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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Wombs to Let

posted by on June 4 at 9:53 AM

A state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in California—and forcibly divorce thousands of gay and lesbian couples that will have married between June 17 and November—isn’t the only problematic constitutional amendment being placed before voters this fall. Colorado voters are being asked to approve a constitutional amendment that will make a fertilized egg—not an implanted egg, just a fertilized egg—a “person” under the law. From the Denver Post:

A proposed amendment to the Colorado state constitution that would define a human egg as a “person” from the moment of fertilization would go far beyond its intended purpose of outlawing practically all abortions.

Philosophers may debate when human life begins, but scientists are unanimous on the subject of when pregnancy begins: it’s when a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus. But the proposed Amendment 48 specifies that the egg be considered a “person” in the eyes of the law even before it is implanted in the uterus. That means, effectively, that those forms of birth control that prevent such implantation would be classified as homicide under the proposal.

Even without the use of drugs, many eggs just naturally fail to implant in the uterus. Likewise, many eggs are implanted only to result in a miscarriage in the early days or weeks of pregnancy — often before the woman is even aware she is pregnant. Should a woman who suffers a miscarriage be charged with negligent homicide because she failed to protect a fertilized egg she may not have even known she carried? Should a man who fertilized an egg be entitled to file a civil lawsuit against a woman who miscarries, charging her with the wrongful death of his week-old fertilized egg?

Hm. If a fertilized egg—even one that hasn’t gotten around to implanting itself yet (negligence!)—is a person, with all the legal rights and, presumably, responsibilities of personhood, perhaps our response to the latest effort by the religious right to seize control of women’s reproductive organs should be this: A fertilized egg is a person? Great, then women who don’t want their uteruses inhabited by these microscopic fertilized egg persons should be able to have them evicted. If eviction isn’t possible—because these microscopic fertilized egg persons would presumably perish in the process (just like some fully grown evictees, but whatever)—then women should be able to at the very least charge these egg persons rent.

So let the state of Colorado declare fertilized eggs to be persons—but let’s be fair, folks. A woman’s a person too, with certain legal rights. And just like I couldn’t squat in some woman’s apartment rent-free, a microscopic fertilized egg person shouldn’t be allowed to squat in a woman’s uterus for free either. So it seems to me that any woman whose uterus is being occupied by an egg person should, at the very least, qualify for federal Section 8 Housing Subsidies.

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I am waiting for an amendment stating that even an unfertilized egg or sperm is half of a person and must be protected under the law. Every single egg and sperm could be a potential voter!!!

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | June 4, 2008 10:04 AM

You should just delete this post.

Posted by w7ngman | June 4, 2008 10:07 AM

Um, you can't evict your minor children or charge them rent. Your argument is ridiculous. This is a bad, bad, bad law, and presumably will be overturned eventually, but in the meantime -- shudder.

Posted by Fnarf | June 4, 2008 10:11 AM

Oh heck, CtYY, there are probably nutballs out there who still believe in Thomas Aquinas' notion that each sperm contains a teeny-tiny little human being (homunculus) already fully-formed and just waiting to bash into that egg (which, in his theory merely provides the raw material to allow this microscopic human to grow into a fetus) and get things going, gestation-wise.

So, while Dan's "proposal" may be intended as tongue-in-cheek, I'm sure there are some who would definitely take up this offer, as for example, by charging the father child-support for the time the fertilized egg stays in the womb.

Which, in and of itself, should be sufficient to make most of the males in CO want to vote against this amendment.

Posted by COMTE | June 4, 2008 10:13 AM

Miscarriages are a crime against humanity!! =P

Posted by Cato | June 4, 2008 10:16 AM

#2 -- if you didn't find that last paragraph delightful, w7ngy, you should considering finding another blog to occupy your time. There are lots.

Posted by Nat | June 4, 2008 10:20 AM

Is there any indication of how much support this proposed amendment has? The article didn't say anything about that, but I'm curious to know.

Posted by Hernandez | June 4, 2008 10:33 AM

#6, it's alright. I normally just ignore Dan.

If Dan wasn't trying to make some kind of argument with this post, what exactly is was the point? Poking fun at similarly ridiculous pro-choice arguments? Ok.

Posted by w7ngman | June 4, 2008 10:42 AM

Hernandez, it has pretty close to a zero percent chance of passing. Don't get your panties in a twist.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | June 4, 2008 11:01 AM

@7 - The Colorado Independent has more and better coverage of this than the Post. Check it out.

From what I've read, it's basically the crazies from Colorado Springs versus everybody else in the state. And I certainly won't be voting for it in November.

Posted by Sweeney Agonistes | June 4, 2008 11:04 AM

"And just like I couldn’t squat in some woman’s apartment rent-free"

You've never been a landlord and tried to evict someone have you?

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | June 4, 2008 11:12 AM


Apparently, neither have you.

Posted by keshmeshi | June 4, 2008 11:22 AM

If this passes Fertility clinics in Colorado are going to be in big trouble. When in vitro fertilization is performed there are usually multiple eggs involved. the most robust are chosen for implantation and the others are stored as back-ups. these back-ups are usually kept frozen for as long as needed and then destroyed or donated for research. Under this law the back-ups would have to be maintained at the clients' cost, presumably forever. It is conceivable that the owners of these zygotes would have to establish a fund to sustain them in perpetuity. Even living children don't have that protection, they can be cut loose at 18.

Posted by inkweary | June 4, 2008 11:22 AM

Colorado is going to get a boatload more electoral votes after this passes. Will the fertilized eggs have to get a Social Security Number so their parents can declare them on their income tax? It's time to start amending the census forms. Will fire marshals have to hand out pregnancy tests at the door of clubs to ensure the capacity of the room isn't exceeded? The possibilities for fun are endless.

Posted by Smade | June 4, 2008 11:31 AM

You can't undo marriages if they engaged in legal contracts with persons or businesses in other states and in Mexico and Canada, under NAFTA.

Silly Red Bushies, gay marriage is here - and thanks to NAFTA, it's the law of the land.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 4, 2008 11:35 AM

Will, what the fuck are you talking about? (Or maybe I'm better off not knowing.)

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | June 4, 2008 11:48 AM

@16, duh. Logical progression: gay marriage leads to dog-on-man marriage, and with the addition of fetus=human, leads to gay fetus marriage. Will's just being a forward thinker here, anticipating the fascinating moral qualms of the next political generation.

Posted by dbell | June 4, 2008 12:21 PM

Well then, I think my sperm should get some delegates - like Puerto Rico does.

Posted by Dougsf | June 4, 2008 1:01 PM

"A woman's a person." Dan, where do you get this stuff?

Posted by Jim | June 4, 2008 2:07 PM

Remember when a Pennsylvania legislator blocked an anti-gay marriage amendment by attaching a law to make divorce illegal? Well, I always believed that the way to stop the religionists anti-freedom zealots was to attache provisions that make a woman who aborts a fetus guilty of first degree murder. That would stop them in their tracks!

Posted by Vince | June 4, 2008 2:46 PM

My point is the contract exists after the marriage is dissolved, especially if they:

a. bought a house
b. set up a living trust
c. adopted

Or did any of a number of other things.

As NYC realized when the couple married in Canada threatened to sue under NAFTA. They had a marriage and they had rights, and NYC is part of the USA which signed an international treaty that granted those contractual obligations by marriage throughout North America.

Gay marriage is coming and you can't stop it. Not due to states, but due to provinces.

(pause so lawyers used to constitutional law and the powers of international treaties can weigh in here)

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 4, 2008 2:56 PM

So...Catholics who use the rhythm method would be guilty of mass murder? Could they get the death penalty for that?

Posted by Kat | June 4, 2008 3:04 PM

Wow. A use for NAFTA.

Posted by KFW | June 4, 2008 3:09 PM

So, is this fertilized egg going to pay taxes? No? Then it's not a fucking person.

Do kids pay taxes? No, they don't. And that's why they're "minors".

However, this law doesn't go far enough. They should make a law that makes every single sperm a legal person. That way I could claim about a bazillion dependants.

Posted by uh oh | June 4, 2008 3:41 PM
Should a woman who suffers a miscarriage be charged with negligent homicide because she failed to protect a fertilized egg she may not have even known she carried? Should a man who fertilized an egg be entitled to file a civil lawsuit against a woman who miscarries, charging her with the wrongful death of his week-old fertilized egg?

The idea that a miscarriage is negligent homicide is absurd. As if you would charge the parents if their child died of SIDS.

And you'd charge the kid rent? As if it's legal to charge your own children rent after they've left the womb.

I understand such remarks could only possibly be facetious, but a decent intellectual argument would be nice.

Posted by Mr. Joshua | June 4, 2008 3:44 PM

@25: A decent intellectual argument would require a reasonable premise from the other side.

Posted by Greg | June 4, 2008 4:11 PM

umm,if fertilized eggs are people, then aren't fertility clinics guilty of unlawfull imprisonment?

Posted by John | June 4, 2008 5:28 PM

#25 - no, it's not actually that absurd. Women HAVE been convicted of manslaughter, at least, for miscarriages.

Posted by Lauren | June 4, 2008 5:42 PM

Even if we couldn't be convicted of manslaughter for miscarrying, wouldn't women be required to report the "death?" That'd be just great.

Also, if this passes, I guess all pregnant women will have to start paying for their bellies' movie tickets, and they won't be allowed in 21+ venues. Can't bring that baby in here, ma'am.

Posted by StotheL | June 4, 2008 8:10 PM

I would love to ask "pro-lifers" the following: a fire breaks out in a fertility clinic and you're rushing to get out when you see a one-year old infant sitting next to a case full of fertilized eggs. You can only carry one of the two ... which do you choose? The hundreds of "people" in the case or the one *actual person* in the room?

Posted by Zil | June 5, 2008 8:41 AM

Reasonable premise? How about infanticide is pretty freakin' immoral. The question is simply at what point is it infanticide and at what point it isn't. So, both sides are arguing on roughly equal ground. One side says head-breaching womb changes a fetus into baby. The other side says sperm + egg equals baby. Either point can be equally criticized by the "it's not that different, why is it suddenly a person" argument. Essentially, it creates pretty unshakeable moral ambiguity, and I'm pretty sure tie goes to anti-infanticide (in any sane morality).

I'm pretty sure you don't really need anything more to have a sound pro-life argument. Unless you are pro-infanticide, of course.

That's why the pro-choice argument essentially boils down to, not "it's not infanticide" but, essentially, given the ambiguity it should be up to individuals to decide. Which, in effect, isn't really a great argument. Imagine two teams, team one believing fetus=baby and team two disagreeing. If abortion is legal, team two has greater freedom (we assume team one won't take it). Team one is morally outraged and prohibited from interfering with their neighbors infanticide. If abortion is prohibited, team two's freedom is eliminated. And that's freedom in two senses, both to end the pregnancy and the limitations imposed by having a kid and either putting it up for adoption or caring for it yourself.

In the end, what carries more weight? The (potential) death of a child, or the freedom's of women (and men) with unwanted pregnancies?

[Re: Adoption: You think gay couples enjoying their new freedom would appreciate women who carrying to term and give their baby up].

I feel like that is not an illegitimate argument. Pro-choice people aren't just concerned about whether or not babies have fingernails in the womb.

Posted by Mr. Joshua | June 5, 2008 12:45 PM

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