Our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness
can only be secured by a state strictly separated from religion

29 October 2010

Free Speech Versus Regulated Speech: My Experience

By Diana Hsieh

As some of you might recall, the Coalition for Secular Government is subject to Colorado's campaign finance laws due to our pledge-funded policy paper against Amendment 62: The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life.

For those of you curious about the ins and outs of the speech regulations with which I must comply, I present this excerpt from Colorado Campaign and Political Finance Manual:

Issue committees

Definition: Any person, other than a natural person, or any group of two or more persons, including natural persons, that has a major purpose of supporting or opposing any ballot issue or ballot question, AND that has accepted or made contributions or expenditures in excess of two hundred dollars to support or oppose any ballot issue or ballot question OR has printed two hundred or more petition sections.

Issue committee status applies to organizations made up of members who support or oppose an issue in their community. Please familiarize yourself with the laws concerning issue committees before you as a group engage in political activity, to ensure that you comply with any campaign finance laws that may apply.

You must register an issue committee if you:

* Are a group of two or more individuals (natural persons) or businesses (or both);

* That supports or opposes a ballot issue or ballot question (see below for definition); AND one of

* You have accepted or made contributions or expenditures of $200 or more to support or oppose that ballot issue or ballot question; OR

* You have printed more than 200 petition sections or more than 200 petition sections have been accepted. (This provision effective 1/1/2011)

Registration and reporting requirements

Registration is required within 10 calendar days of accepting contributions or making expenditures in excess of $200 to support or oppose any ballot issue or ballot question.

Issue committees at the state, county, or special district level, or those active in multiple counties or special districts, register with and report to the Secretary of State. Municipal issue committees (those supporting or opposing ballot measures at the local municipal only) register with the municipal clerk. Filing dates vary depending on whether your issue committee is statewide, county, special district, school district, etc. Please consult TRACER for the filing calendar applicable to your committee.

Only the registered agent may sign and electronically file the committee's reports.

Any amendments or changes to your registration must be filed with the appropriate officer within five days of the change.

There are no contribution limits or prohibitions for contributions to issue committees.

The name and address of the contributor must be reported for all contributions of $20 or more, and the contributor's occupation and employer must be listed for contributions of $100 or more.

An issue committee may only be closed by filing a termination report indicating a "zero" balance. Issue committees may return unexpended campaign funds to the contributors or donate them to a charitable organization recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.

A disclaimer statement is required on communications produced by expenditures of more than $1,000 made by an issue committee.

Major Contribution Report

Contributions received within 30 days before a primary or general election, which exceed $1,000, must be reported as "major contributions" in the TRACER system in addition to reporting such contributions on regular reports.
The Coalition for Secular Government is clearly subject to those regulations: we're a group, our major work is our policy paper against Amendment 62, and we're accepting and spending more than $200, thanks to the generous people who pledged to support the policy paper. Hence, we must comply.

Initially, I thought that those campaign finance instructions were clear enough. They'd be a pain, but at least I'd know what to do. However, now that I've submitted two reports, I can't say that any longer. For example:
  • I've promoted the policy paper via Facebook advertisements. I used my own personal credit card for that, and I've not yet reimbursed myself from CSG's funds. So when does that become an expenditure that I must report -- when my personal credit card is charged or when I reimburse myself?
  • Many people paid me through PayPal, which was awesome, because that's more convenient than checks. However, PayPal automatically takes a small percentage in fees from such transactions. So what do I report as the donation amount -- the amount given or the amount received?
  • When I receive checks, I don't report them until they're deposited in the bank. However, does the same apply to payments via PayPal? And in my case, I had limitations placed on my PayPal account for a while that prevented me from accessing the funds. Was I obliged to report those funds, even though temporarily inaccessible?
In short, the laws are just not clear. As a result, I've tried to do whatever seemed like the safest option open to me. I don't have an army of lawyers to guide me... and even if I did, that might not be enough! With every wrong move, I risk $50 per day in fines.

Of course, the fundamental problem with such regulations is not that compliance is difficult, time-consuming, and nerve-wracking. That's true, and it's important, but it's not essential. These campaign finance regulations would be wrong, even if compliance with them was easy, quick, and fun. Even in that case, the regulations would be a blatant violation of every person's free speech rights. People should not have to register with the government to speak their minds. They should not have to register with the government to donate money so that others can speak for them.

Speaking personally, I feel that violation of free speech rights more clearly and more personally now than ever before. I've been forced -- coerced, at the point of a gun -- to spend hours of my time attempting to comply with these regulations, so that I might have permission to speak my mind. That's vile -- and it's disheartening to me.

And I'm not alone in those feelings. The practical result of such speech regulations that is that ordinary citizens keep quiet, while well-funded "special interests" dominate the political debates. That's not an unintended consequence: that's what the politicians and bureaucrats want, I think. Free speech in America is under assault -- not by outright censorship but rather by devious regulations in the name of "transparency" and "fairness."

I hope that makes you angry -- angry enough to want to strike back at the politicians and bureaucrats muzzling all of us. If so, then let me suggest that you donate to the free speech work of the Institute for Justice. IJ is the only organization that I know to be fighting for free speech, including against campaign finance laws, on principle and by concerted effort. And they're effective too! I plan to write another check to IJ -- once again, directed toward their free speech projects -- in the next few days. If you want to protect free speech rights in America, then I urge you to do the same.

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28 October 2010

Bad News for Mississippi: Personhood on the Ballot in 2011

By Diana Hsieh

Unfortunately, Personhood USA won a major victory in court recently: a "personhood" measure has been cleared to appear on the ballot in 2011 in Mississippi. Here's their press release:

Victory for Personhood Mississippi, Planned Parenthood/ACLU Lawsuit Dealt Major Blow

Sponsors of the Mississippi Personhood Amendment, Initiative Measure Number 26, have been notified that the motion to remove the Amendment from the Ballot, filed by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, has been denied.

ACLU and Planned Parenthood attorneys filed a lawsuit against the Mississippi Secretary of State in July, seeking to disallow Mississippi voters from voting on the Mississippi Personhood Amendment.

Amendment sponsors and volunteers exceeded state signature requirements on February 17, becoming only the fourth successful ballot initiative since 1992. The amendment, Initiative Measure Number 26, reads, "The term 'person' or 'persons' shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."

The ACLU then filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the Personhood amendment, which seeks to define the term "human being", modifies the Bill of Rights, which is expressly prohibited by Section 273(5). Steve Crampton, Liberty Counsel attorney for Personhood Mississippi, explained that Section 273(5) does not prohibit the definition of an otherwise undefined term, such as "person". Crampton went on to explain that the Personhood Amendment complies with section 273(5)(a) because it does not propose any new right and does not modify or repeal any existing right guaranteed under our bill of rights. Instead, the Personhood amendment merely defines the term "person", and does not modify the Bill of Rights in any way.

The Court decision read "Initiative Measure No. 26 has received more than the required amount of signatures to be placed on the ballot and the Constitution recognizes the right of citizens to amend their Constitution." The decision was ordered by Judge Malcolm Harrison.

"Isaiah 59 tells us that, 'the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear' so we first give all praise and honor to our Lord Jesus Christ for hearing our prayers and giving us the victory in this round" explained Les Riley, amendment sponsor. "We are grateful from this clarification. From the early days of the petition drive those opposed to the amendment have claimed that our amendment was flawed and did not meet the Constitutional muster based on a surface level researching of the law. We have been certain that we have the right to define the term 'person', and that right was affirmed by the Circuit Court and Judge Harrison. The Personhood Amendment, in defining the term 'person', merely seeks to recognize the rights of every innocent human being in Mississippi. The people of Mississippi have spoken - they want to vote to recognize those Personhood rights in November 2011."

"It is time for Mississippi voters to recognize that all human beings are people, and every person should be protected by love and by law," added Cal Zastrow, co-founder of Personhood USA. "We are praising Jesus that Planned Parenthood was thwarted in their efforts to protect their billions with frivolous lawsuits."
First, it's clearly false that a personhood amendment would not "propose any new right" or "modify or repeal any existing right guaranteed under our bill of rights." Sections 14 and 15 of Mississippi's Bill of Rights say:
Sec. 14. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property except by due process of law.

Sec. 15. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this state, otherwise than as punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.
To grant rights to embryos and fetuses would violate the life and liberty rights of every pregnant woman. At the moment of fertilization, the woman would be be legally bound to provide life-support to the embryo or fetus. She would be obliged to subordinate her values, her goals, her health, and perhaps even her life to it. That's involuntary servitude. For details, see Ari Armstrong's and my discussion of rights in pregnancy in in our policy paper on the "personhood" movement.

Second, when an organization quotes scripture and thanks Jesus in its press releases, you need not doubt that it's goal is to impose theocratic law. Such appeals to religious dogma are the life-blood of the "personhood" movement, and that's part of why "personhood" measures violate the proper wall of separation between church and state. For details, see Ari Armstrong's and my discussion of "personhood" and the separation of church and state in our policy paper.

And third, we have a year to inform the public and fight this measure. Sadly, that's the only good news.

Read more...

26 October 2010

Interview with Stephen Bailey

By Diana Hsieh

On September 23rd, I interviewed Stephen Bailey -- Republican candidate for US House of Representatives for Colorado's Second District -- about his principles and prospects. For more information about Stephen Bailey, visit his web site: www.StephenBaileyForCongress.com.

Stephen Bailey is that rare breed of politician today who supports free markets and the separation of church and state. If you can assist his campaign by donating your time or money, please do so!

Here's the high-definition version of the main interview on YouTube, split into three parts:

Interview with Stephen Bailey, Part One



Interview with Stephen Bailey, Part Two



Interview with Stephen Bailey, Part Three



There's also bonus footage of Stephen Bailey with his wife Reiko:



I've also made an audio-only version. You can listen now:


    35:01 minutes
Or download it:
Or get it on iTunes as part of my NoodleCast feed:
For more information about Stephen Bailey's views -- and to contribute to his campaign -- please visit his web site: www.StephenBaileyForCongress.com.

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25 October 2010

Abortion Rights and Health Care Choice

By Diana Hsieh

Ari Armstrong and I published an op-ed on Colorado's Amendment 62 (personhood for zygotes) and Amendment 63 (health care choice) in Friday's Denver Daily News: A62, A63 reveal ideological rifts.

Our article observes that many groups either oppose or endorse both Amendments 62 and 63. Yet these measures are based on opposite political premises. Amendment 62 (personhood) violates rights, while Amendment 63 (health care choice) protects them. The article then explains how both the entitlement left and religious right advocate a false view of rights. And it sketches a secular view of rights whereby each person is left free to act by his own judgment and for his own life and happiness.

Go read the whole thing!

For more information on Amendment 62, see Ari Armstrong's and my policy paper: The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception.

For more information on Amendment 63, visit the Independence Institute and Patient Power Now. You might also read Paul Hsieh's op-ed, "The 'Right To Health Care Choice'is right for Colorado."

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22 October 2010

Focus on the Homosexuality

By Ari

On Meet the Press, David Gregory asked U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck about homosexuality, "You don't think it's something that's determined at birth?" Buck answered, "I think that birth has an influence over it, like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically, you have a choice."

I address his comment in a recent video on Colorado elections:



Buck quickly clarified his unfortunate comments. The Denver Daily News reports:

...The Hill reported that after the show Buck attempted to clarify his position on his views on gays.

"I said I thought there was some element of predisposition and I thought there was some element of choice," Buck said, according to The Hill. "I'm not a biologist and I haven't studied the issue, but that's my feeling on the issue." The Hill also reported that Buck did not believe that being gay is a disease like alcoholism, nor was he equating alcoholism with being gay -- only that some people are born with a predisposition to be gay, just as some people are born with a predisposition to be an alcoholic.

"I was talking about predisposition," said Buck, according to The Hill. "I wasn't talking about being gay as a disease. I don't think that at all. What I meant was that I think there are a variety of factors."
Notably, the exact same thing that Buck said about homosexuality can also be said of heterosexuality. It is influenced by "a variety of factors," including genes and individual choice.

But, while Buck was trying to downplay his comments, Focus On the Family was trying to out-crazy Buck. The Colorado Springs Gazette reports: "Jeff Johnston, Focus on the Family social policy analyst, said Monday, 'Alcohol affects your whole body, and so does sexual behavior. The highly addictive (aspect of both) is an apt comparison.'"

So now homosexuality is an addiction? Of course, as psychologist Jeffrey Schaler has pointed out, heterosexual sex can also be addictive.

Meanwhile, the rest of us wonder why homosexuality is such a divisive political issue. Some people are gay, and that's fine, so get over it.

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21 October 2010

Subjectivism and Relativism in Arguments about Personhood

By Diana Hsieh

Advocates of "personhood" for zygotes often claim to be opponents of the subjectivism and relativism that dominates the left. In fact, they're good friends -- in two ways.

First, the Christians pushing personhood are advocates of a specific form of religious morality, namely Divine Command Theory. They hold that right and wrong is not based on any objective facts of reality, but rather God's commands. So if God decrees the stoning of a blasphemer (Leviticus 24) or the sacrifice of a man's only and beloved son (Genesis 22), then that's morally obligatory. Such is subjectivism: the content of morality depends on the arbitrary decrees of divine will, rather than facts of reality.

Second, the subjectivism and relativism of the left cannot articulate or defend proper principles of ethics or politics -- as Ari Armstrong and I discussed in the section on Today's 'Pro-Choice' Rhetoric in our policy paper, The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life. To many people, the pseudo-secular arguments of "personhood" advocates seem substantive and perhaps even compelling in comparison to the silence of most "pro-choice" advocates.

However, the more perfect exemplars of the subjectivism and relativism of the left are not merely silent on basic questions about the nature and basis of rights. They're downright hostile to any definitive claims. A dramatic example of that view was just published in the Denver Post, in a column by Susan Greene: Personhood extremes born of nonsense. She claims to be pro-choice and opposed to Amendment 62, yet she portrays "personhood" advocates as wholly sympathetic, with logic on their side:

If you're old enough to know how babies are made, you'd be disingenuous to deny a certain logic in proponents' belief that an undeveloped fetus is a form of life. At least as an intellectual exercise, it's not a leap to equate life, more or less, with personhood.
Meanwhile, the opponents of "personhood" are, in contrast, boorish extremists wholly lacking in good argument.
Opponents [of 62] would do better sticking to that point than pretending to know when personhood starts. They offer up a cast of walking wounded like Jen Boulton, who, after three failed pregnancies, asserts that an undeveloped fetus is "no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree."
With that, Ms. Green only confesses that she's ignorant of the importance of actuality versus potentiality in the debate about "personhood" and rights.

Frankly, I couldn't imagine a better way to undermine abortion rights than with a column like that of Ms. Green. And that's why the subjectivism and relativism of the left is the best friend of the religious zealots crusading for Amendment 62. Her viewpoint concedes everything to the religious crusaders, even logic itself.

Happily, I see a silver lining in her column: Ms. Green reports that she was "booed by pro-choice veterans when making some of these points at a recent luncheon."

Read more...

14 October 2010

Amit Ghate PJM OpEd: Values and the Defense of Freedom

By Paul Hsieh

The October 9, 2010 PajamasMedia has published Amit Ghate's OpEd, "Values and the Defense of Freedom".

In it, he responds to the question, "Is faith necessary for defending natural rights, or is reason sufficient?" Here is the opening:

In the wake of the recent Values Voter Summit, a worrisome question arises: will the Tea Parties or a reformed GOP be able to champion limited government and fiscal responsibility, without also importing the religious right’s so-called "social values"?

HotAir's Allahpundit raises this issue, noting that speakers at the summit repeatedly asserted the idea that limited government must ultimately be based on religious beliefs -- on the existence of a "Big God." Uncomfortable with these assertions and searching for a better, secular defense of freedom, Allahpundit asks how Objectivists (adherents of Ayn Rand's philosophy) would respond.

It's a perceptive question. Though many recognize Rand as a stalwart defender of freedom, few appreciate how radically her defense differs from that of traditional religionists. Key to her innovative approach is an original conception of values and morality -- one which ultimately puts her at odds with much of the religious program...
(Read the full text of "Values and the Defense of Freedom".)

Congratulations, Amit!

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12 October 2010

Citizen Speech Campaign: Colorado Blogger Wrapped Up in Red Tape

By Diana Hsieh

The Institute for Justice recently launched its Citizen Speech Campaign against campaign finance laws. Here's their announcement:

Freedom of speech and freedom of association are so important that they are enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Yet across the nation, in nearly every state, government regulation stifles the ability of citizens to exercise their rights to speak and to associate with one another to discuss the most pressing issues of the day. The culprit? So-called campaign finance laws.

For example, in 24 states, citizens who wish to spend money to speak out about ballot issues must register as political committees or "PACs" and navigate a complex maze of regulations. As a result, a group of citizens in Florida who want to pool their funds to speak out against a controversial amendment that would inhibit development in the state must register with the government, appoint a treasurer, open a separate bank account, and track and report every penny that they raise and spend for their efforts. In Colorado, a group of citizens was sued under these laws for putting up lawn signs opposing a local initiative and sending post cards to neighbors.

Another 22 states add contribution limits to these regulatory burdens for citizen groups that spend money on speech supporting or opposing candidates. For example, in Rhode Island, individuals may contribute no more than $1000 per year to such groups. The result is that although individuals and even corporations may spend unlimited amounts on ads saying vote for or against a candidate, individuals in Rhode Island who join together in unincorporated groups are limited to $1000 each.

To remedy this, the Institute for Justice launched its Citizen Speech Campaign on September 29, 2010. Kicked off with a lawsuit, Andrew Nathan Worley, et al. v. Dawn K. Roberts, et al., that challenges Florida ballot issue campaign finance laws, the campaign is a nationwide effort to ensure the promise of the First Amendment's command that government "shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech."

To catalogue the various state laws that restrict citizen speech, the Institute today released a new research report, Keep Out: How State Campaign Finance Laws Erect Barriers to Entry for Political Entrepreneurs. The report, written by University of Missouri economist Jeff Milyo, explains why citizen speakers are important and how state campaign finance laws get in their way.

Along with the report, the Institute is launching a public campaign calling on officials in the 22 states that impose both contribution limits and PAC requirements on groups that wish to speak out about candidates to bring their laws into compliance with the First Amendment.
As part of this campaign, IJ is highlighting stories of political entrepreneurs -- and I'm pleased (sort of) to report that I'm one of them: Colorado Blogger Wrapped Up in Red Tape.

The story concerns the onerous campaign finance laws applicable to me (or rather, the Coalition for Secular Government) because -- horror of all horrors -- we're a group receiving and spending more than $200 in opposition to a ballot measure, namely Amendment 62.

The sidebar begins:
Diana Hsieh was a blogger when few people knew what the term meant. A passionate advocate for individual rights, she launched her now-popular blog Noodlefood in 2002 while working as a programmer as a way to get herself to write regularly on political and philosophical issues. Today, Diana presides over a mini-empire of online activism including blogs, discussion groups and even a small nonprofit. A recent Ph.D. in philosophy, Hsieh regularly speaks at philosophy conferences, writes articles and podcasts on various subjects--and still manages to find time to care for a small farm's worth of dogs, cats and horses at her home in Sedalia, Colorado.
Go read the rest of the story!

The campaign also released a fun video about "Camp Politics":



I've not yet read the primary report -- Keep Out: How State Campaign Finance Laws Erect Barriers to Entry for Political Entrepreneurs -- but it looks like more good work from IJ in defense of freedom of speech. If you like what IJ does here, please consider donating for its free speech work. Our very ability to advocate our ideas depends on our freedom of speech -- and IJ is acting in defense of everyone willing to speak his mind.

Read more...

07 October 2010

Cushman AT OpEd: Is America A Christian Nation?

By Paul Hsieh

The October 3, 2010 American Thinker has published Charlotte Cushman's latest OpEd, "Is America a Christian Nation?"

As she writes, "This is the idea that we need to return to and defend, not that we are a Christian nation, but a nation based on individual rights."

I left the following supportive comment:

The bad policies of Obama and the Left have sparked a healthy opposition from many ordinary Americans in the form of the Tea Party protests. But it would be wrong to frame the choice as between the socialist Left and the Christian Right. I find both choices unpalatable and un-American.

The real choice is between a government that violates our individual rights and a government that protects those rights. Any attempt to cast Christianity as the only proper basis for opposing the Left can only undermine the cause of freedom and will do more damage to America in the long run.
Cushman's article comes at a perfect time and it deserves to be widely disseminated within the Tea Party movement. Read the whole piece.

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04 October 2010

'Personhood' Blue Book Challenge Lacks Merit

By Ari

I never have liked the Blue Book. It forces Colorado taxpayers to finance the distribution of beliefs with which they disagree, thereby violating their freedom of conscience. The state's Constitution (V(1)(7.5)) requires that "the nonpartisan research staff of the general assembly shall prepare and make available to the public... a fair and impartial analysis of each [ballot] measure, which shall include a summary and the major arguments both for and against the measure." Moreover, "any person may file written comments for consideration."

Such language is a recipe for conflict. Calling the research staff "nonpartisan" doesn't make it so. Proclaiming that it shall issue "a fair and impartial analysis" doesn't mean that it will. Allowing "any person" to file comments invites trolls as well as idiots. The Blue Book guarantees biannual strife and litigation, and this year is no different.

The assembly should mail out a notice of elections with the language of the proposals, and nothing more. It should leave the analysis of the measures to outside individuals and groups. To accomplish this end, the legislature should refer a measure to the ballot in 2012 correcting that section of the Constitution.

But, all that said, the recent Blue Book challenge brought by the advocates of Amendment 62 ("personhood") is utterly without merit. Or, rather, it has a great deal of merit as a publicity stunt, but legally it is groundless.

Electa Draper has the story for the Denver Post. (See also the story in the Denver Daily News.) Draper writes, "Sponsors of Amendment 62... sued the Colorado Legislative Council on Tuesday afternoon to stop distribution of its 2010 State Ballot Information Booklet."

Gualberto Garcia-Jones, a leading proponent of the measure, said, "They have not included a single word -- not a single word -- of our arguments."

His statement is ridiculous.

As is standard, the Blue Book summarizes the arguments for and against the measure, in three sections each. While Garcia-Jones might complain that the "Arguments For" the measure are not as detailed as he would like, certainly they do offer the gist of the case.

It is worth pointing out that the "Arguments Against" section also fails to offer the most fundamental and compelling arguments against the measure. For details, see the paper by Diana Hsieh and me. Certainly, as an opponent of the measure, I have as much legitimate grounds to complain about the Blue Book's language as Garcia-Jones does (which again illustrates the absurdity of a legislative body issuing "a fair and impartial analysis").

In part, Garcia-Jones dislikes the Blue Book because it tells the truth about Amendment 62. Draper writes:

Garcia-Jones said that the Blue Book's arguments against Amendment 62 are false because it could never, as the booklet states, cause women to be denied medical treatment for a miscarriage. The amendment could not, he said, put doctors and other health professionals at risk of legal action for providing medical care to women of childbearing age.

It is also demonstrably false, Mason said, that "the beginning of biological development" has no established legal meaning and is not an acceptable medical or scientific term, as the Blue Book states. Supporters said they provided statements by scientists and lawyers to the contrary.


But the "personhood" proponents ignore the fact that these claims are made in the "Arguments Against" section. They also ignore the fact that the claims in question are legitimate.

Let us review the exact language of the Blue Book:

Arguments Against

1) Amendment 62... could be used to prohibit or limit access to medical care, including abortions for victims of rape or incest, and even when a woman's life is in danger. Amendment 62 may also limit access to emergency contraception, commonly used forms of birth control, and treatment for miscarriages, tubal pregnancies, cancer, and infertility. The measure may restrict some stem cell research that could lead to life-saving therapies for a variety of disabilities and illnesses.

2) Amendment 62 allows government intrusion in the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship and could limit the exercise of independent medical judgment. The measure could restrict a doctor from using certain medical procedures and treatments. Further, "the beginning of biological development" cannot be easily and conclusively pinpointed. Therefore, the measure may subject doctors and nurses to legal action for providing medical care to a woman of child-bearing age if that care could affect a "person" other than the identified patient.

3) The effects of Amendment 62's change to the constitution are unclear. The measure applies certain rights from "the beginning of biological development," a term which is not defined within the measure, has no established legal meaning, and is not an accepted medical or scientific term. ...


It is important to notice that, among those many claims, the only ones the proponents of Amendment 62 took issue with pertain to treatment for miscarriages and the meaning of "the beginning of biological development." Most of the rest of the points are quite obvious and beyond dispute. Amendment 62 would ban every elective abortion, including for rape, incest, and terminal fetal deformity. It would ban every form of birth control that could prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, including the pill, IUD, and "morning after" drugs. It would ban fertility treatments and medical research involving the destruction of embryos. Nobody disputes these points. The remaining points of contention involve medical intervention and the meaning of terms.

As Diana Hsieh and I exhaustively explain, Amendment 62 would indeed sometimes threaten the health and lives of pregnant women. Garcia-Jones specifically mentions medical treatment for miscarriages. True, if the doctor knows the miscarriage has already occurred (and therefore that the embryo is already dead), he would have no fear to intervene. The problem is that a doctor might face criminal prosecution for intervening prematurely, before a miscarriage. Thus, the language of the Blue Book on that score is correct.

What of the dispute over the meaning of the phrase, "the beginning of the biological development of that human being?" As Diana Hsieh and I argue, the phrase is indeed ambiguous. While I do not doubt that "personhood" advocates could find innumerable quack doctors and scientists to testify that the phrase obviously pertains to the moment of fertilization, in fact it does not. Certainly the point is quite appropriate for the "Arguments Against" section.

The "personhood" challenge to the Blue Book is ridiculous. But it is an effective way to abuse the legal system for free publicity.

This article originally was published on Ari Armstrong's blog.

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01 October 2010

The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life: Part 17

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."[175] 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."[176]

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.

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