By Gina Liggett
Evangelical Christian in several states have tried to get a "personhood" amendment on the ballot. Colorado is the first state where this effort have been successful. Colorado's Amendment 48 would grant "inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law" to a fertilized egg.
"The Coalition for a Secular Government" has produced an excellent position paper written by Ari Armstrong and Diana Hseih that describes in detail why this amendment is wrong, immoral, impractical and disastrous.
But to highlight how absurd this amendment really is, it is necessary to take the next step in line with religious belief: We must go further back in the reproductive process and grant full rights to sperm and eggs. After all, they are the necessary and sufficient prerequisites for creating a human life.
The Catholic Church has unequivocally established the doctrine for this idea. In Pope Paul IV's 1968 Encyclical Letter on the Regulation of Birth, he spells out that married couples may not use any form of artificial means to control their fertility, and are permitted only to avoid pregnancy by chaste refrain from sexual intercourse.
He explains that it is "natural law" from the will of God that regulates reproduction: "The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws."So, not only is it a sin for couples to control their fertility by conscious choice, they must be open to the church teaching that "...each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life." That is: every sperm and every egg is sacred, and humans must not violate the natural law of God in any way that could prevent a pregnancy.
The Church commands that the "...exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society... From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow."
On the basis of this doctrine, the Church speaks to governments to enforce this: "And now We wish to speak to rulers of nations... The family is the primary unit in the state; do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God."
In keeping with this doctrine, the Church speaks to medical scientists: "It is supremely desirable...that medical science should by the study of natural rhythms succeed in determining a sufficiently secure basis for the chaste limitation of offspring."
And the Church speaks to doctors and nurses: "Likewise we hold in the highest esteem those doctors and members of the nursing profession... when married couples ask for their advice, they may be in a position to give them right counsel and to point them in the proper direction."
Colorado for Equal Rights would be wrong according to the Catholic Church ruling by promoting rights for a fertilized egg. The Evangelicals should push for granting rights to eggs and sperm in compliance with "natural law."
And if the Catholic Church ruled much of the world (like they used to), the government, the scientists and the medical professionals would be obligated to enforce Church law.
Is this the world you want? Do you value the freedom of our secular society to make private choices about your fertility and sexual relations with your spouse?
This is one of the reasons why we have the Separation of Church and State as explicitly stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Religion enmeshed with politics leads to tyranny. The church--whether it be the Catholic Church or politically-active Evangelical Christians--is nothing more than certain people gaining power over others to control our most personal life decisions according to their religious beliefs.
They have no right to do that. And as free citizens of a secular, reason-based society, we must make sure that they don't.