NBCNews.com Pits 'Grieving Mom' Against Abortion Absolutists Regarding Colorado's Amendment 67

From the teaser headline, it sounds like a promising, positive story about a Colorado woman's crusade for justice for her unborn son, whose life was taken by a drunken driver. [see screen capture below page break]

But being an NBCNews.com story, apologists for the abortion industry had to be given significant room for rebuttal.

Reporter Abigail Pesta relayed the story of Heather Surovik's fight to convince Centennial State voters to approve a ballot initiative -- Amendment 67 -- which would change Colorado law such that the taking of an unborn life in the commission of a crime could be punished as a count of murder.

Not only did Pesta bring in the usual suspect organizations like Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, she turned to the deceptively-named National Advocates for Pregnant Women (emphasis mine);


 

Surovik says that for her, this law is personal. "There were two victims here," she said. "My son wasn't a loss of a pregnancy—he was a person, an eight-pound boy." She said the law is a bid for justice for "both the mother and unborn child."

Opponents argue the opposite—that the law would work against pregnant women. "This measure would make every pregnant woman the potential perpetrator of a violent crime—whether she has an abortion, experiences a pregnancy loss, or goes to term having done anything including smoking a cigarette that someone views as creating a risk to the fertilized egg, embryo or fetus," said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the nonprofit National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

Thirty-eight states have laws regarding fetuses killed by violent acts against pregnant women, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some of the laws focus on harm done to a pregnant woman and the loss of her pregnancy, while most of the laws, known as fetal-homicide, or feticide, laws, define the fetus as a person and a potential crime victim in its own right. The Brady Amendment goes beyond typical feticide laws, according to Paltrow: Feticide laws, she said, amend only a limited number of criminal laws such as murder and assault laws, not the entire criminal code.

A visit to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women site confirms it is a thoroughly pro-choice/anti-abortion-regulation group, railing against such things as the "abortion diversion" -- referring to how conservatives push for greater rights for the unborn as a "wedge" issue.

While Surovik's side of the story is given a fair hearing in Pesta's article,the pro-abortion rights lobby is presented as non-ideological and willing to work for a compromise solution while Surovik is hinted to be a well-intended, emotionally distraught pawn of the "personhood" movement (emphasis mine):

Surovik said her goal is to give her son a voice. She worked with personhood advocates on the Brady Amendment, then started collecting signatures along with her mother—speaking at churches and county fairs—to put the measure on the state ballot. "I would hold up a sign saying my son Brady was killed by a drunk driver before he was born," Surovik said. "A lot of people stopped and listened." They collected some 140,000 signatures, around 50,000 more than were needed.

In the meantime, Colorado passed a law in the spring of 2013 called the Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act, which establishes a new set of crimes against pregnant women, including "unlawful termination of pregnancy" and "vehicular unlawful termination of pregnancy." The legislation specifies that it does not "confer personhood, or any rights associated with that status, on a human being at any time prior to live birth." In addition, the law notes that "nothing in this act shall be construed to permit the imposition of criminal penalties against a woman for actions she takes that result in the termination of her pregnancy."

Surovik said the law doesn't go far enough. "It doesn't recognize the two victims," she said. "People call it a fetal-homicide law, but it's not. It doesn't protect the baby."

Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said her group worked closely with legislators "on both sides of the aisle" on the law. "Planned Parenthood wanted to help solve the problem," she said. "We agreed that when something like this happens, there should be penalties," she said, referring to Surovik's loss. "The law strikes a careful balance—it penalizes the crime and also recognizes women's reproductive freedom. The act very specifically does not establish fetal personhood," she said. "All women need to have the right to decide for themselves when life begins. Personhood would take that right away."

[Personhood USA communications director Jennifer] Mason said she thinks the Brady Amendment will pass, citing the success of the signature-collecting campaign. "If Brady had been in the accident at just one hour old, it would have been murder," she said. "This law makes sure pregnant victims of violent crimes will have justice for themselves and their unborn babies."

Cowart said opponents are ready to fight. "We're going to do everything in our power to make sure people understand what's behind this law. It is a personhood law. It will be used to ban abortion," she said. "But Colorado has a deep history of standing up and letting women make their own choices."

Surovik said she is ready to fight, too. "If I just sat back and said, 'Poor me,' then other babies still would not be getting justice," she said. "I think sharing my personal story helps people to open their eyes."

Despite the skew of the story, we do have to give credit to NBCNews.com for relaying Surovik's heart-wrenching story and her fight for changes in the law. Despite the slant that Pesta gives the story, it's hard to deny the dramatic power of Surovik's story which is eminently newsworthy.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters