Note: The following column originally appeared in the September 17 edition of Grand Junction Free Press. However, as a September 19 story from the Denver Post reports, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Ken Buck has backed off of his support of Amendment 62. Allison Sherry of the Post reports:
Buck said Saturday through his campaign spokesman that he will now vote against the measure. In an earlier interview, he said he did not understand until recently that passage of the amendment would likely outlaw some common contraceptive methods, like the IUD or birth control pills that can reduce the chances of implantation for a fertilized egg.
“This isn’t how I looked at the personhood amendment,” Buck said. “I’m not in favor of banning common forms of birth control.” … No longer would Buck introduce a constitutional amendment to ban abortion — though he says he would still support one — and he now says he would be willing to vote to confirm even pro-choice judicial nominees.
Therefore, the following article should be read with Buck’s qualified stance in mind.
Am. 62 would ban the pill and endanger women
We feel sorry for anybody whose job is to try to defend Ken Buck’s position on birth control. We really do. Because it is a ridiculous position.
Let’s back up a minute. This fall Colorado voters will face Amendment 62, known as the “personhood” amendment. The purpose of this proposed constitutional change is to grant a fertilized egg the same legal rights as a born infant or adult.
Of course, the measure could not be fully enforced so long as the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision remains in force. Challenging that ruling is the stated intention of the measure’s backers.
If enforced, Amendment 62 would totally ban abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, and fetal deformity. It would allow medical intervention that would harm an embryo or fetus only to save the life of the woman. However, because doctors can rarely perfectly predict the risks, the measure would threaten doctors with criminal prosecution if they could not prove the woman’s life was in imminent danger.
If an embryo is a person with full rights, then any intentional abortion must be deemed murder, and punished accordingly.
Amendment 62 would also outlaw the “in vitro” fertility treatments that help around a thousand Colorado women bear children each year. That’s because such treatments often create more embryos than a woman can safely implant. The rest are frozen or destroyed.
For a comprehensive critique of Amendment 62, see the new paper by Diana Hsieh and Ari at http://tinyurl.com/amend62co.
One of the implications of Amendment 62 is that it would ban common forms of birth control, including the pill, IUD, and “morning after” drugs. Methods that prevent fertilization such as the condom would remain legal. The pill, while it usually acts to prevent fertilization, can also prevent implantation if fertilization occurs. Under Amendment 62, that would be deemed murder.
Don’t take our word for it: the manufacturers of the popular brands of pill Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Trinessa both claim the pill can “reduce the likelihood of implantation.”
Which brings us back to Ken Buck, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. According to the Christian Family Alliance of Colorado, Buck endorsed Amendment 62. Colorado Right to Life says that Buck is “very strongly pro-life and pro-Personhood,” and “he is on record supporting Personhood.”
One might think that, by simple logic, Buck would say forthrightly that he wants to ban the birth control pill, because it can prevent implantation. But Buck is a politician, so of course he can’t just come right out and state clearly what he believes.
In one campaign statement, Buck called charges that he “wants to ban common forms of birth control” a “lie.” The statement claims that “oral contraceptive pills… do not result in killing a fertilized egg.”
To drive home the point, Buck’s statement linked to an article by About.com. Unfortunately for Buck, that article states that the pill can prevent “fertilized eggs from implanting into the wall of the uterus.”
This is a problem, because Buck has endorsed Amendment 62, which regards the birth control pill as murder.
A September 1 piece by 9News claims that Buck supports “some forms of the pill” that don’t “keep a fertilized egg from implanting.” The piece credits Buck spokesman Owen Loftus.
So we contacted Loftus to ask him which forms of the pill don’t prevent implantation.
Loftus mentioned two sources, Planned Parenthood and Wikipedia. But both of those sites say the pill can prevent implantation (though Wikipedia notes the matter is controversial).
Loftus said he thought the “combination oral contraceptive” fits the bill. But manufacturers of the two “combination” pills listed above say their products can prevent implantation, and Loftus was unable to name any brand that operates differently.
Finally, we asked, “If it is shown that a form of birth control can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, would Ken Buck oppose that form of birth control?” Loftus replied, “Ken believes that life begins at conception, so, alright.”
We asked, “Is that a yes?” Loftus replied, “That’s my answer… Ken is going to Washington D.C. to fight runaway spending and create jobs, and that’s what his campaign has been all about.”
So, in other words, when political spokespersons find themselves in a corner, they dodge the question and change the subject.
But the measure’s sponsors are not as coy. Personhood Colorado, the main group behind the measure, condemns “chemical abortifacients” and says that “barrier methods… will not be outlawed.” A document endorsed by Personhood USA states that “all hormonal contraceptives have the capability to cause an abortion,” including the pill.
So Buck has two choices, if he wishes to give an honest answer. He can either state that he wants to ban the pill because it can “cause an abortion” by preventing implantation, or he can revoke his endorsement of Amendment 62 and admit that fertilization does not create a person with full legal rights. Which will it be? [Again, as noted above, Buck qualified his stance since publication of this column, and he now says he will vote against Amendment 62 and does not favor banning the birth control pill.]