DENVER — The nation's only pending ballot measure to ban abortion in all circumstances has failed to advance to a vote in November in Colorado.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced Wednesday that backers of the divisive "personhood" amendment fell about 3,900 valid signatures short of the some 86,000 needed.
The rejection was a major setback for abortion foes in the home state of Personhood USA, which said the Colorado proposal was the only measure pending for ballots this fall. Other initiatives are aimed for future years but not this fall, Personhood USA spokeswoman Jennifer Mason said Wednesday.
Personhood proposals go further than other proposed abortion bans because they would give fertilized embryos all the rights of a born human. They also would ban embryonic-stem-cell research and some fertility treatments. The measures haven't been backed by other abortion opponents or the Catholic Church.
Personhood proposals were overwhelmingly rejected by Colorado voters in 2008 and 2010. Similar measures have been rejected by voters in Mississippi and by several state legislatures.
Colorado has a relatively low threshold for petitioning measures onto ballots, making it a hotbed for proposed citizen initiatives. The rejection of the personhood measure leaves only one citizen initiative on ballots: a proposal to buck federal law and legalize marijuana without a doctor's recommendation for adults over 21.
Personhood USA vowed to fight the Colorado rejection in court. The group argues some of the signatures were improperly rejected, including some on which a notary public changed a date.
"We are going to be filing to have those ballot signatures recounted, and we are confident personhood will be on ballots this fall," Ms. Mason said.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which campaigned against the two earlier personhood proposals and was raising money to do it again this year, lauded the rejection. Spokeswoman Monica McCafferty said support for the idea is eroding.
"This year they're not even getting people to sign on to the concept," she said. "Hopefully that signals that Coloradans understand the concept, that they don't like the outcome of what this would mean."
The political implications of Colorado's personhood decision were immediately apparent. Democrats say the unpopular measure has helped motivate female voters, and they immediately scrambled to connect Republicans to the measure even though it's not on ballots.
A Democratic suburban Denver congressman being challenged by well-funded Republican Joe Coors reminded voters that Mr. Coors once gave money to personhood backers.
"Regardless of this initiative appearing on the ballot, this doesn't change Joe Coors' extreme views and past funding and support for efforts to restrict a woman's ability to make her own medical decisions," read a statement from the spokeswoman for Rep. Ed Perlmutter.
Ms. Mason insisted personhood ballot proposals draw social conservatives to the polls as much as they draw abortion-rights supporters. She said the rejection of Colorado's personhood amendment could hurt Mitt Romney, because some social conservatives find him too moderate and may stay home without personhood on the ballots.