Proponents of a ballot measure that would grant “personhood” to a fertilized egg can move forward with efforts to get their measure on the ballot after the Colorado Supreme Court cleared the way yesterday. As The Denver Post reports:
Opponents of the measure, which would lay the constitutional foundation for making abortion illegal in the state, asked the court to reject the ballot title as misleading to voters.
The court ruled that the measure’s wording is clear and meets state requirements in terms of covering a single subject.
The measure, if approved by voters, would extend constitutional protection from the moment of conception with regard to rights of life, liberty, equality of justice and due process of law.
The group pushing the measure, Colorado for Equal Rights, can now begin gathering the 76,000 signatures required to put the issue on the November 2008 ballot.
I wrote about this back in July when the proposed ballot measure first started getting attention, and I still have many of those same questions. While the goal of granting “personhood” to a fertilized egg is to ban abortion, if the measure passes, it opens up a whole new set of problems. The question (in jest) that I’ve heard most in the last few days is: Would a pregnant woman be able to drive in the HOV lane?
Yes, it’s a joke, but it isn’t far from the truth of what makes “personhood” such a problematic idea. If you are going to say that a fertilized egg should have the same rights as the people reading these words, then you can’t pick and choose which rights (and laws) go along with it.
The National Institute of Reproductive Health asks the question “How much time should she do?” in regards to jail time for women who have abortions. Regardless of your stance on abortion, the question is one that needs to be asked; if we are going to say that a fertilized egg is a human being, then abortion is, quite literally, murder. Does that make abortion a capital crime? In that case, we would come full-circle. Are we willing to kill someone for having an abortion?
Now, before we get too carried away, let me say that I don’t think this “personhood” ballot measure has much of a chance of succeeding should supporters gather enough signatures to place it on the ballot. Polling has shown that Colorado voters are actually pro-choice by a small margin, and a measure this extreme in its wording would only have a real chance at passing in a heavily pro-life state.
Nevertheless, I think it’s good that this measure is being introduced because it broadens the debate to a level that it needs to reach. If we’re going to say that a fertilized egg has all of the same rights as a grown child, then we can’t put our fingers in our ears and yell “la, la, la, la” when people ask the next question. Can you claim a fertilized egg as a dependent on your taxes even if it hasn’t been born yet? The list is endless. And so is the discussion.