualberto Garcia-Jones, a board member of Personhood USA who helped write the amendment, said he believes the time is ripe for the proposal.

"From a messaging point of view, we have a very definite person we're talking about. We're talking about Brady," he told CNA. "We're able with this amendment to personalize the pre-born way better than we have been in the past."

Recent events in Colorado could also help the effort.

Earlier this year, lawyers for a Colorado Catholic hospital sparked controversy when they argued the hospital wasn't liable for the deaths of unborn twin babies because they weren't recognized as persons under the law. The Catholic bishops of the state quickly moved to instruct the lawyers not to use that argument.

In July 2012, an unborn child died in a miscarriage after the baby's mother was shot in the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting. The suspected shooter, James Holmes, was not charged for that death.

Two personhood amendments have gone before Colorado voters, but neither attracted more than 30 percent of the vote. Another proposed amendment to define personhood failed to qualify the 2012 ballot. These efforts tried to define personhood from the moment of fertilization or from the moment human development begins.

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The Brady Amendment differs from these previous amendments. Its phrasing only concerns victims of crime or negligence. Since abortion is legal in Colorado, the amendment may not have any effect on it.

Colorado state lawmakers are also considering legislation that would criminalize the deaths of babies like Brady as "unlawful termination of a pregnancy" without recognizing their personhood.

But Personhood USA president Keith Mason said that legislation "falls completely short."

"It was partly authored by Planned Parenthood. Not only does it remove every restriction for abortion that is on the books, but it intentionally and specifically denotes that anyone not born is not a person," Mason told CNA.

He said the proposed Brady Amendment isn't a "traditional personhood amendment."

"It's more like a fetal homicide law that's already in the books in 38 different states. For some reason, Colorado hasn't passed common-sense legislation like this."

However, he also commented that the proposed amendment doesn't "legitimize abortion."

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"It's an abortion-neutral law that simply says that Brady, and children like Brady, are persons," Mason said.

The video about Brady Surovik is available at the website