On Election Day in November, voters in Colorado will be asked to clarify when human life begins.
According to the Washington Post, the Human Life Amendment, also known as the "personhood" amendment, states that the words "person" or "persons" in the state constitution should "include any human being from the moment of fertilization," thus providing fertilized eggs with the constitutional right to life enjoyed by all humans.
The mere presence of that question on the ballot could have a decisive effect on the outcome of the presidential election in Colorado by spurring pro-life voters to turn out in large enough numbers to help win a state for pro-life Republican John McCain that pro-abortion candidate Barack Obama is striving to win.
Moreover, the outcome of the vote, the first of its kind in the U.S., could have a ripple effect in other states where pro-life forces might be encouraged to adopt a similar ballot initiative.
According to Kristi Burton of Colorado for Equal Rights, a grass-roots anti-abortion organization, the purpose of the proposal is to provide a legal and legislative basis for protecting the unborn. Its passage would also open the door to modifying other laws for the same purpose, she told the Post, adding that it is not designed to outlaw abortion.
Leslie Hanks, vice president of Colorado Right to Life, told the Post, "The goal is to restore legal protection to preborn babies from the moment they are conceived, which is the only way we're going to stop abortion."
The proposal has outraged pro-abortion forces who insist that the amendment is aimed at outlawing abortion in Colorado and ultimately overturning Roe v. Wade by igniting a court battle that would bring the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court where pro-life forces hope a conservative majority would strike down the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
While the proposal seeks to settle the controversy over when human life begins from a political standpoint, medical science answered the question definitively years ago by declaring that human life begins at conception.
In 1981, a United States Senate judiciary subcommittee after receiving testimony from a collection of medical experts (Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, Report, 97th Congress, 1st Session) stated “Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being — a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.”
The report quoted professor Hymie Gordon of the Mayo Clinic: "After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being. [It] is no longer a matter of taste or opinion . . . it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception."
The Post noted that some pro-life groups are critical of the Colorado initiative. National Right to Life and Focus on the Family for example have not supported the initiative either.
Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of issues analysis at Focus on the Family, told the Post her organization supports efforts to ban abortion, but not the Colorado strategy. "In our view, you don't have to have a personhood amendment before the court to overturn Roe v. Wade. You just need the right court. So we are more interested in the makeup of the court than what particular challenge comes before the court," she said.
But the move won the support of one political heavyweight. In February then-Republican candidate Mike Huckabee said, "This proposed constitutional amendment will define a person as a human being from the moment life begins at conception.
"Colorado has an opportunity to send a clear message that every human life has value. Passing this amendment will mean the people of Colorado will protect the sanctity of life from conception until natural death occurs."
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