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No on Amendment 48
© Richard Grossman MD, 2008
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
“I am sorry, Mrs. Folk. There is nothing I can do.” I am in my office, holding ultrasound pictures. The Folks are sitting in front of me, looking dumbfounded. Two of their three children are present; the oldest is at school.
“These pictures show a tubal pregnancy. It is very early, but we can still see the fetal heartbeat. It is clearly outside of your uterus.” Mrs. Folk is crying now.
“In the past we used to treat ectopic pregnancies with surgery, or even just medicine. That is not possible now. Your chances of dying from this pregnancy are about fifty-fifty.”
Approximately one pregnancy in 200 is in the wrong place. Although a woman’s uterus is wonderfully adapted to nourishing a developing fetus, her tubes are not. When a pregnancy grows in the tube, it tears the fragile tissue, causing pain and internal bleeding. Women still die of tubal pregnancies.
Is the above scenario some sort of science fiction, set in some remote hard-hearted future? No, not if proposed Amendment 48 passes this November election. This scenario could happen right here in Colorado next year.
Clearly 48 was drafted to stop all abortions in Colorado (even after rape or incest). It is short—and extremely deceptive. Nicknamed the “Personhood Amendment”, 48 reads: “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.”
Section 25 of the Colorado Constitution states: “Due process of law. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” If a developing fetus (or even a newly fertilized egg) is defined as a person, then anyone who interrupts a pregnancy, no matter if it is potentially lethal to the mother, could be punished. The woman herself would be an accomplice. This would mean that anyone, including a physician who does surgery to save a woman’s life because of a tubal pregnancy, would be subject to the same penalties as a first degree murderer. Would the police have to investigate women who have miscarriages, too?
The proposed amendment is so extreme that, if 48 were to pass, it would create legal havoc in our state. It would take years and millions of dollars to work out the legal implications.
This amendment would not only prevent abortion, but it might also prevent many forms of contraception. Antiabortion people claim that hormonal birth control and IUDs cause abortions. Their evidence for this is weak, and is at odds with the majority of medical experts including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—my professional organization.
The sad fact is that the amendment would probably increase the number of abortions! Making abortion illegal doesn’t stop women from trying to interrupt pregnancies—it makes them use desperate means. For instance, when abortion became legal in Norway, the abortion rate didn’t increase. Women did get better care, however. Remember that the best way to prevent abortions is with access to good contraception.
Moreover, proposed Amendment 48 would prevent couples from taking advantage of many infertility treatments. In vitro fertilization would be banned because of the risk of losing an embryo—defined as a person.
The people who wrote this proposed amendment (and the 131,245 people who signed petitions to put it on the ballot in November) appear to be honest, God-fearing Coloradoans. Their website lists physicians who support the amendment, but very, very few live in Colorado! In fact, they are outsiders testing the waters in our state to see how they can control women’s reproductive lives. Because of their efforts to impose their strict religious beliefs on everyone, they are the closest thing we have in the USA to the Taliban.
This proposed amendment would punish parents and physicians who believe that all children should be planned and loved. It has been centuries since people were punished so severely for trying to help women control their fertility. There is strong evidence that the motivation to seek out and kill “witches” in Colonial times was to eradicate women who held the secrets of contraception. This was one way men could retaliate against women who knew more than they did.
Don’t let religious zealots control women’s lives in Colorado. Vote “NO” to proposed Amendment 48. Go to www.protectfamiliesprotectchoices.org for more information.
Published October, 2008