"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. " -Helen Keller

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Rocky Mountain huh?"

I know I don't talk a lot about politics on here but in my day to day life I follow it closely. There is something going on in Colorado with this upcoming election that I think we all need to know about. This post is lifted word for word (with her permission) from Julie of "a little pregnant" fame. I want to thank her for bringing this to my attention and for her permission to repost her writing about it here. Everything in bold type is a link in this post.

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.


Teena in Toronto said...

Happy blogoversary!

Diana Hsieh said...

Thank you for your opposition to Amendment 48!

You might be interested to read an issue paper published by the Coalition for Secular Government: "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person" by Ari Armstrong and myself. It's available at:


We discuss some of the serious implications of this proposed amendment, such as:

* Amendment 48 would make abortion first-degree murder, except perhaps to save the woman's life. First-degree murder is defined in Colorado law as deliberately causing the death of a "person," a crime punished by life in prison or the death penalty. So women and their doctors would be punished with the severest possible penalty under law for terminating a pregnancy -- even in cases of rape, incest, and fetal deformity.

* Amendment 48 would ban any form of birth control that might sometimes prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus -- including the birth control pill, morning-after pill, and IUD. The result would be many more unintended pregnancies and unwanted children in Colorado.

* Amendment 48 would ban in vitro fertilization because the process usually creates more fertilized eggs than can be safely implanted in the womb. So every year, hundreds of Colorado couples would be denied the joy of a child of their own.

Our paper also develops a strong defense of abortion rights -- not based on vague appeals to "choice" or "privacy" -- but on the fact that neither an embryo nor fetus qualifies as a person with a right to life.

An embryo or fetus is wholly dependent on the woman for its basic life-functions. It goes where she goes, eats what she eats, and breathes what she breathes. It lives as an extension of her body, contained within and dependent on her for its survival. It is only a potential person, not an actual person.

That situation changes radically at birth. The newborn baby exists as a distinct organism, separate from his mother. Although still very needy, he lives his own life. He is a person, and his life must be protected as a matter of right.

So, we argue, when a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy she does not violate the rights of any person. Instead, she is properly exercising her own rights over her own body in pursuit of her own happiness. Moreover, in most cases, she is acting morally and responsibly by doing so.

Again, the URL for the paper is:


The sad fact is that Amendment 48 is based on sectarian religious dogma, not objective science or philosophy. It is a blatant attempt to impose theocracy in America. That's definitely a scary thought.

Thanks again for speaking up about it.

Diana Hsieh
Founder, Coalition for Secular Government