Defining a Person

“Personhood” is defined as a fertilized egg, created at the moment of conception. Or at least it will be in Colorado, if voters pass Colorado’s Amendment 48 this November. The Amendment, which has completed the approval process for the fall ballot, reads in full (PDF): “As used in … the state Constitution, the terms ‘person’ and ‘persons’ shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization.”

Kristi Burton, the 20-year-old founder of the inaptly named Colorado for Equal Rights, seeks to use the Amendment to turn America’s “culture of death” (her words) into a “culture of life.” Although Amendment supporters deny that the Amendment would ban abortion “in and of itself,” it is hard to deny that the Amendment would have the effect of abortion elimination, even in the “tough cases” of rape, incest, and health of the mother. At the very minimum, the time period required to afford a fertilized egg due process before being denied of life could last well beyond the gestational period.

Planned Parenthood and other critics have raised concerns that not only would the Amendment put an effective and immediate halt on all abortions, but the legality of many forms of birth control—such as the birth control pill—would be called into question as well. Because hormonal birth control methods have the effect of preventing implantation, but not necessarily fertilization, the Amendment would take Colorado straight back to our pre-Griswold past, criminalizing both women who take hormonal birth control and the doctors who prescribe it. Fertility methods such as in vitro fertilization, where embryos frequently die in the process of development and implantation, or are frequently discarded or given away if unused, may likewise be prohibited by the Amendment. And that’s to say nothing of stem cell research.

Currently, the Amendment is a long-shot effort with, quite frankly, little chance of passage in Colorado, which has regularly rejected attempts to ban abortion. It might also appear to voters to be an “overkill” amendment, marginalizing even moderate pro-lifers as “radicals.” Still, it’s easy to see how, should the Amendment pass, Colorado would become a very inhospitable place for young women seeking careers and financial security, physicians forced to choose between ending a pregnancy or watching a woman die, fathers who want their daughters to have a choice in the event of a mistake—or an assault, and any others who value the autonomy of the woman and the family to make their own difficult reproductive decisions.

Although Ms. Burton denies that the Amendment would have a very significant impact (“It’s just a constitutional principal,” she said), even she added that if the Amendment passes, “We’ll see what happens after that.”

Photo courtesy of Flickr user zenobia_joy

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Published in: on July 30, 2008 at 1:59 pm Comments Off on Defining a Person

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