July 23rd, 2008


I read this in the local paper and saw red. Although I'm in Ohio if such an amendment passes I see my state following suit. I have an IUD. I'd much rather have sterilization but I'm lucky to have anything. Guess I need to start counting my blessings.

Tom Teepen: Human Life Amendment making ballot debut

For an example of just how lucky we are that our Founding Fathers left us a representative democracy rather than too much of good thing, contemplate, please, the Human Life Amendment.

It will be on Colorado's ballots this fall and, if passed, would establish that life begins, bingo, the instant sperm lights up an egg. The resulting zygote would be endowed with all the legal rights held by other Americans.

Anti-abortion absolutists have been unable to get at abortion head on. This is yet another of the various backdoor routes by which they have been trying to re-criminalize abortion ever since it was legalized more than a generation ago.

This particular dodge has been floating around in the background for years, rejected as unrealistic or too extreme even by some anti-abortion notables. The Colorado initiative, pushed by Colorado Right to Life, is the proposition's ballot debut.

The question of just when life begins has been a conundrum since deepest antiquity. The folk answer has been at the quickening, when the fetus becomes rambunctious enough to make its presence known.

There will be immediate consequences if the proposition is enacted. The morning-after pill and IUDs for birth control, for instance, would become contraband, but further, the explosion of lawsuits would be atomic.

Could a pregnant woman be charged with child endangerment or child abuse if she is spotted smoking or having a drink? Must she be denied any medical procedure that she might come to need if it could potentially harm the fetus?

Women or girls who have an illegal abortion would be charged with murder and, inasmuch as the act would incontestably have been premeditated, could be executed.

Presumably in vitro fertilization would end either because the surplus embryos it produces are typically discarded or the extras would have to be stored for eternity, frozen but ready to rumble, a prohibitive prospect. The loss would be borne by couples unable to conceive on their own.

The Colorado initiative is a long shot and even if adopted wouldn't pass constitutional muster in the current, conservative Supreme Court. The prospect has a scary relevance even so.

For should such proposition ever pass and if John McCain is elected president, the constitutional test likely would be held before a Supreme Court driven farther right by the hard-bitten conservatives he has promised to put there when he gets the chance.

Success in Colorado would open the floodgates to similar pushes in other states. Efforts are already under way in Montana, Oregon and Georgia.

Big issues hang on the presidential election this year — how we will conduct ourselves in the world, whether we will work toward universal health coverage, how we are to reorder an economy badly disordered.

Abortion is a settled matter so far as most Americans go. Colorado's initiative is one in a pestilence of distracting side issues whose irreconcilable constituencies keep voters swatting away, distracted, at the cost of attention to issues that, serious for years, have become from their neglect grave now.