Amendment 48: Letters and Replies

Today the Rocky Mountain News features a couple of online letters regarding Amendment 48, along with replies.

Dan Kushmaul writes:

A fertilized egg is not an individual. It has the potential to be a person, or two people, or many. If we declare a fertilized egg a person, does that mean identical twins are legally one individual? If a fertilized egg is a person or persons, then any contraception or procedure that prevents implantation, or perhaps even fertilization, will constitute depriving a person of life – murder. Do we really want to criminalize IUDs, condoms, and the pill, and force in vitro fertilization clinics to implant every egg they fertilize?

Kushmaul’s comments point to some of the absurdities of the measure. They do not, however, get to the root of why a fertilized egg is not a person; for that, please read the paper by Diana Hsieh and me. A fertilized egg is not an “individual” person — it is not a person at all — but it is an individual fertilized egg, regardless of how many people it might become. The problem is that the advocates of the measure routinely equivocate on terms like “human being,” “individual,” etc., reading into those terms personhood where none actually exists.

Somebody called “LetsThink” posts a reply to which I responded:

“LetsThink” asks, “Can you tell us with absolutely no question, when Life begins???”

That question is irrelevant. Amendment 48 does not define when “life” begins; it (arbitrarily) defines when personhood begins. Life does not begin at conception; life precedes conception. Both the sperm cell and pre-fertilized egg are alive. Life is a never-ending chain that goes back to the first living things. So the only sensible answer to the question is “around four billion years ago.”

“LetsThink” denies that “the baby is part of the mother.” But that statement is ambiguous. The fertilized egg is not an element of the woman’s own bodily functions, as a kidney is. The fertilized egg contains a unique set of human DNA. So, no, a fertilized egg is not like a kidney in that way. But a fertilized egg (through the fetal stage) is entirely contained within and completely dependent upon the woman’s body, and that fact is central to the issue of personhoon. Biological distinction, in the sense of existing independently, physically apart from another person, is a necessary condition for personhood.

“LetsThink” declares, without offering a single example and with loaded language, “It’s time for Abortionists to stop lying.” No, it’s time for “LetsThink” to start telling the truth.

For a complete discussion of the horrific consequences of Amendment 48, and a more detailed explanation of why a fertilized egg is not a person, please see the paper by Diana Hsieh and me titled, “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life:”

L. Fortier points out that a common alternative to legal abortion are “back-alley abortions.” As Diana and I point out, that argument becomes relevant only once it is established that a fertilized egg is not a person. Parker is correct in writing, “Amendment 48 also includes birth control pills and could lead to prosecution of parents and doctors after in vitro procedures wherein extra fertilized eggs are disposed of. This is a dangerous door to open.”

“LetsThink” posts another reply, to which I responded:

“LetsThink” claims, “There is no defense for abortion.” Yet implicit within “LetsThink’s” other statements is the beginning of just such a defense. While “LetsThink” arbitrarily conflates a fertilized egg with a born “baby” — despite the obvious and radical differences between the two — “LetsThink” also points out that a fertilized egg is merely a “potential” person, not an actual one. A fertilized egg into its early development doesn’t even have any organs. More importantly, it is completely contained within and biologically dependent upon the woman’s body.

But “LetsThink’s” post does serve an important function: it reminds us that Amendment 48 is about religious faith. It is an attempt to enforce religious dogma through force of law. Notably, existing Colorado statutes define first-degree murder as intentionally killing a “person” — a crime subject to life in prison or the death penalty.

Diana Hsieh and I summarize and detail in our paper, “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life:”

Perhaps someday an advocate of Amendment 48 will actually attempt to reply to the arguments of that paper. But I doubt it.