- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

DENVER (AP) - Colorado voters are weighing a third attempt to extend rights to unborn children on ballots this year. But it’s not clear what exactly this year’s so-called “personhood” measure would do if it’s approved.

Abortion opponents say Amendment 67 would strengthen protections for pregnant women by adding “unborn human beings” to Colorado criminal code. They argue that the language would increase existing penalties for crimes that injure or kill babies in the womb.

“This is a straight-forward protection for pregnant women,” said Jennifer Mason, spokeswoman for the Amendment 67 campaign.

But the measure doesn’t define “unborn human being,” leading reproductive-health activists to fear its adoption could outlaw abortion with no exceptions. They say it could also outlaw common fertility treatments in which fertilized embryos are destroyed.

“On a daily basis, I would be at risk of becoming a criminal,” said Dr. Ruben Alvero, a Denver physician who performs fertility treatments including in-vitro fertilization.

Alvero joined abortion-right activists recently at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains to decry the measure.

Although previous ballot measures to grant unborn children so-called “personhood” status failed by large margins in 2008 and 2010, the No On 67 campaign says it fears this year’s language could attract more support.

Ballot language describes the amendment as a protection for pregnant women.

“The language is a little different, but I’m here to tell you, this is exactly the same,” said Vicki Cowart of Planned Parenthood.

Abortion opponents vigorously disagree. They say the measure won’t ban abortion unless abortion was separately made a crime.

“It’s very different from previous versions,” said Mason, who works for the Arvada-based architects of the ballot measure, a group called Personhood USA.

Whatever the ballot measure’s full effect, it has proven toxic for politicians who oppose abortion.

Republican candidates from Senate hopeful Cory Gardner to gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez have distanced themselves from the measure. Both say they once supported it but later changed their minds after learning the measure could be interpreted as a ban on certain infertility treatments and contraception, including the morning-after pill.

Financial support for the measure is almost nonexistent, too. The campaign had a balance of less than $1,000 as of mid-October. Opponents have raised more than $1.2 million to defeat it, according to state campaign finance disclosures.

Standing outside the Planned Parenthood offices, abortion protester Dick Miller of Aurora bemoaned the bipartisan condemnation of the measure.

“The politics is explosive, there’s no question about it,” Miller said. “There’s no middle ground anywhere.”

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Kristen Wyatt can be reached at https://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt


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