In Colorado, a state that seemingly cannot make up its mind whether to lean left or right, the stage has been set for a new round of debate over the question of when life begins and who gets to decide – just in time for the 2008 elections.
With the certainty and self-acknowledgement that God is firmly on their side, Colorado anti-abortion activists are tacitly citing divine intervention now that the Colorado Supreme Court has voted unanimously to allow them to begin collecting the signatures needed to bring forward a ballot initiative that would grant the status of legal personhood to the unborn even if the unborn are fertilized eggs.
A group called Colorado for Equal Rights (CER) is seeking to pass an amendment expanding the definition of "person" in three parts of the Colorado Constitution. The new definition will define "person" to mean a human being from the moment of fertilization. Kristi Burton, 20, a spokeswoman for Colorado for Equal Rights who is helping to lead the effort, predicted there will be enough support.
"It has a really good chance (of becoming law)" she said. "What we're doing is defining life, at the moment of fertilization, that is a human being, that is a person. Our whole goal is to protect human life in general, at whatever age. More than anything," she admitted, "we have God on our side".
At whatever age? What about pre-fertilization life? Are sperm so easily and callously excluded from the debate? Is felony masturbation on the horizon?Kathryn Wittenben, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado thinks the CER proposal is less than candid at best. "Proponents of this initiative have publicly stated that the goal is to make all abortion illegal, but nothing in the language of the initiative or its title even mentions abortion. If that's not misleading, I don't know what is." She is not alone in her concerns.
Deputy Director of NARAL, Toni Panetta, raises additional questions saying that that state courts could be swamped by suits claiming specific rights for a fertilized egg that the broad language of the ballot measure did not clarify.
"All fertilized eggs could use the courts, and that lays the foundation for a potential onslaught," she said. She said the language would open up challenges to birth control, including oral contraception and intrauterine devices, which make the uterine wall inhospitable to the developing egg.
Felony contraception? Will fertilized eggs file be able to seek damages for inhospitable environments? What about non-egg life?
Matt Sugar, Communications Director for the Colorado Democratic Party, offered other possible motives as to the timing of the ballot measure suggesting that the measure was perhaps aimed at highlighting divisions over abortion in Colorado at a time when much attention will be focused here. But he said he thought it could play into the United States Senate race even more than the convention in August, by forcing candidates to talk about the subject. Senator Wayne Allard, a Republican, is not seeking re-election.
The subject of when life begins is a sticky one. (Sorry). With God remaining typically silent on the issue and humans left to grapple with the conjuring of earthly definitions, the questions posed by the Colorado ballot measure are sure to be many. Perhaps science will one day make it possible for the voice of the egg to be heard above the din.