The "right-to-lifers" in Colorado are trying to get an amendment to their state constitution that declares a "fertilized egg" to be a "person." On the web site "Life Counts" we find this:
Colorado for Equal Rights has announced the support of over 70 physicians and pharmacists, including neonatologists, family physicians, ob/gyns, pediatricians, and other physicians. nationwide. These physicians have stated that they concur with the statement, "A ‘person’ includes any human from the time of fertilization."
However, the "Protect Families, Protect Choices" website gives us this:
In summary, the Executive Board of the Colorado Gynecological-Obstetrical Society opposes this ballot initiative. This position is consistent with opinions expressed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The intended and unintended consequences of the proposed constitutional amendment represents an intrusion into the practice of medicine. Such an amendment would have a negative, restrictive impact on clinical practice and a detrimental effect on the health of women in Colorado.
Are you with me so far? I got to thinking about this new extreme right push for what is really religion-based law that effects the lives of women (and the economies of all Americans, male and female). Like most such campaigns, the right has come up with a new label, "personhood", to set a definition of the fertilized egg (remember how successful the right was in coining "partial birth abortion", a misleading and non-medical branding of a seldom performed medical emergency practice) and they stress it in every release and announcement. However, the issue is really quite different. This from the Coalition for Secular Government:
The common claim that "life begins at conception" cannot justify Amendment 48. The fact that something is human and alive does not make it a person. Every cell in our body is both human and alive, yet we don’t worry about giving blood for testing or scraping off a few skin cells in a fall. A fertilized egg is distinctive because, in addition to being alive and human, it might develop into a born baby given the right conditions. What supporters of Amendment 48 cannot show, however, is that a potential baby has the moral status of an actual baby. The difference between them is enormous. An embryo or fetus is wholly dependent on the woman for its basic life-functions. It goes where she goes, eats what she eats, and breathes what she breathes. It lives as an extension of her body, contained within and dependent on her for its survival. It is only a potential person, not an actual person. That situation changes radically at birth. The newborn baby exists as a distinct organism, separate from his mother. Although still very needy, he lives his own life. He is a person — and individual. His life must be protected as a matter of right. Consequently, when a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy she does not violate the rights of any person. Instead, she is exercising her own rights over her own body — likely in pursuit of her own health, well-being, and happiness. Amendment 48 would destroy those rights in Colorado.
My feeling is that it will perhaps develop a wholly new state bureaucracy. Say a couple has unprotected sexual intercourse one evening. Will they be required the next morning to call a government office to announce the potential creation of a new "person" – a citizen, as it were – which must be registered just like we register a birth certificate now? And will the huge number of potential registered "persons" set up new tax problems for the state (for instance, does the fertilized egg get a "child tax deduction", causing the state to lose millions in operating income while adding millions to its management costs? Personhood is exposed for what it really is, an anti-abortion political gambit, in the Colorado Daily:
There is no firm consensus on the definition of personhood between lawmakers, religious followers, philosophers and bioethicists. The authors of 48 make no bones about their agenda, which is not to clarify what personhood truly is, but, rather, to outlaw abortion. Personhood is a category to be taken seriously because it has profound ethical and legal implications. We should be very careful not to confuse things that are alive with things that are persons, which is what the text of 48 does. In the United States legal system, the term "person" implies a human being who, in addition to their rational faculties, has certain rights and duties bestowed upon them. The key word in this is "duties." Anything, living or not, can be awarded rights. But in order to fulfill duties, a person must posses some degree or self-awareness or self-consciousness. So how does this apply to our 48 problem? These indications of what makes a person are not sharply defined, but the wording of the bill is radical enough (in equating a fertilized egg to a person) that the abstractions become useful. It would be foolish to propose that a single cell has thinking ability — zygotes do not have brains or nervous systems. They are not self-conscious and they cannot perform duties.
Of course, we could have a fertilized egg working at the desk of a new department. Wouldn’t that be performing duties? What do YOU think? Under The LobsterScope