Thursday, May 29, 2008

Saying the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet

If one thing can be said about the lunatic fringe of the right wing, it's that they're not ones to dance around an issue. Take, for instance, their coverage of a recently filed ballot initiative in Colorado:
"This proposed constitutional amendment will define a person in Colorado as a human being from the moment of fertilization, the moment when life begins," according to a statement at Colorado for Equal Rights."


The Colorado plan targets a loophole U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun created when he wrote the original abortion opinion.

He concluded: "(If the) suggestion of personhood [of the preborn] is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment."

By defining the unborn as a person, supporters believe, voters can simply spread the covering of constitutional protection over them, too.

Not exactly subtle, are they? Not exactly bright either. In the next paragraph, they telegraph their PR strategy, and surprise surprise! it's not about abortion:
As WND reported, a recent Colorado case highlighted what supporters describe as the need for the change.

In the case, a Colorado judge dismissed some charges against a man who caused a fatal car crash, because the victim, at 8½ months of a pregnancy, had not yet been born.

"'Person' is a defined term for purposes of the homicide statutes," wrote Judge Richard Gurley in a March decision in the case involving the death of Lileigh Lehnen, the born-alive daughter of 26-year-old Shea Lehnen.

"The definition states that 'person,' when referring to the victim of a homicide, means a human being who had been born and was alive at the time of the homicidal act," the judge said.

Disingenuous, n’est-ce pas? Because you don’t want to come right out and say, “We’re going to treat ob/gyns and women who seek to responsibly and safely terminate their pregnancies like we treat hitmen and the people who hire them.” The practical effect – and intended outcome – of this constitutional amendment is to lock up doctors and women. And if you ask me, when you spell that out to people, there’s no way in hell something this batshit insane gets approved.


dr said...

What does the ballot initiative actually say?

As far as the supposed problem goes, I seem to recall that Kansas has (and has had for decades) a law that treats the fetus as a person for the purposes of the homicide statute, but that doesn't make abortion illegal there.

wobblie said...

The text of the ballot initiative can be found here, and here's the nub of the text: "Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Colorado: SECTION 1. Article II of the constitution of the state of Colorado is amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION to read: Section 31. Person defined. 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."

So essentially, the measure would confer legal rights from the moment the little spermy hooks up with the little eggy. I don't think you can read the text any other way than as one that would outlaw abortion. It would even ban emergency contraceptives like the morning after pill, which prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Nevermind the scientific ambiguities around when, exactly, actual fertilization takes place.

That said, I do think there's a compelling state interest in protecting pregnant mothers and their unborn offspring, but I don't think conferring legal rights to fetuses is the means to accomplish it, as it does provide a slippery slope down which the pro-forced birth crowd can call for increased restrictions on abortion and other forms of birth control. I think a more sane tactic for prosecuting "fetal homicide" is to recognize the special legal status of expectant mothers, with varying degrees of penalties for criminal acts perpetuated against women which result in the involuntary terminations of their pregnancies.

As is, though, and I think it's completely evident in the text of the ballot measure, proponents of this amendment are using a legitimate state interest to attempt to push through language that is so broad that it can only be interpreted as restricting the rights of women to control their fertility. And like I said, they're not exactly shy about broadcasting their ultimate goal.

wobblie said...

I should amend that comment - there's no scientific ambiguity surrounding when fertilization takes place in a technical sense, but the practical aspect of when that actually occurs within an individual woman is obviously a little difficult to figure out.

dr said...

Hmmm. Before I nerd off, allow me to apologize for the remainder of this comment.

In the world of philosophical ethics, at least, it's controversial whether a fertilized ovum is a human being. Which is to say that the sentence contains two criteria for personhood (human being and fertilization) but only provides defines the satisfaction of one (fertilization) and so doesn't actually resolve the question that it purports to address.

Also, the grammar of the sentence seems to imply that the human being existed prior to fertilization and that it was fertilization which transubstantiated the human being into a person. That's what we call 'an odd view' in the business.

wobblie said...

Yeah, something tells me that the authors of this bill have degrees from Regents U. or some other fourth-rate diploma mill.