Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Things To Do In Denver When You're Diploid

In all the hullabaloo about the presidential election I'd almost forgotten about the potentially far-reaching "personhood" ballot initiative that Colorado voters found themselves voting on yesterday. Basically it was an initiative put on the ballot by anti-abortion activists that asked Colorado voters to define the beginning of "personhood", which is to say the point at which zygote is conferred full Constitutional rights, at the very moment of fertilization. This would, naturally, render abortion illegal. Proponents of the measure were hoping that it would be passed, then come under legal challenges that would ultimately bring the issue to the Supreme Court and force a reconsideration of Roe vs. Wade.

No one I know actually belongs to the mythical "abortionist" camp that folks on the Right seem to think exists - You know, people that are dead set on abortion as the primary means of birth control or want to use abortion as a means of getting a child of the proper sex, etc. I rather suspect that nobody actually subscribes to this chimeric abortionist bogeyman philosophy that the anti-abortion crowd has dreamed up. Because of my work with people who often have terrible congenital disabilities and other birth defects I've developed a rather complicated and (I like to think) nuanced position on abortion, but overall I favor keeping it legal and minimizing the intrusion of the government into one of the most personal decisions a prospective mother faces. In general, I wouldn't want one of my children to be faced with a quality of life that I wouldn't want for myself, but I'm more than willing to concede that my position is debatable and is difficult to adapt to a universally applicable principle.

That being said, the Colorado "personhood" initiative was drivel of the purest form. By defining "personhood" as the very moment of fertilization, not only would the anti-abortionists have gotten their way on the abortion issue, but they would've criminalized numerous other practices, such as disposing of the unused zygotes created for in vitro fertilization procedures. What of women suffering from ectopic pregnancies (A pregnancy in which the zyogote has implanted in on of the fallopian tubes rather than the uteran wall)? Would defining any zygote as a "person", presumably meaning that it has a full compliment of rights putting it on equal legal footing with the mother, criminalize the abortive procedure that would terminate the pregnancy and save the mother's life? Would zygotes, as full an equal citizens, be counted in the census? Since census data is used to determine the number of electoral votes each state gets, would we see the beginning of a voting bloc of zygotes? The possibilities are mind-boggling...and uniformly daft.

Luckily the people of Colorado saw through the hokum and voted down this myopic ballot initiative. There's legitimate room for debate on the issue of abortion, but assigning full Constitutional rights to a single undifferentiated diploid cell is, plainly put, simply an asinine idea.

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