Amendment 48: An Absurd Lack of Empathy

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 in Pamela White’s two-part series on the Colorado personhood amendment, coming to the ballot this November.  Read the first installment,
Amendment 48: Constitution and Consequences, here.

Although it’s hard to imagine the American public, even
anti-abortion extremists, tolerating the medical neglect of women in the name
of protecting life, there are those in the United States who would use the
force of law to ensure that women give birth to badly deformed, doomed babies
rather than aborting them.

Dr. Andrew Toledo, an OB/GYN and reproductive endocrinologist who practices in Georgia,
listened to such people testify in a subcommittee hearing regarding a
referendum that anti-abortion extremists hoped to get onto his state’s ballot.
The referendum, which did not get on the ballot in Georgia,
is like Amendment
in Colorado,
giving the same rights human beings have to eggs at the moment of
VIDEO: Life & FertilizationVIDEO: Life & Fertilization

"There were countless couples who got up and told their story about how they
had to have an abortion because of a child that was anacephalic
or deformed in some terrible way," Toledo
says. "It didn’t move these people at all. They didn’t care. They just didn’t
care. It didn’t matter if the woman was raped. It didn’t matter if it was
incest. It didn’t matter if the girl was under age."

For Toledo, who
helps couples facing infertility problems to have the children they so
desperately want, this lack of compassion was chilling.

"If the child is not going to survive, it’s bad enough that the woman’s having
to carry this inside of her," he says. "Knowing what women go through to have
this wonderful event occur only to be told that you’ve got a child that’s not
going to survive birth, and then to think that you have to carry that child, go
through the pain of the delivery process and then watch it die…"

Such an experience would be devastating for most women, he says, adding that he
fully supports any woman who wants to carry a nonviable fetus to term, if
that’s her choice.

In addition to listening to the testimony of others, Toledo
spoke before the subcommittee about the possible impact of Georgia’s
proposed referendum on women’s health and on couples undergoing in vitro
fertilization (IVF) for infertility.

"Where do you start?" he asks. "First of all any form of [hormonal] contraception
would be considered criminal. The family-planning person would be considered a
criminal because you are killing potentially a person because the embryo is not
being allowed to implant. There are so many aspects of this that are just

A father of three, Toledo
says he believes life is sacred, and he also believes that the health and lives
of women need to come first. Laws such as Amendment 48 trivialize women, in his

"What they’re asking people to do is pass laws saying that these fertilized
eggs are equal to a woman in every way," he says. "Here’s the key element that
they’re forgetting from my perspective: Hey, those embryos still need a uterus.
No uterus, no baby."

As an IVF specialist, he wonders how Amendment 48 would impact IVF clinics in Colorado.

"You have to deal with those little embryos in the deep freeze if you’re an in
vitro fertilization center. What do you do with them if the couple doesn’t want
to use them?" he asks. "Are you going to assign them to the state? Are you
going to give them up for adoption and therefore the couple loses their rights
to utilize them or dispose of them in whatever way they want?"

He says he sees couples agonize over what to do with their embryos, doing their
best to make the right decision. Most keep them for later use.  Others donate them to other infertile couples
who can’t afford the full in-vitro process. Still others donate them to
research. And some have them destroyed.

"Those are decisions that are very difficult to make but should be made by the
couple, not by the government," he says. "When the government gets involved in
those decisions, we are stepping into a huge mess."

Of course, some of the implications of Amendment 48 are absurd. If a fertilized
egg is a person, how should society respond to the millions of "persons" who
fail to implant inside the uterus and go unnoticed as part of women’s menstrual
flow? Is every menstrual period a reason to mourn?

"I have 10,000 frozen embryos in my lab," Toledo
says. "I told the subcommittee that, according to the referendum, that would
constitute a small city. I asked if my small city gets voting rights. If I put
them in my car, do I get to ride in the HOV lane? There are so many offshoots
of this that are so illogical. It’s just insane."

This post is excerpted from a longer story by the same
author for the Boulder

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  • invalid-0

    You are right, there is a lack of empathy on the other side for women and their rights, health, etc. I have tried to change minds with my own story and it is met with nothing but cold, blankless, heartless stares. Not to mention the name calling and the general insane ravings after I tell these people. Which is something my husband and I don’t get but this morning I read an article on another blog written by a worker at a women’s health clinic who summed it up nice about how these people don’t care cause they view themselves as “warriors of god.” It helped me to not really understand them but see why they are the way they are. I won’t ever understand it cause I am not a diehard christian but I guess if you view everything in life as a battle between good vs evil, you are taught to think that there is no reasoning with the other side. This in some cases I have seen play out with other issues the us vs. them mentality. My husband and I have gotten into debates where we both surmised that what is needed is for people to think simply put. But there in lies the problem, as Amanda has stated on her own blog, critical thinking and education is not something these people want for if people start thinking they might wonder why they are these warriors for something that may not even exist or exist in a different form or so and so on. But to sum up yes there is a general apathy for women on the other side. It’s sad but true. It reminds me once of a bumper sticker I saw that said something like “I like your Christ but not his followers.” I am sure I am butchering it but everyone most likely gets my point. What can we do to counter the other side? All I know is I am but one person with a story of how abortion saved my life but if we all come together and keep fighting I believe and have to believe we will counter the other side. Peace, Liz.

  • invalid-0

    I would like everyone who reads this article to truthfully ask themselves this question. At what exact second does human life start? Is it five minutes after fertilization? Five minutes before the baby is born? When? Next, if I am not 100% sure beyond a shadow of a doubt, would I kill that life? You would probably error on the side of life.
    Think about it like this… If you saw a person laying on the floor and didn’t know if they were dead or simply asleep, would you shoot them? No. (Now even if you did, you would be sick, but not a murderer). Point is if you are not sure, you should not kill the life.

    And yes it is a life. At the point of fertilization, the only thing that life needs is time. Some people make the argument that it is not a life until it can survive outside of the womb on its own. Here is why that is a bad argument. If surviving on its own outside of the womb is the definition of life, then life probably doesn’t start until about 15 years old. Have you ever tried leaving a one year old to survive on its own outside the womb??? Didn’t think so.

  • invalid-0

    The questions of when “life” begins is irrelevant to Amendment 48. The question is when a new *person* comes into existence.


    The common claim that ‘life begins at conception’ cannot justify Amendment 48. The fact that something is human and alive does not make it a person. Every cell in our body is both human and alive, yet we don’t worry about giving blood for testing or scraping off a few skin cells in a fall. A fertilized egg is distinctive because, in addition to being alive and human, it might develop into a born baby given the right conditions. What supporters of Amendment 48 cannot show, however, is that a potential baby has the moral status of an actual baby. The difference between them is enormous.

    An embryo or fetus is wholly dependent on the woman for its basic life-functions. It goes where she goes, eats what she eats, and breathes what she breathes. It lives as an extension of her body, contained within and dependent on her for its survival. It is only a potential person, not an actual person. That situation changes radically at birth. The newborn baby exists as a distinct organism, separate from his mother. Although still very needy, he lives his own life. He is a person — and individual. His life must be protected as a matter of right.

    Consequently, when a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy she does not violate the rights of any person. Instead, she is exercising her own rights over her own body — likely in pursuit of her own health, well-being, and happiness. Amendment 48 would destroy those rights in Colorado.


    For more, see “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person” by Ari Armstrong and myself. It’s available at:

    Diana Hsieh
    Founder, Coalition for Secular Government

  • invalid-0

    Yes the unborn are more dependent than the unborn, but so what? Why does a human being’s degree of dependency change their value? Could a mother withhold breast milk from her infant even if no one else is available to care for the child? You may reply that newborns are at a sufficient level of dependency to deserve rights but that’s just your opinion. Why should you have the right to force hat opinion on other people? Why not give equal rights to all biological human beings (which the unborn are).

    Also, the tone of these arguments claiming that the unborn are so dependent they lack rights sounds very tyrannical. Should the unborn even have the right not to be poisoned with drugs or alcohol that can cause severe deformities? Or is it wrong to hurt the unborn but not kill them? The idea of “doing whatever I want with my body without consequences” leads to absurdities. I hear a lot of lip service paid to the idea of “respecting potential life” on this blog, but see very little concrete evidence of what that actually means in real life.

  • invalid-0

    The logical conclusion of your argument is that any woman who does anything that might increase her chances of miscarriage is a murderer. Stress, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, excessive exercise, rapid weight loss or gain, certain medications and so on and so forth can all increase the likelihood of miscarriage. Would you advocate imposing legal restrictions on the amount of exercise women may do, legally requiring women to maintain their weight within a certain range, forbidding women to consume any alcohol at all, ever, banning women from being in stressful situations (perhaps requiring a psychiatric evaluation every four weeks in order to monitor stress), banning women from taking certain medications, regardless of how much the woman may need them – and so on? If every fertilised egg is sacred and deserving of the exact same rights as women, then I presume you advocate all these measures.

    Of course, this would mean that all women of child-bearing age would have to be placed under strict surveillance and our lives would be severely restricted and probably not worth living, but if you care for fertilised eggs as much as you say you do, then you’re a hypocrite if you don’t support taking your argument to its logical conclusion. If you do support the laws I’m proposing, what sort of penalty would you propose for a woman who, say, exercised for longer than the legal system permitted? Or for an anorexic woman?

  • invalid-0

    Good on you Emma and Diane for pointing out the absolute absurd notions that this amendment would bring to the table!I have even heard of doctors concerned about how they would practice in Colorado if this passes. From Emma’s comment one can see how it would play out. I think this website and others have covered the whole prepregnant movement and how the requirements change it seems day to day on what pregnant women should do. If we hold these eggs to be more important than a woman well it is like Emma said every pregnancy will be state supervised. Or is that what you people want? See it is just like I said in my first comment, you can’t reason with these people.

  • invalid-0

    We’re not asking for much, just that people not be allowed to brutally and directly kill human embryos and human fetuses, just like we don’t allow the killing of human newborns or toddlers. We should treat the unborn like all other human beings. Here is an example, women who place their born babies in rooms with fans or in a particular position to sleep reduce their likely hood of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) greatly. Now government doesn’t snoop around in people’s homes making sure that fans are running or children get all of their vitamains. We operate under the principle that parents generally care for their children and that they should be left alone unless we have reason to believe that abuse is occurring.

    Likewise, there would be no need for invasive pregnancy searches and monitoring, or any of the other silly things you mentioned, unless harm was found. Shouldn’t we stop pregnant women from doing drugs like heroine? Or do you, like many people on this blog simply have no concern for the unborn at all? Will you put any limits on what pregnant women can do with their bodies to keep them from harming their children?

    On a sidenote, fertilized egg is a stupid term. Once a human egg is fertilized it ceases to be an egg and is now a human embryo (early developing human being). That would be like saying a newborn infant is a “born fetus.”

  • invalid-0

    I care far more about sentient pregnant women than I do about a fertilised egg/zygote/embryo/foetus. Are you like some pro-lifers, who think pregnant women’s lives should be subordinated to their foetus’ life? Would you advocate laws that would require a woman to sacrifice her life to her foetus? (Of course, you will never be in such a situation yourself, so it’s all very easy for you to say that other people should sacrifice their lives.)

    In answer to your question, my attitude isn’t ‘yay, foetus killing for sport!’ I do not, however, feel a pathological degree of identification with foetuses (what is with that, anyway???), and I believe the rights of women outweigh the rights of ‘the unborn’. And since you raised the issue of terminology, why do you use terms such as ‘the unborn’ rather than medically accurate terms such as zygote, embryo, foetus and so on?

    And why do you call my suggestions ‘silly’? Many, many women miscarry before they even realise they’re pregnant. Why would you not want to do absolutely everything possible to save the lives of all the embryos of the world? If you’re in favour of banning various methods of contraception, why would you not want to do everything possible to minimise the chances of a woman miscarrying very early in pregnancy? The factors I mentioned previously – excessive exercise, rapid weight loss, etc etc may increase the chances of miscarriage before a woman realises she’s pregnant? If you’re happy with banning IUDs and BCPs, why would you not want to be even more thorough about ensuring the survival of every embryo?

  • invalid-0

    Here’s the thing. I don’t have the right to push my beliefs on you. But you don’t have that right either. You can believe that a fertilized egg is a person and give birth to children that you know will die. That’s your right if you’re ever presented with the choice. But, I have the right to not believe that, and to not give birth if I chose. This propasition would take away both our rights to choose.

  • invalid-0

    Again Emma…thanks. I’ve been posing the same questions regularly for years now…on debate boards where I am fairly well known, and not once has any pro-lifer responded. Not ever.

    The refusal of adherents to carry their anti-choice rhetoric to the logical conclusions reflects breathtaking intellectual dishonesty.

    Antichoicers insist the blastocyst/embryo/fetus is a human life entitled to equality under the law, but simultaneously refuse to examine, let alone acknowledge the logical and inevitable ramifications of their beliefs. Quite simply, extending equal protection of the law to fertilized ova cannot be accomplished without stripping women of equality under the law. It cannot be done.

  • invalid-0

    Likewise, there would be no need for invasive pregnancy searches and monitoring, or any of the other silly things you mentioned, unless harm was found.

    I train horses for a living, Derek…a high risk occupation. In a world of equal protection for the blastocyst-zygote-embryo-fetus, I am unwillingly pregnant, three months along, when a sassy little mare pitches me into the side of the barn. I’m okay, but I miscarry. Now pay attention here.

    By your lights Derek, what is the difference if I am riding with my 3 month old infant in a belly bag, get pitched, and my infant’s neck is broken?


    Your insistence that wildly restrictive laws on what women may and may not do, including employment choice…is simply nonsense.