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, here’s one: chances are
you or your own family will be affected if this crazy proposal passes. Like
thousands of living women in Colorado in the 1970s, 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
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 anti-choicers maintain that 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 woman
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