Those of you who have already participated in early voting this year, or have mailed in your ballots ahead of time, may have noticed something peculiar about this year’s ballot. This year, unlike in 2008 and 2010, we the Colorado electorate are not being asked to vote on whether or not a fertilized egg qualifies for full rights as a citizen of the United States of America.
In 2008, Amendment 48 was proposed by a movement called “Colorado for Equal Rights.” The bill that was proposed would amend the constitution of the state of Colorado so that the terms “person” and “persons” would include any human being from the moment of fertilization. The intention of the amendment was to criminalize abortion; essentially equating abortion to murder.
Amendment 48, while wildly popular amongst the Colorado Pro-Life movement, utterly failed in the 2008 election. In fact, it lost by a margin of 26 percent for to 74 percent against. In electoral terms, that was a devastating loss. Measures on topics this controversial rarely get decided by nearly 50 percentage points.
Undeterred, the Colorado Pro-Life movement put forward another amendment called Amendment 62 in 2010 under the umbrella organization Personhood USA.
Amendment 62 had essentially the same theme as Amendment 48, even though it was worded slightly different. While 48 applied the term “person” to newly fertilized eggs, 62 stated that the term “person” to eggs that had been biologically fertilized. According to Personhood USA founder Keith Mason, the wording change was to prevent any protection of human cloning.
Once again, Colorado voters were not enthusiastic for the idea of personhood for fertilized eggs. Amendment 62 lost in a vote of 70 percent to 29 percent. Another monumental margin for a controversial topic.
But displaying a sense of dogged stubbornness that many politicians wish they had, Personhood USA tried to get another personhood amendment on the 2012 ballot. However, they failed to get enough signatures to get the amendment on the ballot. Evidently, voters decided to just nip this issue in the bud before it even came up on the ballot.
On the national political stage, a lot of other states are coming to the same conclusions as Colorado. Personhood Amendments have been proposed on state ballots ranging from liberal bastions like California to states as far to the right as Mississippi, and they have failed to pass almost universally.
There’s a good reason for this. Giving “person” status to fertilized eggs carries a lot of unintended legal consequences. For one thing, any woman who has ever had a miscarriage or given birth to a stillborn child automatically becomes a murderer. For another, a lot of common birth control methods that act to prevent pregnancy (such as the morning after pill) become murder weapons in the eyes of the law.
And consider the possibility of the mother’s death. If a mother dies in childbirth (admittedly not something that happens very often) and the infant has the same rights as a person, do you charge the infant with murder? If the birth of the infant results in severe tearing or infection, do you charge the infant with assault?
It sounds absolutely ridiculous, obviously, but if such an amendment is approved those sorts of questions are going to be coming up and are going to have to be decided, no matter how ludicrous they are. It is a legal quagmire that would be extremely unpleasant to wade through, no matter how fervent one’s desire to outlaw abortion is.
It is not all that hard to see why this is not exactly appealing. It’s probably the best example of the kind of “Big Brother” government that small government conservatives like to talk about all the time. All of a sudden, the state decides that it has to insert itself into a woman’s pregnancy and monitor it every step of the way.
Every decision that an expecting mother makes is suddenly the business of the government. If she drinks or smokes, there’s a criminal charge. If she is not eating the right kind of foods, there is another charge.
This is one area where the government red tape has absolutely no business being in.
But Personhood USA is not giving up. Far from it. Shortly after they were informed that the latest iteration of a personhood amendment was not going to be making the ballot, Personhood USA stated that they were not going to be giving up.
“Hopefully this proves our tenacity,” said Personhood USA founder Keith Mason.
So be on the lookout for another potential personhood amendment coming up for the 2014 off-year election. This is not an issue that is going to be dying off anytime soon, despite its unpopularity. Keep voting “No”, Colorado. This is a government overreach that we absolutely do not need.
Editorial Assistant Caleb Hendrich is a senior political science and journalism double major. His columns appear Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.