Problems With Colorado's "Personhood" Amendment: The Phrase, "From the Moment of Fertilization"

Dianne N. Irving
copyright May 31, 2008
Reproduced with Permission

[Note: This article is copyrighted and thus must be acknowledged when using its original ideas and resources or quoting from it.]

According to a recent LifeSiteNews article (copied in full below), Americans finally have an "historic chance to defeat Roe v. Wade on the ballot in Colorado". The article continues with a fairly detailed account of the publicity surrounding Colorado's "personhood" Amendment 48, about to be voted on. The Amendment states that, ("the terms 'person' or 'persons' shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization")," and that now Colorado "has a chance to be the first to establish the personhood of the human being from conception" (assuming they equate "conception with "fertilization"). The prolife "legal strategy", apparently, is to respond to a "fundamental weakness in Roe" when Blackmun wrote the decision, i.e., that "If this suggestion of personhood [for the unborn] is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment."

As the article also notes, the "Catholic Church in Colorado declares neutrality" (at least). This writer would suggest that for once the bishops got it right, because Amendment 48 would only legalize "personhood" for some categories of unborn human beings, but hardly for all. The legal and moral consequences of that would indeed set precedents, moral and legal precedents that would instead extend ever further the evils and injustices of Roe in this technological age.

While many involved in this effort are surely well-intentioned, the legal exclusionary clause "from fertilization" (or "from conception") would in fact defeat the good intentions of Kristi Burton, spokeswoman for Colorado for Equal Rights, when she claimed in the LifeSiteNews article how "every life counts, every life is valuable. ... What is the unborn child? Are they people? And if so don't they deserve the same rights as the rest of us?" If this Amendment passes, Colorado will have to answer to the forfeited legal personhood of one of every two naturally occurring human monozygotic twins in vivo (reproduced and developed fully in the woman's body, even through 9 months). Colorado will also have to answer to the forfeited legal personhood of other asexually reproduced human beings in vitro (through 9 months), for example human clones and other genetically engineered human beings. Are these human beings not also human people? Don't they deserve the same rights as the rest of us? Even Roe vs Wade did not legally exclude all those innocent and even more vulnerable unborn human beings. Yet Colorado now stands on the brink of doing just that.

As I have expressed before (see Irving), the phrase "from conception/fertilization" is scientifically dead wrong, and especially dangerous if used exclusionarily in any legal documents. Why? Because as all parties fully know and understand by now (including those in Colorado), not all human beings begin to exist at "fertilization" or "conception" (sexual reproduction). Many human beings begin to exist asexually (without the use of sperm or oocyte), through quite a number of different kinds of cloning, and different kinds of genetic engineering and other artificial reproductive technologies. Since Colorado's Amendment 48 specifically applies to sexually reproduced human beings only, it would have the legal effect of denying human personhood to all categories of asexually reproduced human beings - through 9 months.

To explain the problems with Colorado's Amendment 48 in more detail, examples of those living innocent human beings who begin to exist asexually, and thus who would be excluded from legal personhood, include one (or more) of all naturally occurring human monozygotic twins (or triplets, quadruplets, etc.) reproduced in vivo (in the woman's body, through 9 months), as well as one (or more) of all artificially-produced human monozygotic twins (or triplets, quadruplets, etc.) reproduced through "twinning" in vitro (through 9 months) -- as has been performed in IVF clinics as "infertility treatments" for many years now (referred to as blastomere separation, blastocyst splitting, embryo splitting, embryo multiplication). Most prolife attorneys and leaders know this perfectly well. It also includes all those living innocent human beings reproduced asexually by a variety of cloning and other genetic engineering techniques in vitro, such as: somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT); germ line cell nuclear transfer (GLCNT) -- as performed for several years now in Gerhart's "fetal tissue" research; pronuclei transfer (which produces human/human chimeras) -- as has been done in order to prevent sex-related chromosomal abnormalities in born infants; parthenogenesis; mitochondrial transfer; hemi-cloning; the use of artificial chromosomes, genes, pronuclei, nuclei and embryos (as already sanctioned by law in Canada, Australia and New Zealand). What about the "legal personhood" of all of these living innocent human beings?

Additionally, consider that almost all of these artificial reproductive techniques have already been used globally as "infertility treatments" -- that is, these experimental living human embryos have been implanted into women with or without the intention of bringing them to birth. Often these experimental embryos are given oblique and obscure "names" to convince the woman that these experimental embryos are simply "reconstructed eggs", "balls of cells", "stem cells", or similar deceptive pseudo-scientific jargon. (How do women really know for sure precisely what is being implanted into them? So much for "informed consent"). What about the "inherent dignity" of all these living innocent women? Worse, certain laws and regulations, such as would be the case with Colorado Amendment 48, contain false scientific definitions so that "what" the woman is carrying is not a human being (at least until birth!), thus any anticipated abortions of these experimental embryos (needed for researchers' data) would not legally be considered as abortions; nor would the abortionists or the researchers be legally liable for performing abortions, or legally liable for any physical harms caused to the woman (e.g., tumors, etc.).

Further, the term "conception" has also already been legally defined as "implantation" in several state laws (see recent law journal article describing the "ambiguity" of the term "conception" in law, including the accompanying footnotes with specific state laws listed: Philip G. Peters, "The Ambiguous Meaning of Human Conception" Law Review: University of California, Davis, (2006) Vol. 40 (1):199-228, especially pp. 202-203, and footnotes #10, 11, 12, 13; and p. 215, footnote #55; at If such language were to become law -- and then challenged, and successful -- such false science would then become legal precedent, or stare decisis (much as Roe, Webster and Casey have) -- that is, the courts would be legally bound to apply such false science to all related cases that came before them. If that happened, then it would be legally impossible to pass any laws or regulations prohibiting any kind of "therapeutic" or "reproductive" cloning or genetic engineering techniques, defined in any manner, including as listed above, because those asexually reproduced human beings would legally not even be human beings, much less human persons. And that would, ironically, include one of every two naturally occurring human monozygotic twin (etc.) conceived naturally in vivo! What a monumental boon that would be to those promoting the use of cloning and other genetic engineering techniques to produce living human embryos for both "research" and for "reproductive" purposes!

The term "fertilization/conception" also results in total confusion to lay prolifers and organizations, and subtly instructs them that those human beings NOT reproduced sexually are somehow not human beings OR human persons, including naturally occurring monozygotic twins/triplets/quadruplets in vivo! -- thus incapacitating their ability to correctly form their consciences and damage their moral decision making abilities.

Nor could anyone then apply such language to any cloning or stem cell debates in the public square (that is, if the stem cells are derived from cloned embryos) without abject self-contradiction. One cannot simultaneously claim that all human beings are reproduced through "conception/fertilization" and that human cloning, human stem cell research (using cloned embryos), human genetic engineering used to a-sexually reproduced human embryos is immoral.

So why does Colorado continue to insist on the dangerous phrase, "from fertilization"? Why don't they acknowledge the simple science that can be found in any library? Interesting question. Prolife needs to ask themselves -- and their "prolife" leaders -- precisely why such a ridiculous and dangerous mantra is being so irrationally forced upon them - under the pretense of "reversing Roe vs Wade"?
Friday May 30, 2008
By Peter J. Smith

Historic Chance to Defeat Roe v. Wade on the Ballot in Colorado

Catholic Church in Colorado declares neutrality as resolute pro-lifers get ready to face abortion juggernaut

DENVER, Colorado, May 30, 2008 ( - Colorado citizens will have an historic chance to vote into their constitution a proposed amendment that would define "person" in law to include any human being from the moment of fertilization and challenge the very foundations of the 1973 Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion throughout the United States.

Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman on Thursday approved Amendment 48, entitled "Definition of a Person," after his office validated 103,377 signatures, far surpassing the 76,047 required for the amendment to appear on the ballot in November. The petition drive was led by Colorado for Equal Rights, which collected more than 130,000 signatures with the help of 1300 dedicated pro-life volunteers.

The proposed amendment would add a new section to Article II of the Colorado state constitution which would read, "the terms 'person' or 'persons' shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization."

The Colorado personhood amendment is the first of its kind in the nation, and an especially historic one, since Colorado, the first US state before Roe v. Wade to legalize abortion, now has a chance to be the first to establish the personhood of the human being from conception.

"Our strategy is that until you define the unborn child as a person, how can the laws protect them, when they can't even consider them a person?" Kristi Burton, 20, a spokeswoman for Colorado for Equal Rights and key leader behind the ballot initiative, told LifeSiteNews.

"Our goal in this campaign is to have a good positive discussion with the voters of Colorado about how every life counts, every life is valuable," said Burton. "What is the unborn child? Are they people? And if so don't they deserve the same rights as the rest of us?"

This concept of personhood is absent from US law and was the driving rationale behind the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the United States. If passed, the Colorado amendment would exploit a fundamental weakness in Roe that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun admitted to exist when he wrote the decision.

Blackmun then had concluded: "If this suggestion of personhood [for the unborn] is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment."

"For the first time in 40 years of 'legalized' child killing, pro-lifers have moved an entire state to consider the God-given right to life of the unborn," stated Brian Rohrbough, president of American Right to Life.

Although Colorado for Equal Rights has run a very economical campaign so far, it is looking to muster greatly needed donations as the abortion industry masses a juggernaut of financial resources to defeat the initiative in this crucial phase of the campaign.

"The so-called 'Human Life Amendment' is dangerous and deceptive," said Protect Families, Protect Choice, a pro-abortion front group dedicated to defeating the measure, in a statement. "This amendment could make abortion illegal at ALL times, even in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. It could outlaw abortion even in the cases of rape, incest and when a woman's life is at risk."

"The amendment is so extreme it could even ban several common forms of birth control and prohibit in-vitro fertilization and lifesaving stem cell research."

However, while pro-abortion lobbies, including Planned Parenthood, marshal massive financial and legal resources from across the United States to defeat the proposed initiative, the state's largest pro-life organization, the Catholic Church in Colorado led by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, has opted to remain on the sidelines.

Although many Catholics have signed on the petitions, and over half the volunteers are Catholic, Chaput and the other two bishops of the Colorado Catholic Conference, have decided for the time being not to identify the Church with the proposed personhood amendment, nor devote its enormous spiritual and financial resources into procuring victory.

"We commend the goal of this effort to end abortion. Individual Catholics may choose to work for its passage. The bishops' spokeswoman Jennifer Kraska told the Denver Post in February. "At the same time, we recognize that other people committed to the sanctity of life have raised serious questions about this specific amendment's timing and content."

LifeSiteNews requested comment from Kraska, however none was received by press time on account of the consecration of James D. Conley as the new auxiliary bishop.

Burton, however, told LifeSiteNews that she and many other pro-life advocates, including the Thomas More Law Center, disagree and believe the time is ripe for a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, especially at a point in history when the next appointment to the Supreme Court may come from a pro-abortion Democratic president.

"We believe that now is always the right time to do what's right," said Burton. "Martin Luther King, jr. said that, and he said it of the civil rights issue of his day, and I believe protecting the unborn child is in a way the civil rights issue of our day. It's never right to stand back and say 'well someday we'll get that done.' If it's right let's get it done now."

To visit and learn more about Colorado for Equal Rights and the historic personhood amendment:

To read an abbreviated list of organized supporters including legal organizations, international/national/state pro-life groups and leaders, churches, businesses, and social and political leaders behind the Colorado Human Life Amendment:

To respectfully contact Archbishop Charles Chaput
Denver Archdiocese
1300 South Steele Street
Denver, CO 80210

Phone: 303-722-4687


See previous coverage by

130,000 in Colorado Sign Petition to Grant Full Legal Protection to Unborn Children

Colorado Supreme Court Permits Embryonic Personhood Ballot Measure

Colorado Pro-life Group Introduces Amendment Recognizing "Personhood" of Unborn Child URL: