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Home / Articles / News / News /  Personhood revisited
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Thursday, August 26,2010

Personhood revisited

By Katherine Creel

Controversial ban on abortion returns to ballot

Colorado voters will again be asked this fall to decide whether to legally apply the term “person” to a fertilized human egg.

Amendment 62, known unofficially as the Definition of Person amendment and the Fetal Personhood amendment, seeks to apply the term “person” to “every human being from the beginning of biological development of that human being.”

Similar to the proposed Amendment 48 in 2008, this year’s ballot initiative aims to legally recognize fertilized human eggs as people, giving them the same “inalienable

right, equality of justice and due process of law” that the Colorado constitution grants fully gestated humans.

Granting a fertilized egg the legal status of person would effectively criminalize abortion procedures in all circumstances, as well as outlaw certain — but not all — forms of birth control, and would also affect medical procedures such as in vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research.

The proposed amendment is cosponsored by Leslie Hanks, vice president of Denver-based Colorado Right To Life, and Gualberto Garcia Jones, Colorado director of Personhood USA. Colorado Right To Life spokesman Bob Enyart says the amendment would “protect the smallest boys and girls” by banning abortions at any stage of pregnancy for any reason, as well as prohibiting embryonic stem cell research.

Groups such as Planned Parenthood, however, say that Amendment 62 “goes too far” and opens the door for government involvement in personal health decisions.

“It would also prohibit abortion in the case of rape, incest or danger to the mother,” says Monica McAfferty, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Opponents also find the wording of the amendment troubling.

“The phrase ‘the beginning of biological development’ — there’s no legal definition of that,” McAfferty says.

In a statement issued on Amendment 62, the Colorado section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agreed, saying, “The phrase ‘the beginning of biological development’ is not an accepted scientific or medical term, and does not refer to any specific point in the process of human reproduction.”


Details, details

The ballot language, available from the Colorado Secretary of State’s elections website (www.elections.colorado.gov), reads, “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution applying the term ‘person,’ as used in those provisions of the Colorado constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law, to every human being from the beginning of biological development of that human being?”

In a written response to the Colorado Legislative Council, however, co-sponsors of the amendment say the phrase refers to “the beginning of the process of fertilization, or first contact of the sperm with the oocyte.”

So just how similar is this year’s amendment to 2008’s Amendment 48, which was defeated by a margin of 3 to 1?

“Amendment 62 is Amendment 48,” says McAfferty.

Enyart concurs, saying, “Practically, they’re very similar.”

The primary difference between the wording of this year’s measure and that of the 2008 initiative is the use of the phrase “from beginning of biological development” in place of “from the moment of fertilization” in 2008. This difference, according to Enyart, makes Amendment 62 more comprehensive and would ensure that children conceived “in all situations” — Enyart mentioned in vitro fertilization, “twinning” and cloning — are “protected.”

Another difference between this year’s campaign and 2008 is experience.

“We have two years’ education,” Enyart says. “[We’ve learned] personhood needs a face.”

That face is the “snowflake children,” frozen embryos left over from in vitro fertilization procedures and “adopted” out to other couples to implant.

Fofi Mendez, campaign director for NO on 62, says opposition to the amendment is “broad-based and bipartisan,” and her group will campaign as aggressively as opponents did in 2008 to defeat the measure. The NO on 62 Campaign is working to remobilize the more than 90 organizations involved in 2008’s campaign to defeat the “personhood” amendment and will focus on educating voters, Mendez says.

“We’re not taking anything for granted,” she says.

Some of the most contentious aspects of the bill, apart from the complete prohibition of abortions, are the effects on birth control, doctor liability and the laws and legal system.

Supporters of the amendment say it would not ban all forms of birth control, only those like the “day after” pill that terminate an early stage pregnancy. The traditional birth-control pill would not be outlawed, and IUDs, or inter-uterine devices, would likely not be affected either, as they work by preventing fertilization, rather than preventing implantation of an already fertilized egg.

In vitro fertilization procedures would also become more legally complicated, Mendez says, because doctors and couples could potentially be charged with murder for disposing of any unused fertilized eggs that are produced.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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Voters spoke loud and clear in 2008 that this non-sensical amendment is not wanted here, and they will do so again this year. This amendment is dangerous and eliminates the ability for families to make their own personal decisions regarding reproductive health. This is an attempt to confuse voters with word change but has the exact same harmful intended and unintended consequences as amendment 48.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

The importance of defeating this amendment cannot be over-stated.  On average over a dozen women in Coloado have atypical pregnancies that if allowed to continue WILL kill them, period, no middle ground.

With this amendment, the woman's right to live will be overridden and there is nothing anyone could do short of travel out of state to save her life. 

Do you want to be the person to tell her she has to die?

 

Andy, Andy, Andy, Please! Shame on you! This is complete fabrication! Quit repeating Monica's scare tactic talking points, they are proving to be utterly stupid! Stick with the facts, I can't over-state it!

 

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Ignorance is not bliss when human lives are at stake. Katherine Creel refers to a "fertilized human egg." Hey Katherine, there's no such thing as a fertilized human egg. Once an egg is fertilized, it is an embryo. I'm a former embryo and so are you. The Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development states, "The term "egg" is best reserved for...the breakfast table."


Monica McAfferty, PPRM spokesperson, said, "There’s no legal definition" for "the beginning of biological development." It is a scientific definition that needs to be recognized by our laws, which is the goal of the amendment. Moore and Persaud's The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology states, "Human development begins at fertilization." The previously mentioned Carnegie Stages says, "Embryonic life commences at fertilization."

Everyone knows when life begins and science makes it abundantly clear. If we're wrong, Planned Parenthood is free to let us know when life begins. And while they're at it, they can also let us know at what age it is no longer okay to rip a baby's arms and legs off.

The fact that the previous amendment failed 3 to 1 is very similar to the agonizing defeats incurred by those trying to restore legal personhood to blacks. They didn't quit fighting for what is right and neither will we!

 

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You guys seem bent on using the term "egg." I got this from AmericanRTL.org/egg

According to the Carnegie Institute, the term "egg" has "no scientific usefulness" regarding early human development.

Washington D.C.'s National Museum of Health and Medicine established in 1862 houses 24 million specimens including in its Human Development Anatomy Center. NMHM publishes the Carnegie Institute's authoritative Carnegie Stages of Early Human Development for sexual reproduction (i.e., from fertilization) which has become the international standard for vertebrate embryonic development. Deceased human embryos were collected from around the world, beginning with those from the hospital at John Hopkins University. Sexual reproduction begins with Carnegie Stage 1:

Embryonic life commences with fertilization… when a spermatozoon makes contact with an oocyte… and ends with the intermingling of maternal and paternal chromosomes… The three phases… will be included here under stage 1, the characteristic feature of which is unicellularity… The term “egg” is best reserved for... the breakfast table.

Carnegie Stage 1 identifies terms, like "egg," which have "no scientific usefulness."

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

The "Beginning of Biological Development."

Wow, Boulder Weekly, contradicting Planned Parenthood's claim, there's A LOT of peer-reviewed scientific research documenting that EXACTLY.

Check out all this research, provided to the Colorado Legislative Council and posted at http://ColoradoRTL.org/beginning

Hey, I just got a call back from CRTL, and they told me that they provided this info to Katherine. I'm a bit disappointed that this research wasn't referenced in Creer's article. Here are a few examples:

Carnegie Stage 1 Definition: Embryonic life commences with fertilization, and hence the beginning of that process may be taken as the point de depart of stage 1. ... Fertilization is the procession of events that begins when a spermatozoon makes contact with an oocyte or its investments and ends with the intermingling of maternal and paternal chromosomes... [http://nmhm.washingtondc.museum/collections/hdac/stage1.pdf]

Human pregnancy begins with the fusion of an egg and a sperm... now properly called an embryo...  Through the mingling of maternal and paternal chromosomes, the [embryo] is a genetically unique product... [Bruce M. Carlson, Human Embryology and Developmental Biology, St. Louis, MO:  Mosby, 1994), p. 31;  ibid, Carlson 1999, pp., 2, 23, 27, 32]

In this text, we begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual. ... Embryonic development is considered to begin at this point.  (p. 1);  ... [William J. Larsen, Human Embryology (New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1997), p. 17]

Fertilization is the procession of events that begins when...  "The ill-defined and inaccurate term pre-embryo...  is not used in this book. [Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology (New York:  Wiley-Liss, 1994), p. 55]

See additional peer-reviewed research at ColoradoRTL.org/beginning

 

 
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