Colorado is the first state to attempt to literally re-define what a person is, and if passed this November, Amendment 48 would pose changes in birth control, abortion rights and many broad issues affecting women.
Amendment 48, the “personhood amendment,” seeks to add the definition of the word ‘person’ to the Colorado constitution, specifying that human life begins when an egg is fertilized – effectively criminalizing all abortions.
Kristi Burton, a 20-year-old law student, is the author and primary supporter of the amendment.
She and the Colorado Right to Life Committee want to grant full legal rights to unborn and undeveloped human embryos at the moment of fertilization.
Redefining the word ‘person,’ which is used over 20,000 times in the constitution, will have consequences that move far beyond abortions.
Edie Sonn, a spokesperson for the Colorado Medical Society, which formally opposes Amendment 48, said that the passage of the amendment would criminalize legitimate medical practices.
She said that cancer treatments for women, treatments for complicated pregnancies and even simple miscarriages could lead to criminal charges being brought upon doctors if the amendment becomes law.
The “No on 48” campaign boasts 7,000 doctors who oppose the amendment.
Crystal Clinkenbeard, spokesperson for the No on 48 campaign, said that many common forms of birth control would also become illegal, as there are cases in which a fertilized egg might be prevented from implanting as a result of the birth control.
In vitro fertilizations, in which an infertile couple’s egg and sperm are joined in a lab and the resulting embryo is implanted into the woman’s womb, would also become illegal under Amendment 48.
Clinkenbeard said that there are many simpler instances in Colorado law where defining an unborn child as a person might cause problems.
Complications, she said, could arise with the application of property laws and inheritance claims, claims of embryos as dependents on tax returns, and even the use of HOV lanes.
She said that Colorado is the first state in the country to face a ballot measure that would define when personhood begins, so there is no legal precedent.
“It’s also important to note that Amendment 48 makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest,” she said.
Some churches make exceptions in these cases.
Russel L. McClure, stake president and spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he did not want to take a position on the amendment, but he did say that the church takes a stand against abortion.
“Life in some form begins at conception, and where there’s life we should have the right to protect it,” he said.
He said that the only times the church makes an exception are cases involving rape or incest, “but even then we advise the woman to seek counseling with the church first, and only after appropriate counsel and prayer will an exception be made,” he said.
Such a decision-making process would be obsolete under the passage of 48, and no exceptions would be made.
The Roe v. Wade decision of 1978, that protects a woman’s right to choose abortion, was based on the fact that the law does not define a fetus as a human being with rights and legal protection.
If Amendment 48 passes, the decision of 1978 would be easily overturned, as this fundamental reasoning that a fetus has no rights would no longer be valid.
Opponents of 48 argue that the supporters of this amendment have not taken all consequences into consideration.
The amendment already has the support of the 103,000 voters that signed the initiative to put it on the ballot.
Seventy doctors and physicians have also come forward from across the country to support the amendment; they are listed on Colorado for Equal Rights’ Web site.
Among those 70 doctors is Dr. Edwin Anselmi, who practices family medicine in Centennial.
“I think it’s clear from a scientific perspective that life begins at fertilization,” he said. “There is no other time where there is a clear differentiation between what is life and what’s not.”
Senior Reporter Trevor Simonton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Campus voice: What do you think about 48?
Sophomore Business Admin
“Growing up Christian, I am against abortion, I believe there should be certain instances where it’s okay”
“That’s a touchy subject, I don’t even want to go there”
“I am pro-life, but there needs to be exceptions for certain situations; there needs to be an amendment to the amendment that allows abortions in cases involving rape, incest or life-threatening pregnancies.”
Soph. speech comm.
“It’s ridiculous: why should the government be able to govern our bodies?”
“I think making it illegal for rape or incest victims is wrong. Doing something to change Roe v. Wade is good, but you cant do it all at once, you need to take it in smaller steps.”
Senior social work
“We should decrease unwanted pregnancies and keep abortion legal because it will happen if its legal or not, it will just go into scary places if its criminalized.”