They're calling it the Personhood Initiative of 2008. Next month Coloradoans will vote on whether to amend their state Constitution "to include the pre-born from the moment of fertilization as having their 'personhood' clearly established."
This description comes from Colorado for Equal Rights, the force behind proposed amendment 48, "Equal Rights" in this case being as much of a creepy buzzwordy misnomer as "pre-born." The thrust of the measure, say its supporters, is "to define a person in Colorado as a human being from the moment of fertilization."
Kristi Burton is the 21-year-old sponsor behind amendment 48 and the co-founder of Colorado for Equal Rights. Instead of employing straightforward anti-choice rhetoric, she takes a stealthier tack. She insists that the goal of the amendment is simple: to establish a legal definition of when life begins. "The Personhood Amendment isn't an attack on women's health care," she writes; it's about "empowering the voter," and about "catching our laws up to our science," which has, according to Burton, resolved the question of when life truly begins. (It, uh, hasn't.)
She claims her organization has no greater aim than to settle that question, that the measure's goal is only to enable future debate about bigger issues. You know, bigger issues like abortion. And stem cell research. And almost certainly assisted reproduction. And most likely contraception. Possibly cancer treatment, too. And theoretically even a miscarrying woman's right to privacy — or, at the extreme, to lose a pregnancy without being jailed. (Remember Virginia?)
Just as the measure's possible consequences do, its opponents' concerns go beyond the matter of abortion. "If the amendment passes," two of 48's detractors point out, "Colorado's juvenile courts will have jurisdiction whenever doctors or family members disagree with a pregnant woman's medical decisions," citing cases where women were forced to undergo C-sections against their wishes.
As far as ART is concerned, if measures like amendment 48 don't lead to outlawing IVF outright, they will at the very least invite governmental intrusion on the intensely personal issues that every ART patient struggles with — how many embryos can be created during a cycle, for example. And what you must do with any you choose not to transfer. And what options are available to you when you discover that the embryo that has implanted has chromosomal or physical defects. (Hint: Damn few.) And exactly how gay you can be and still have the right to treatment. (Hint: Zero. Zero gay.)
Opponents of amendment 48 count among their number pro-choice activists, of course, but also physicians, legal scholars, victims of sexual assault, religious leaders, and the governor of Colorado, a pro-lifer who nevertheless charges that this measure goes too far, calling it "bad policy, bad medicine and bad law."
Let me reiterate: Even Colorado's highest elected official, a Catholic who ran for office on a pro-life platform, opposes 48.
The Denver Post calls the measure "legal mischief." Colorado's Lieutenant Governor says it makes her state's other "wacko ballot initiatives" "look tame," and calls it "an extreme agenda run amok." I call it scary as hell, and I don't even live in Colorado. This measure is part of a long-term national strategy that seeks to undermine and ultimately terminate our reproductive freedom — not only the right to end a pregnancy, but, for infertile people, the ability to build our families at all.
Amendment 48, and similar measures in other states, simply can't be allowed to pass. If you live in Colorado, please vote.
A grateful flap of the voting booth curtain to Audrey and How to Make a Family.