Heather Surovik’s story is a sad and tragic tale. When Surovik was 8 1/2 months pregnant and leaving her last prenatal appointment, a drunk driver blew through an intersection and crashed into her car. She woke up in the hospital’s intensive care unit to discover her unborn child had not survived the crash.
At Issue: Amendment 67 seeks to define the terms ‘person’ and ‘child’ in the Colorado Criminal Code to include unborn human beings.
Our View: This amendment is wrong for women and wrong for Colorado.
Steamboat Today editorial board — May to September 2014
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It is Surovik’s story that is driving the effort to pass Amendment 67 — one of four statewide ballot issues and two amendments that will be decided in the Nov. 4 general election.
There is no question that Surovik’s situation is heartbreaking. She thinks her child was murdered by a drunk driver, and she wanted the driver to pay by being tried for homicide, which is not possible under Colorado’s criminal codes. As a result, she is now championing Amendment 67, which seeks to amend the state constitution to recognize unborn babies as persons in the criminal code.
The ballot language of Amendment 67 reads: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution protecting pregnant women and unborn children by defining ‘person’ and ‘child’ in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings?”
Since this measure was placed on the ballot, Surovik has become the face of the campaign to pass it, and we fear that if voters only focus on her tragic story they could be misinformed about what the amendment really seeks to accomplish.
We certainly sympathize with Surovik and think it’s horrific that her baby died as a result of a drunk driver, but we don’t think changing the constitution to redefine the definition of personhood is the correct path to take.
It should be noted that after Surovik lost her baby in 2012, the Colorado Legislature adopted the Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act in 2013 to allow prosecutors to pursue criminal charges for unlawful termination of a pregnancy, and this year, legislators adopted a second law that allows pregnant women to seek damages for unlawful termination of a pregnancy. Under these laws, unlawful termination of a pregnancy is defined as a termination without the consent of the mother. Under those circumstances someone can be held criminally and civilly liable, and face very serious penalties.
Since laws are already in place to prosecute those who unlawfully take the life or cause the death of an unborn child, we think the correct response to Surovik’s story is to seek stiffer penalties for that crime in the state’s criminal code rather than attempting to change the constitution in a way that could have unintended consequences.
Amendment 67 is a polarizing issue. Proponents call the bill the Brady Amendment and focus on Heather Surovik’s tragedy while opponents claim Heather’s story hides the amendment’s real purpose, which would criminalize abortion and restrict a woman’s access to contraception.
And let’s be perfectly clear. Surovik is not working alone to try to pass the amendment. Organizations like Personhood USA and Colorado Right to Life quietly are backing this measure while hiding behind Surovik’s message.
Once again, as we did when similar measures were proposed in 2008 and again in 2010, the Steamboat Pilot & Today sides with those who oppose Amendment 67.
We see the amendment as a thinly veiled attempt to make abortion illegal in the state of Colorado, and we think it goes too far. A woman’s right to choose has been written into law and upheld since 1973 when the U.S Supreme Court made its landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Trying to reverse those laws with an amendment to the state constitution is not a direction we think Colorado should go, and once the state constitution is amended, the legislature is powerless to change it back.
Amendment 67 is wrong for women and wrong for the state of Colorado. We encourage voters to look beyond the tragic death of an unborn child and see the truth behind Amendment 67 and vote no.