Saturday, September 04, 2010

Policy Paper: The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life

By Diana Hsieh

[Note: This post is part of Modern Paleo's weekend schedule of blogging on Objectivism on Saturdays and free market politics on Sundays.]


The Coalition for Secular Government is pleased to announce the release of its policy paper on the "personhood" movement by Ari Armstrong and Diana Hsieh (Ph.D): The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception (PDF or HTML).

The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life
Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception

by Ari Armstrong and Diana Hsieh, Ph.D.

A policy paper written for the Coalition for Secular Government (

Published on August 31, 2010

Formats: HTML or PDF

From the Introduction

Amendment 62, set to appear on Colorado's 2010 ballot, seeks to legally establish personhood from the moment of conception, granting a fertilized egg (or zygote) full legal rights in the state's constitution. Following in the footsteps of 2008's Amendment 48, Amendment 62 is the spearhead of a national campaign to outlaw abortion and other practices that could harm a zygote, embryo, or fetus.

If fully implemented, Amendment 62 would profoundly and adversely impact the lives of sexually-active couples, couples seeking children, pregnant women and their partners, doctors, and medical researchers. It would subject them to severe legal restrictions, police controls, and in many cases protracted court battles and criminal punishments.

Amendment 62 would outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, terminally deformed fetuses, and danger to the woman's health. It would prohibit doctors from performing abortions except perhaps in some cases to save the life of the woman, thereby endangering the lives and health of many women. In conjunction with existing statutes, Amendment 62 would subject women and their doctors to first-degree murder charges for willfully terminating a pregnancy, with the required punishment of life in prison or the death penalty.

The impact of Amendment 62 would extend far beyond abortion into the personal corners of every couple's reproductive life. It would outlaw many forms of birth control, including the pill, IUD, and "morning after" drugs. It would require criminal investigation of any miscarriages deemed suspicious. It would ban potentially life-saving embryonic stem-cell research and common fertility treatments.

Amendment 62 rests on the absurd premise that a newly fertilized zygote is a full human person with an absolute right to biological life-support from a woman--regardless of her wishes and whatever the cost to her. The biological facts of pregnancy, in conjunction with an objective theory of rights, support a different view, namely that personhood and rights begin at birth. Colorado law should reflect those facts, not the Bible verses so often quoted (and creatively interpreted) by advocates of Amendment 62 and other "personhood" measures.

About the Authors

Ari Armstrong publishes Free Colorado and co-authors a column for Western Colorado's Grand Junction Free Press. He is the author of Values of Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles, a book exploring the heroic fight for life-promoting values in the Potter novels.

Diana Hsieh founded the Coalition for Secular Government in 2008. She earned her doctorate in philosophy from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is currently working on a book on Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, based on her series of podcasts at More of her work can be found at

Read The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception (PDF or HTML).

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