Saturday, August 21, 2010

Colorado: Ground Zero for Abortion Rights

By Diana Hsieh

Of late, I've immersed myself in the arguments about abortion rights due to the war over abortion happening in Colorado now. Let me offer a bit of history about that war in this post, as I'm sure I'll be blogging on this issue more over the next few weeks.

In 2008, the theocrats of the religious right put a "personhood" amendment on Colorado's ballot. Known as Amendment 48, this proposed amendment to the state constitution sought to define a fertilized egg as a person with full legal rights in the Colorado constitution. Amendment 48 was defeated resoundingly with 73% against and 27% in favor.

Unfortunately, the crusade for "personhood" did not perish with Amendment 48. Instead, the crusaders went national, expanding the activity of Personhood USA to over 30 states. They're back in Colorado for the 2010 election with Amendment 62, a slightly modified version of Amendment 48.

Colorado's Amendment 62 would grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs. It proposes:

An amendment to the Colorado Constitution applying the term 'person' as used in those provisions of the Colorado Constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice and due process of law, to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.
If passed and enforced, the measure would require abortions to be punished as first-degree murders, except perhaps to save the woman's life. It 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. And it would ban viable forms in vitro fertilization because the process usually creates more fertilized eggs than can be safely implanted in the womb.

In short, the measure poses a grave threat to the life, liberty, health, and happiness of the women and men of Colorado.

In 2008, the Coalition for Secular Government published a policy paper by Ari Armstrong and myself entitled Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person. That paper provided a detailed analysis of the effects of the amendment, if passed and enforced. In addition, it offered the only substantive moral critique of the claims of "personhood" for zygotes.

Thanks to generous pledges from our supporters, Ari Armstrong and I are now at work updating and improving that 2008 paper to reflect the "personhood" amendment and movement of 2010. We'll post an announcement when that updated paper is published at the end of August.

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