Fertile women need not apply

Religious ideas can have cruel consequences. Look what genital mutilation has done to generations of male Jews and to thousands of young girls sexually mutilated to satisfy tribal “morality.” If the religiously motivated Amendment 48 passes, one of its consequences will be the economic mutilation of many Colorado women.

The simple-sounding proposal — that the fertilized egg will be legally considered a “person” in those provisions of the Colorado Constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice and due process of law — has a multitude of far-reaching implications. All of them are bad for women, and some could be bad for businesses, as well.

First, this amendment would ban all abortions, overriding the common-sense guidelines of Roe v. Wade. This could create a death sentence for those women unlucky enough to have ectopic pregnancies or other life-threatening conditions, and it could mean lifetime impairment for many with serious health conditions.

Next, it would ban the most effective contraceptives. The pill, the patch, the NuvaRing, IUDs, Depo-Provera, Implanon and Plan B would all become illegal, because any contraceptive that might inhibit the natural development of a fertilized egg-person would violate its right to life. Deprived of the means to control the size of their families, many women would be unable to work outside the home, suffering economic deprivation.

And of course passage of Amendment 48 would prevent any development of embryonic stem cell research in Colorado, even with private money. It might even prohibit residents from seeking treatment outside the state. (In 2003 the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 534, making it illegal for American patients to return home if they had received treatment using therapeutic cloning research abroad.)

These dire results can all be predicted based on the concept of a fertilized egg’s being declared a legal “person.” Beyond those, however, lies a vast area of dreadful possibilities. Thousands of laws would have to be reviewed and resolved by the lawyers, politicians and the courts to determine what liability employers would incur. Suppose a pregnant woman suffers an accident on the job and miscarries, could the employer be held responsible for the death of the fetus-person? The courts might require a large disability payment to compensate the woman for her loss or, even worse, sentence that employer to prison for negligent homicide!

No employer could afford to take that risk. The only women it would be safe to hire would be those who could prove they were medically unable to become pregnant. Privacy concerns would need to be waived to be hired, while fertile women would go largely unemployed. (Even if overtly prohibited, such discrimination would be covertly practiced!)

Similar questions would apply to cases of other accidents happening to insured participants, such as those involving cars, motorcycles and planes. With so many legal ramifications of the amendment still unknown, the only certainty we have is that this amendment would be good for the trial lawyers!

Incorporating the idea of fetal personhood into our state constitution creates too many unknowns. Its immediate effect, however, would be to challenge women’s autonomy over their own bodies, making them second-class citizens with the status of their personhood subject to the judgment of the courts. Such a concept is reminiscent of the Middle Ages and has no place in today’s world.

Janet Brazill is a retired computer systems analyst, now engaged in social and political activism. She lives in Colorado Springs.

Editor’s note: For more on the proponents who are pushing Amendment 4, check out Wendy Norris’ recent two-part series: Colorado personhood law backer to militant anti-abortion groups Part 1: Shedding light on Amendment 48’s true intent and Fanning the radical anti-abortion flames in Colorado.

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