Media omission: Western Conservative Summit spotlights the face of the anti-abortion movement that’s rocked Colorado politics

If you want to see the faces of the people who support the uncompromising anti-abortion positions of politicians like Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, Rep. Mike Coffman, and Sen. Rick Santorum (who won the 2011 Republican presidential caucus in Colorado), stroll around the Western Conservative Summit, held this weekend in downtown Denver.

“Folks, you can sign a pro-life petition here!” Susan Sutherland, petition coordinator for a Personhood USA-backed campaign to put a fetal-homicide bill on the 2014 CO election ballot, told Summit attendees as they swarmed through the exhibit room Saturday morning.

”Quick signature to recognize an unborn baby as a person under Colorado law,” she said.

“Most of the people here are very agreeable,” Sutherland told me. “It beats being on the streets, and we do a lot of events.”

Most Summit attendees are eager to help, she said, but “a lot of people who come by [our table] say they’ve already signed the petition at church or at another event.” Sutherland added that it’s an issue these people care a lot about and do something about it.

By noon Saturday, Sutherland and her fellow activists got hundreds of signatures on their petition and handed out dozens of petitions for people to take home.

Called the Brady Amendment, after an unborn child killed by a drunk driver, Sutherland’s initiative aims to change the definition of “person” under Colorado law to include “unborn human beings.” This would enable law enforcement officials to bring charges, for example, against a drunk driver who recklessly hits a pregnant woman and ends her pregnancy.

A Colorado law passed this year does exactly this, but the Personhood-backed initiative would go further, likely giving broader legal status to fetuses at the earliest stages of human development.

The phrase “unborn baby” isn’t defined in the language of the initiative. The vague wording has led Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains to conclude that the effort is a “back door” effort to codify human life as beginning at conception , thus banning all abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest.

Sutherland, whose personhood movement has arguably had a greater impact on Colorado politics than any other single issue, told me her signature-gathering campaign is “very much on schedule,” compared to past personhood signature-gathering efforts, to turn in the required signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office by the end of September. They’re asking activists to return petition forms by Sept. 7.

“It is so grassroots,” Sutherland said. “We have thousands of petitions out throughout the state. The petitions flood in during the last two weeks. We’ll be doing a lot of scrambling.”

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