“Personhood Amendments”: Placing Nameless Bureaucrats Between Doctors and Patients

Last year, we covered an attempt by some Colorado citizens to amend their state constitution to confer due process rights on fetuses, and found it hopelessly flawed. Thankfully, the Colorado electorate agreed, and the amendment failed, but stands to be re-approved for the 2010 ballot. Accordingly, it’s time to examine it again.

Like many “pro-life” regulations, “personhood amendments” pose an insurmountable challenge to conservative activists: how to reconcile an overriding desire to interfere in the lives of others with their traditional free-market instincts, so “poignantly” on display at town halls across the nation. Unfortunately, the casualties of this internal conflict are often women, their children, and their families.

h/t Lauren


  1. I was even happier to vote against Colorado’s “personhood amendment” last November than I was to vote for Obama.

  2. Totally. Well done :)

  3. As a Coloradan in exile I was unable to vote against it so thank you Kris for helping keep Colorado from looking as ridiculous as Kansas.

  4. I’m curious if it’s a double murder charge if you kill a pregnant woman in Colorado.

  5. I think the answer is yes, if this amendment were enacted. As it stands, though, many states and Colorado probably have laws making it a double-murder. Some take those as deliberate inroads against the pro-choice lobby, but I don’t see them as such, necessarily. It strikes me as merely a presumption (maybe it should be a rebuttable presumption?) that the woman intended to carry the fetus to term, which is a very safe presumption for the visibly pregnant woman.

    1. But if it isn’t a person – only potentially a person, how is it murder? If we’re going to use that rationale, then what about a non-pregnant woman who intended on having three children someday? Is that 4 counts of murder?

      1. I think it’s similar to the issue of euthanasia, a topic which our society is also unenlightened on (see also: end of life care). If someone goes into an assisted living home and shoots up a few octogenarians, that’s murder. But if grandma has someone assist in ending her life humanely, that’s a completely different story.

        1. I’m going to disagree with that analogy. For it to be accurate, grandma’s kids would have to decide to have her euthanized.

          1. Yeah, it’s not a great analogy. And many people do think euthanasia is murder anyway.

            But really I was arguing the other direction, anyway. Abortion being legal does not preclude other types of forceful fetus-termination from being murder.

            1. But don’t you find it contradictory to have abortion be legal but murder be…murder?

              1. No – certainly we can agree that there are different ways can categorize a homicide. Different degrees of murder and manslaughter, and even homicides that are justifiable and legal, such as in self defense.

                Now, I’m not saying that abortion is equivalent to self defense (though it is sometimes, and most people agree that those cases should be legal). I’m saying that an assailant shooting a pregnant woman through the belly is distinguishable from a pregnant women having a medical procedure to terminate her pregnancy.

                Also, remember that murder is a legal term for an “unlawful, premeditated and malicious homicide.” There is no such thing as “legal murder.”

                1. The charge isn’t muder 1, manslaughter 1. it’s double-murder. The two lives are held to be equal.

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