With the US election a few days away now, I started concentrating on some of the more controversial ballot measures. We don’t have ballot measures in Canada, so I find them bizarre to begin with from a democratic perspective, but this one in particular caught my eye as being very bizarre:
The Colorado ballot proposal attacks Roe v. Wade by a different route. Known as Amendment 48, this preposterous measure would redefine the term “person” in the state’s Constitution to include fertilized human eggs — in effect bestowing on fertilized eggs, prior to implantation in the womb and pregnancy, the same legal rights and protections that apply to people once they are born.
The amendment, which has split anti-abortion groups, carries broad implications, ranging from harmful to downright ridiculous. Potentially, it could ban widely used forms of contraception, curtail medical research involving embryos, criminalize necessary medical care and shutter fertility clinics. A damaged fertilized egg might be eligible for monetary damages.
More information about that Colorado initiative available here. NPR radio pointed out that if a fertilized egg were a “person”, pregnant women would be able to travel in highway commuter lanes. So the measure has bizarre results, and is evidently intended to provoke a constitutional challenge in the courts that could ultimately challenge Roe v. Wade. Fine — perhaps it’s not even intended to be coherent, but only to pass as a ballot measure on emotional grounds.
But imagine if it were to pass. NPR radio also pointed out in that report that
it would make it illegal to destroy unwanted frozen embryos. But query whether it would also make it illegal to freeze embryos, without a targeted exemption in the law. After all, the cryonics
people have wanted to freeze people before
they die in order to one day thaw them out and cure them, but have been relegated to freezing them immediately after
death because California courts have said that freezing a live person would be murder
. As a consequence, freezing embryos would be murder under law giving them constitutional rights.
And I’m not sure it could be easily resolved with an exemption for freezing embryos: after all, that exemption could be challenged on constitutional grounds. So if we’re willing to allow the freezing of embryos despite them having the legal status of “persons”, then do we need to accept the legality of the freezing of adults as well?
And is this the kind of issue people talked about before Edwards
in 1930, the Persons Case