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No on Amendment 48

The article below may be copied or published but must remain intact, with attribution to the author. I also request that the words “First published in the Durango Herald” accompany any publication. For more information, please write the author at:


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 for more information.


Published October, 2008

Family Planning Media Reproductive Health

Utilize the Media for Reproductive Health

“To be effective, we need to tell our story in many songs and films.”

David M. Johns, in“Our Real Challenge: Managing Ourselves Instead of Nature”The media are valuable to keep people informed about the problems caused by our growing population. In addition, they can broadcast information about ways to slow our expansion. Even more important is their success in motivating people to change their beliefs and lifestyle.My wife and I recently visited Washington, DC for the Population Institute’s annual Global Media Awards. This column won the “Best Columnist” prize for the article I had written from India about the influence of poverty on population growth.There were thirteen other awardees attending, including people from Canada, Malawi and Cameroon. Except for me, all were professional journalists.The Population Institute ( has been working domestically and internationally for 38 years to promote interest in the effects of our mounting numbers. It has used education and political lobbying in attempts to slow our growth.One of its techniques has been to encourage coverage of population issues in the media. It runs its own news service to feed information about population to the media. Its annual Awards are given in different categories, including “Best Cartoonist” and “Best Electronic Forum.” The Durango Herald earned an early award. In 1971 the Herald was named “Best Daily in the US.” It is probably the only daily paper that runs a regular column on human population.In the past the Awards have been an excuse to travel. I explored Egypt and Thailand with the PI. Now, with new consciousness about global warming (and limited budgets) the ceremony was held on the PI’s home turf. They are located on Capitol Hill, easy walking distance to the heart of our national government.An advantage of attending the Awards was the opportunity to network. We traded ideas, and I picked up several themes for future columns.One of my goals has been to find a wider readership for this column. From the start Morley Ballantine was kind enough to allow me to keep the copyright to these articles for this purpose—thank you, Morley! I hope that new contacts will help me find new outlets for my writing.The editor of E-Magazine won an award for his story on the “birth dearth”. Some people are upset that many rich countries don’t have enough young people to perform menial labor. In fact, worldwide there is no lack of births, but the vast numbers of babies are born in poorer countries. Jim Motavalli pointed this out in his prize winning article. Jim has suggested that the online version of E-Magazine might be an appropriate medium for this column.My favorite winning entry was “Youth Alert!” from Africa. Victor Gama came all the way from Malawi to accept the award; it was his first time outside of his small, landlocked country. HIV is a serious problem there, as in most of sub-Saharan Africa. About one in seven young people carries the virus. Furthermore, the average Malawian woman bears more than six children.“Youth Alert!” works to keep people in their teens and early twenties safe. The program focuses on fighting pressure to have sex. The “Real Man” doesn’t succumb to peer pressure to have sex too early. Nor does the “Real Woman” yield to pressure from a “sugar daddy”, an older man who offers money or presents in exchange for sex.Delaying sexual debut is the goal for this program, which is described more fully at: The ultimate goal is similar to the failed abstinence-only programs here in the USA. Indeed, the Malawian program is partly funded by our government through USAID. Victor’s approach is playful, however. He held a nationwide competition to find amateur singing groups with songs that had the correct messages. The six winners (three female groups and three male) made professional music videos that will be screened on Malawian TV.Bill Ryerson, founder of the Population Media Center (, won an award for their use of radio and TV soap operas for social change. Empowerment of women, education about contraception and prevention of HIV transmission are the primary goals of their programs in a dozen countries.There are many ways to tell the story of population and reproductive health. Music videos and soap operas can reach wide audiences in developing countries. Fortunately, newspapers and magazines still have devoted readers back home. Thank you for reading this column. May your holidays be wonderful and filled with joy!© Richard Grossman MD, 2007[The article above may be copied or published but must remain intact, with attribution to the author. I also request that the words “First published in the Durango Herald” accompany any publication. For more information, please write the author at:]