Amendment 62 - Application of the Term Person Question

By: KKCO Email
By: KKCO Email

MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO) - All registered voters are eligible to vote yes or no for the following amendment.

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution applying the term “person”, as used in those provisions of the Colorado constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law, to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being?

Ballot issues referred by the general assembly or any political subdivision are listed by letter, and ballot issues initiated by the people are listed numerically. A ballot issue listed as an “amendment” proposes a change to the Colorado constitution, and a ballot issue listed as a “proposition” proposes a change to the Colorado Revised Statues. A “yes” vote on any ballot issue is a vote in favor of changing current law or existing circumstances, and a “no” vote on any ballot issue is a vote against changing current law or existing circumstances.

Analysis of Amendment 62 (Application of the Term Person) as offered by the 2010 State Ballot Information Booklet or Voter Blue Book.
Amendment 62 proposes amending the Colorado Constitution to:
- apply the term "person," as used in the sections of the Colorado bill of rights concerning inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law, to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.

Summary and Analysis:
Like the U.S. Constitution, the Colorado Constitution has a bill of rights. The Colorado bill of rights contains the rights of the people of Colorado and outlines the principles of state government. Amendment 62 addresses the application of the term "person" for sections 3, 6, and 25 of the Colorado bill of rights. These sections concern inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law.

Inalienable rights. Section 3 asserts that all persons have natural, essential, and inalienable rights to enjoy life and liberty, to acquire, possess, and protect property, and to seek and obtain safety and happiness. These rights include the right to survive, the right to defend against threats to safety, the freedom to make independent decisions, and the right to work and obtain economic goods. Inalienable rights are fundamental to all persons and are not created by laws and government. The constitution requires that the government protect these rights, although the government is permitted to limit the exercise of rights as necessary for the welfare and general security of the public.

The constitutional provision regarding inalienable rights has been applied by courts, for example, to guarantee the right of an individual to pursue a legitimate trade or business, to acquire property without fear of discrimination, and to travel freely around the state.

Equality of justice. Section 6 requires the courts in Colorado to be open to all persons. If a person's legal rights are violated, this section guarantees that a judicial remedy is available.

Courts have determined that this section applies to a variety of circumstances. For instance, individuals are denied equal access to justice if juries are chosen in a discriminatory manner. Additionally, all persons have the same right to use the courts regardless of their financial resources.

Due process of law. Section 25 ensures that no person is deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Due process of law requires the government to follow consistent procedures before a person's fundamental rights are taken away. The courts have determined, for example, that due process requires the government to provide notice and a fair hearing before detaining a person, taking a person's property, or sentencing a person to death.
Application of the term "person." Sections 3, 6, and 25 of the Colorado bill of rights do not currently address the application of the term "person." Amendment 62 applies the term "person" in a manner that extends inalienable rights, equal access to justice, and due process of law from the beginning of biological development.
The measure does not define the phrase "the beginning of biological development."

Arguments For:
1) Amendment 62 ensures that all human life is afforded equal protection under the law. Currently, this right is not recognized until birth. Amendment 62 acknowledges that a new human life is created at the beginning of biological development and gives all human life, whether born or unborn, equal rights and protections.

2) The measure may establish the legal foundation to end the practice of abortion in Colorado. The U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States found that the unborn were not included in the word "person" as used in the U.S. Constitution. If each human life, from the beginning of biological development, is recognized as a person under Colorado's bill of rights, Amendment 62 may provide support for legal challenges to prohibit abortions in Colorado.

3) Amendment 62 establishes a legal definition of the term "person" as used in sections 3, 6, and 25 of the Colorado bill of rights. Because these sections do not currently contain a definition of the term "person," interpretation of the word is subjective, which may lead to the rights granted by sections 3, 6, and 25 of the Colorado bill of rights being inconsistently applied.

Arguments Against:
1) Amendment 62 may limit the ability of individuals and families to make important health care decisions. The measure could be used to prohibit or limit access to medical care, including abortions for victims of rape or incest, and even when a woman's life is in danger. Amendment 62 may also limit access to emergency contraception, commonly used forms of birth control, and treatment for miscarriages, tubal pregnancies, cancer, and infertility. The measure may restrict some stem cell research that could lead to life-saving therapies for a variety of disabilities and illnesses.

2) Amendment 62 allows government intrusion in the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship and could limit the exercise of independent medical judgment. The measure could restrict a doctor from using certain medical procedures and treatments. Further, "the beginning of biological development" cannot be easily and conclusively pinpointed. Therefore, the measure may subject doctors and nurses to legal action for providing medical care to a woman of child-bearing age if that care could affect a "person" other than the identified patient.

3) The effects of Amendment 62's change to the constitution are unclear. The measure applies certain rights from "the beginning of biological development," a term which is not defined within the measure, has no established legal meaning, and is not an accepted medical or scientific term. The legislature and the courts will have to decide how a wide variety of laws, including property rights and criminal laws, will apply from "the beginning of biological development."
Estimate of Fiscal Impact

No immediate impact to state revenue or expenditures is expected because Amendment 62 does not require that any specific actions be taken or services provided. If legislation is adopted, or the courts determine that the measure requires the state to provide new services, state spending may increase.

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