07/30/2013 05:23 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Conservatives Aren't Scared of Pushing Anti-Choice Agenda

The Western Conservative Summit, held this weekend in downtown Denver, featured a five-star lineup of the county's top conservatives (e.g., Sen. Ted Cruz, former GOP Prez candidate Mike Huckabee, Gov. Scott Walker) as well as workshops on how conservatives can be more appealing to regular people.

But I didn't see any discussion on the official conference program of abortion, an issue that's been used by Democrats to hammer Republicans in recent elections. Immigration, yes. Energy, yes. Branding, yes. But abortion, no.

Still support for the kind of uncompromising anti-choice positions of Colorado politicians like Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, Rep. Mike Coffman, and Sen. Rick Santorum (who won the 2011 Republican presidential caucus in Colorado), was evident at the conference anyway.

"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, adding the conference "leadership" came down to their table and signed the petition. "It beats being on the streets, and we do a lot of events."

Most Summit attendees, who numbered about 1,500 Friday, 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."

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."

They may be scrambling even more if the measure makes the ballot. Colorado voters overwhelmingly defeated Personhood initiatives in 2008 and 2010.

And the most Republicans who supported the measure in Colorado scrambled as well, to explain themselves to women voters who are a key voting bloc.

This may explain why abortion wasn't on the official agenda of the big conservative summit this weekend. But that isn't stopping conservative activists in Colorado from pushing forward.