Ben Johnson


As Catholic hospital argues fetus is not a person, Personhood looks to change the law

Ben Johnson

CANON CITY, CO, January 29, 2013, ( – In the wake of a controversy over revelations that a Catholic hospital in Colorado had argued in court that the unborn child is not a "person," pro-life activists have launched an initiative to endow preborn victims of crimes with full rights under state law.

The case began Jeremy Stodghill lost his wife, Lori, and their unborn twins in 2006 when the on-call OB/GYN did not come to the hospital or perform a c-section as she lay dying. He sued the facility for the wrongful death of his two boys.

Jason Langley, the attorney for St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colorado – owned by Catholic Health Initiatives – successfully beat back the lawsuit by arguing that the state's Wrongful Death Act does not consider the unborn “persons.”

“Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive,” he stated in court. “Therefore, plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”

“I think most Catholics, and most people, are appalled that not only would they be so disingenuous with reality [as to claim] that a preborn child is not a person, but the motivation glaringly be to save dollars, to not have to pay a malpractice suit,” Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, told

The Catholic institution, he said, “could be building negative case law against the personhood of a child. I think it puts the archdiocese in an interesting position.”

The state's bishops -- Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, and Bishop Fernando Isern of Pueblo -- issued a joint statement promising to investigate CHI's court actions.

"Catholics and Catholic institutions have the duty to protect and foster human life, and to witness to the dignity of the human person—particularly to the dignity of the unborn," they said. "No Catholic institution may legitimately work to undermine fundamental human dignity."

In a state faced with a string of unpunished violent crimes against the unborn, Personhood Colorado launched a new initiative yesterday to change the criminal code to protect preborn victims of crime in state law. If the measure collects enough signatures, Coloradans could vote on the amendment in 2014.

The new measure is dubbed The Brady Project in honor of Brady Surovik, who died when a drunk driver collided with his mother.

Under the same statute cited by Langley, the impaired driver received no penalty for harming Brady.

“Brady was eight pounds, two ounces,” his mother, Heather Surovik, said. “Brady was a person – his life was worth defending.”

The state is “crying out for” the new measure, Mason said, adding that a forgotten victim of the Aurora theater shooting “won't receive justice. Why? Because we don't see the child as a person in Colorado.”

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H.B. 1032, which would have had the same effect, recently failed a party line committee vote b a 7-4 margin.

The Brady Project is distinct from the personhood ballot measure, which has not succeeded in a number of statewide elections. The new amendment focuses only on criminal law.

The federal government passed a law similar to the new amendment in 2004, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, inspired by the murder of Laci Peterson and her unborn child.

Mason hopes to have a personhood measure on the ballot in the next election cycle, as well. In the meantime, pro-life activists are organizing, campaigning, and keeping the growing list of outrages fresh in the minds of future voters.

“I want the public to know that we will relentlessly pursue the human dignity of all persons in the womb,” Mason told LifeSiteNews.

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