Diana Hsieh of the Coalition for Secular Government left a lengthy comment on my post on Colorado’s proposed Amendment 48, which would give a fertilized egg the full rights of legal personhood. Her analysis is so helpful that I thought I’d better rescue it from the obscurity of the Kittywampus comment corner:
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. …
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.
Many thanks, Diana, for this careful and systematic analysis. I’d add that this is also an attempt to seize control over women’s bodies – both our sexuality and our reproductive potential – in a rearguard action to defend patriarchy.