Burton’s Campaign of Obfuscation

Kristi Burton, sponsor of Amendment 48, which would define a fertilized egg as a person in Colorado’s constitution, intentionally obfuscates the facts of the measure.

Burton told the Rocky Mountain News, “They [critics] are missing the core issue of when life begins. That is what this is trying to establish.”


Amendment 48 does not say, “Life begins with conception.” As Diana Hsieh and I review in our paper, the measure states, “As used in sections 3, 6, and 25 of Article II of the state constitution, the terms ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization.” Diana and I point out the implications of the measure at length. Moreover, Buron’s comment is factually wrong, as the paper points out.

Diana and I discuss the nature of personhood at some length and explain why a fertilized egg does not qualify. Perhaps Burton would care to reply to those arguments rather than repeat her platitudes.

A September 9 story from the Rocky quotes more of Burton’s views as expressed on KBDI-Channel 12:

Why this amendment is needed: “It recognizes the advances in modern medical science, which tell us that human life really does begin at the moment of conception. At that moment we have unique DNA that makes this a truly unique individual. Amendment 48 empowers the citizens of Colorado to take this issue into their own hands and to direct the elected officials and judges on how important life decisions should be made.”

Details, such as the legal status of fertilized eggs in test tubes, can be addressed later: “What this amendment does is, it provides a common-sense starting point. Before we can deal with issues like that or the ones that they talk of — birth control and in vitro fertilization — those are issues that will be dealt with later on in the democratic process. Before we can do that, we first of all have to lay a foundation.”

The amendment values life: “We can all agree that life has been cheapened in our society… People, especially in my generation, are tired of that. We want to restore value to human life and say that every person truly counts.”

At least here Burton makes a slightly more sophisticated argument regarding unique DNA. However, unique DNA does not qualify something as a person, for reasons that Diana and I discuss. Burton equivocates on the term “individual,” which in some contexts implies an individual person (as opposed to an individual entity).

Obviously Amendment 48, if implemented, would ban abortions in all cases except perhaps extreme risk to the mother’s life. (It would be pleasant if Burton would mention whether she thinks any level of risk to the mother’s life would justify an abortion.) But for Burton to punt on the issues of birth control and fertility treatments is grossly irresponsible. Amendment 48 has clear implications for such things, and for Burton to ignore those consequences further demonstrates that it is she who would cheapen the lives of actual persons.