Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Amendment 48 Goes Too Far

By Patricia Schroeder

My very first job after graduating from Harvard Law School was as a part-time lawyer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains in Denver. I was working on cases related to expanding access to birth control to all couples regardless of their marital status. At the time the birth control pill was recently approved as safe, but it was not yet legal in all states for all women. The Supreme Court in 1965 established basic privacy rights to birth control, but only for women who could produce a marriage license.

Fast forward to 2008, 40 years later. In my worst nightmare, it never crossed my mind that voters in Colorado would be considering a constitutional amendment that could outlaw birth control pills. Emergency contraceptives could also be illegal under Proposition 48, a form of birth control that if taken up to 72 hours after intercourse can prevent an unwanted pregnancy, especially used by rape and incest victims.

If you need more reasons to Vote No on 48, chances are you or your own family will be affected if this crazy proposal passes. Like thousands of living women in Colorado in the 1970’s, I struggled with difficult pregnancies. I lost twins during my second pregnancy and almost died during childbirth. It was a painful time for my family, as it is for all families. I can only imagine how devastating it would have been if government officials had shown up on my doorstep, asking questions about what had happened, was it really a miscarriage? Yet, couples could face that kind of unthinkable government investigation if Colorado voters allow Amendment 48 to pass.

If you don’t believe it could happen, just take a look at the plain language of the Amendment. It would amend the Colorado constitution to grant, for the first time, inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law to fertilized eggs. Even the proponents of the Amendment admit they don’t know all the possible ramifications.

Would couples struggling to get pregnant be allowed to use in vitro fertilization, which depends on fertilizing more eggs than a woman can carry to term? Would common birth control methods, such as the Pill, IUDs, the Patch, and the Ring, be outlawed because they operate by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus?

Could child welfare agencies be called to investigate abuse of a fertilized egg? Would a fertilized egg have standing to sue a for getting chemotherapy for cancer because it might be harmed? Amendment 48 would open more than 20,000 statutes and regulations to re-interpretation by the courts and lawyers. Almost every area of the law would be affected, including criminal law, family law, trusts and estates, elder law, tort law, juvenile law, health law, and business law.

In this presidential election year, Coloradans will decide one of the most competitive senate races in the country, several strongly contested congressional races, and as many as a dozen statewide ballot initiatives. There are a large number of questions on the ballot this fall, and many of the issues are complicated. But it doesn’t take a constitutional scholar, a medical ethicist or a genius to see that Amendment 48 is ridiculous. Coloradans have rejected these extreme positions before and must do so again.

Amendment 48 is not a homegrown initiative. National groups such as The American Life League, Lifeguard, and the Thomas More Law Center are carrying out a multi-state strategy with the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v. Wade. In addition to Colorado, they tried to get similar amendments on the ballot in Georgia, Montana, and Oregon, but failed. These outside groups are hoping, in Colorado, that the Amendment will sneak through the clutter of a crowed ballot. They are counting on you to be distracted and not to focus on the full implications of Amendment 48.

Well, they are forgetting that Coloradans are independent thinkers. Coloradans believe that they and their neighbors should have the ability to plan when they want to start a family, decide when they are ready to become parents, and make other important life decisions. By establishing constitutional rights from the moment of fertilization, Amendment 48 would eliminate a woman’s right to make personal, private decisions about her own health care, in consultation with her doctor and her family.

Years ago, when I was asked how I could be both a mother and a Congresswoman, I replied, “I have a brain and a uterus and I use both.” On November 4, I urge Coloradans to use their brains and protect women’s uteruses. Vote no on Amendment 48.
Schroeder represented Colorado’s First Congressional District from 1973 to 1996.
Copyright (C) 2008 by the American Forum. 10/08