By Diana Hsieh
This post is drawn from Ari Armstrong's and my new policy paper: The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception. I'm currently posting the full paper as a series of blog posts. You can read the full paper in PDF format or HTML format.
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 (www.SecularGovernment.us)
Published on August 31, 2010
Amendment 62 Is Not a 'Message'
Ironically, the fact that Amendment 62 is so outrageous in its implications may cause some Colorado voters to not take it seriously. Many voters may be tempted to think: "surely they don't really want to ban abortions even in cases of rape, incest, deformity, or risks to the health of the mother; surely they don't really want lengthy prison sentences or even the death penalty for women who get abortions; surely they don't seriously want to outlaw the birth control pill; surely they don't want to shut down fertility clinics; surely not." But the most consistent advocates of Amendment 62 do intend those effects--and they will strive to use "personhood" laws to make them the law of the land.
The religious right typically packages the issue of abortion with a variety of other cultural issues, such as relativism, postmodernism, promiscuous sex, violent video games, and pornography. They claim that voting for "personhood" laws will send the "message" that "all human life has value." Dan Maes, the Republican candidate for governor of Colorado in 2010, endorsed Amendment 62 but then stated, "People are overestimating the personhood amendment. It simply defines life as beginning at conception. That's it. Who knows what the intent of it is? They are simply making a statement. That is all I see it as. Do they have another agenda? I don't know."
Yet Amendment 62 is not merely a "message" or a "statement." It does not say, "Resolved: All human life has value." Nor does it say, "Resolved: Life begins at conception." (Nobody doubts that a zygote is alive.) Rather, Amendment 62 is a specific measure with specific, foreseeable political implications. A vote for it is a vote for those sweeping political changes. It is a vote for granting full legal rights to zygotes from the moment of fertilization--at the expense of the real men and women of Colorado.
As this paper has shown, Amendment 62 and comparable proposals would fundamentally change Colorado law. If Roe v. Wade were reversed, the consistent enforcement of the measure would outlaw abortion in all cases except perhaps for extreme and immediate risk to the woman's life, outlaw popular forms of birth control, outlaw all embryonic stem-cell research and the most common in vitro fertilization techniques, and impose severe police and prosecutorial control over the sexual lives of most couples. Not only would it cause some women to suffer and die needlessly, but it would violate the rights of many actual persons and prevent them from making the best choices for their lives.
In its essence, Amendment 62 is profoundly anti-life.
Some who endorse Amendment 62 hope that Colorado voters will overlook the real and frightening implications of the measure, and instead vote based on their disapproval of irresponsible sex and their affection for cuddly babies. Yet in this case, an irresponsible vote would be worse than irresponsible sex. The way to change the culture in the direction of greater responsibility and stronger moral values is not to pass a law that would endanger women, foster a police state, foist parenthood on unwilling couples, and severely violate the rights of millions of actual people.
If you believe that "human life has value," the only moral choice is to vote against Amendment 62.
Read the full paper in PDF format or HTML format.