Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Human Life Amendment Would Outlaw More Than Abortion

Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee voiced his support for the Colorado Human Life Amendment and a similar amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Though there isn't any human life U.S. constitutional amendment currently being pursued, the Colorado amendment could be on the November ballot. But what would the Human Life Amendment do? If passed, it would grant personhood to fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses -- and would therefore guarantee them the same constitutional rights and protections as all born human beings.

"This proposed constitutional amendment will define a person as a human
being from the moment life begins at conception," Huckabee said in a statement."

With this amendment, Colorado has an opportunity to send a clear message that every human life has value," Huckabee said. "Passing this amendment will mean the people of Colorado will protect the sanctity of life from conception until natural death occurs."

Burton's initiative, if approved by voters in November, would extend state constitutional protections to every fertilized egg, guaranteeing the right to life, liberty, equality of justice and due process of law.

Approval would lay the foundation for making abortion illegal in the state.

Burton, said she spoke with Huckabee Friday when he was in Colorado Springs for a speech."

Having national pro-life leaders such as Huckabee taking notice is an amazing boost to our petition-gathering efforts," Burton said.

Burton and supporters must collect the signatures of about 76,000 registered Colorado voters to get the question on the ballot.

The measure is opposed by reproductive-rights groups such as Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.

Opponents say the amendment would have sweeping consequences, not only for those seeking abortions, but for women using hormone-based contraception and couples using in-vitro fertilization to start families.

Both local Planned Parenthood and NARAL representatives are correct: though the bill is promoted under idea of outlawing all abortion, it would likely have even more extreme consequences.

Of course, the idea of re-criminalizing abortion is radical and dangerous enough. It would profoundly affect countless women and families on personal, emotional and financial levels, in addition to the potential deaths of women who would seek out illegal abortions. It has been established many times that criminalized abortion is dangerous and does nothing to reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy. The best way to prevent abortion is not to make it illegal, but to increase access to prevention tools like education and birth control.

But the proposed Colorado Human Life Amendment would do more than just outlaw abortion. Anti-choicers often use the word "conception" to explain when they believe human life begins. But as we covered last week, the medical and legal definition of pregnancy is not from the point of conception -- it's from the point of implantation, when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterus and the woman's body becomes able to support the pregnancy. In fact, it's estimated that 60 to 80 percent of naturally conceived embryos do not implant. The number of embryos that don't implant from IVF is even higher.

But in giving fertilized eggs rights, before a pregnancy is even established, could put the most common birth control methods at risk. Although hormonal methods almost always work by preventing an egg from releasing to become fertilized, there is a small possibility that they could also prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. If fertilized eggs have personhood, their "right" to life could easily override a woman's legal right to use birth control.

98% of women use some form of birth control in their lifetime. And though all women who use birth control might not use hormonal methods, about 80% of women use birth control pills, the most popular form of hormonal contraception, at some point. That means the percentage of women who use birth control pills is larger than the percentage of people who think that abortion should be legal!

That even those who most oppose a woman's constitutional right to reproductive choice still often approve of birth control shows just how out of touch the supporters of this amendment are with average Americans. This amendment is about as extreme as it gets -- and for the sake of every woman's health, it needs to be rejected.

2 comments:

Jennifer said...

What are some of the specific consequences for couples seeking IVF?

Cara said...

Jennifer,

Because the Human Life Amendment isn't being promoted as resulting in any specific legislation, it's speculative, just like with birth control. But there are many anti-choice individuals trying to outlaw IVF currently, and if they're going to go after birth control, it's pretty certain that they would go after IVF as well. In fact, IVF is probably more of a clear cut issue than birth control. That idea that birth control can prevent implantation is mostly speculation, and if it happens, it is very rare. But we know for a fact that about 85% of embryos through IVF do not implant, and it requires the knowledgable creation of embryos while knowing that it has poor chance for survival.