Governor Ritter Opposes Personhood Amendment

October 8 2008, 8:01 AM
When Governor Bill Ritter announced his intention to run for governor, some Democrats were wary because, on a personal level, he opposes abortion. ColoradoPols interviewed Ritter in an attempt to see how his personal views might affect his views as governor. Specifically, what if Roe v. Wade were reversed and the Colorado legislature passed a bill outlawing abortion. Would he sign it into law? Here's what he said:
You have been labeled as being strongly pro-life, but it has also been said that you would not be aggressively pro- life. We want to give you a chance to provide your stance clearly. How would you articulate your position on abortion? In other words, how strongly pro-life are you? Would you veto a pro-choice bill or actively work for a pro-life bill?
This is one of the most contentious and divisive issues in politics today. As Governor, I would work, as I have throughout my career, to find common ground. I think we can all agree that abortion should be rare. I think we can also all agree that we are not living up to our responsibility to our children to provide immunizations, quality education and access to health care. There is so much work to be done in these areas, that we should not allow wedge politics to cloud our vision. However, voters do have a right to know where I stand on this issue. I am pro-life as a matter of personal faith. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, and the decision of whether or not to legalize abortions reverts to the states, and if the Colorado Legislature passes a bill banning abortion, I will sign the bill only if it provides protections for women who are victims of rape or incest, or to protect the life of the mother. However, should the Colorado Legislature pass a complete ban without these protections, I would veto that bill. That said, Roe V. Wade is the law of the land and abortions are legal. As Governor I will act in the same way I did as DA. I will respect the law as it stands, and I will not act to undermine the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion. For example, as Denver DA, I prosecuted those who caused damage and created disruption at family services clinics. I do believe that there is much to be done in our society, and in our state, to make abortions rare. In the area of teen pregnancy prevention, greater efforts can be made in educating our youth. We can examine the adoption policies of this state and look for ways to support girls and women who find themselves confronting an unplanned pregnancy. Further, I have been asked by people whether, as Governor, I would insist that the judges I appoint pass a pro-life litmus test. The answer is no. I would require that the judges I appoint make a commitment that they are willing to uphold the laws of Colorado and the United States. I have written innumerable letters of recommendation for individuals applying for judicial positions, and I have never once inquired about any individual's position on abortion.
This week, The Rocky Mountain News asked Governor Ritter about Amendment 48, commonly known as the Personhood Amendment, which, if passed, would legally declare that a fetus is a person from the moment of conception.
The amendment to the state constitution would define personhood as beginning at the moment of conception - when a human egg is fertilized. That fertilized egg - or person, as advocates say - would enjoy all the protections of the state constitution, including inalienable rights, equality of justice and due process, supporters say. ...
Ritter, an anti-abortion Catholic, said the measure doesn't take into account cases of rape or incest - putting a fertilized egg in front of a mother's health. "I believe this amendment takes an extreme position," Ritter said. "It goes way too far, it threatens medical care and it would create a legal nightmare for our state."
The Denver Post also reported on Ritter's comments:
"I believe the amendment goes too far," Ritter said, gathering with dozens of other opponents at a No on 48 rally on the steps of the Colorado Capitol. Ritter said the amendment could criminalize necessary medical care, an assertion that brought heckling from a small group of abortion foes. One man was arrested by Colorado State Patrol troopers as he shouted throughout the governor's remarks. Doctors at the event said the proposed amendment could make it illegal for a physician to remove a fertilized egg implanted in a woman's fallopian tube, which can cause an ectopic pregnancy and lead to serious medical problems or death.
I wasn't surprised by his answer. Ritter also personally opposes the death penalty. But he used it sparingly when he served as Denver D.A. And he's acted to put money into prevention and rehabilitation of offenders, rather than just provide an unlimited check to the private prison industry.
The governor says moving money from jails to rehabilitation programs is one way to reduce recidivism. The governor has also set up the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. As part of his budget proposal, the governor is asking for $5.9 million for programs for substance abuse, mental health and vocational programs. He says it could save the state $17 million in prison costs over the next five years.
Voters are so used to being lied to by their politicians, they don't believe much of what they say any more. While there's good reason for that on the national level, I don't think it applies in Colorado, or at least not to Governor Ritter, who has been consistent since day 1 on abortion: He personally opposes it, he believes Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, and so long as it is, he will do nothing to obstruct or weaken it. Should the legislature change it, so long as it provides exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother, he's unlikely to veto it. If, in fact, that becomes the scenario, the blame will lie with our legislature, not Ritter. He'll be doing what he always does: upholding the law.