Yesterday, I attended and gave testimony at a hearing in Denver about campaign finance. As I blogged last week, it concerned proposed changes to the rules for “issue committees” — meaning groups of two or more persons that advocate for or against ballot measures, such as my own Coalition for Secular Government. Basically, the Secretary of State proposed a change in the rules due to a recent court ruling: instead of $200 threshold of total contributions or expenditures for reporting, they wanted to increase that threshold to $5000. Obviously, that’s a change for the better, but it’s still a massive violation of free speech rights.

At the hearing, a panel of six government officials, including the Secretary of State, were in attendance. I was glad that the hearing was relatively small, as I was able to speak quite extensively as a result — for about 15 minutes, plus I answered some questions from the panel. I spoke extemporaneously, but using my written comments (see below) as a basic framework. Mostly, I focused on my own horrid experience with my attempts to comply with the campaign finance regulations. But at the end, I explained why merely raising the threshold for reporting to $5000 was not sufficient, and what reforms I thought ought to be made.

I do think that my testimony had an impact. My father, who was visiting me and joined us, said that everyone on the panel was furiously taking notes as I spoke. Unfortunately, the hearing made clear to me that the Secretary of State is not able to revise the campaign finance regulations as thoroughly as I’d like. In fact, some of the points desperately in need of reform might still be mandated by statute. So for now, they’re just looking to increase the threshold for reporting based on total contributions or expenditures from $200 to $5000. That’s something that I support, but wow, so much more is needed to free people to speak on ballot measures in Colorado.

At the hearing, Ari Armstrong also spoke against any campaign finance restrictions, emphasizing that any reporting requirements were barriers to political advocacy. You can read his written comments on his blog. Also, Matt Arnold of Clear the Bench Colorado made some good remarks — sadly, from much personal experience — about the legal (and hence, financial) risks that ordinary people take when they speak out due to these regulations.

Only two other people spoke at the meeting — both in favor of campaign finance regulations. One way was an ordinary citizen who wanted more transparency in elections: I thought her reasons were wrong and confused, but she wasn’t dishonest. She did, at least, seem to acknowledge the burdens involved in reporting. The other speaker was from Common Cause, the progressive think tank that pushed the campaign finance amendment into the Colorado constitution some years ago. Of course, she didn’t want the threshold raised one iota, despite the court’s demand that the state do so. Moreover, she refused to acknowledge that the regulations were any kind of burden or barrier to speech — even after she’d heard my and Matt Arnold’s testimony. It was beyond disgusting.

Happily, Ari Armstrong recorded the whole meeting on video, so I’ll post those clips as soon as he’s edited and posted the video. (My hearty thanks to Ari for doing that work, as I know just how many hours he’s got to devote to do that.)

Also, if you’ve not yet submitted comments but you’d like to do so, you have until Friday at 5 pm to do that. Many of the submitted comments have been posted already, and you can find instructions for submitting comments in this document. Please be sure to mention that you support the raising of the reporting threshold to $5000, although you think that further reforms are necessary.

So, without further ado, here are my written comments to the committee. You can also download a PDF here.

Comments on Proposed Revisions and Amendments to the Secretary of State’s ‘Rules Concerning Campaign and Political Finance,’ 8 C.C.R. 1505-6
by Diana Hsieh, Ph.D
May 3rd, 2011

My name is Diana Hsieh. I’m an ordinary citizen, albeit with a Ph.D in philosophy. I earn my living my writing and speaking on applying ethical principles to daily life. I’m not a political activist by trade. I have strong views on politics, but I’m not terribly interested in engaging in the rough and tumble of politics.

On occasion, however, I jump into the fray, usually because I care about some issue so deeply that I just can’t stand to remain silent. That’s almost always some issue local to Colorado. That happened in 2008, with Amendment 48, then again in 2010 with Amendment 62. Those were the “personhood” amendments, and I opposed them vehemently.

Here, I wish to recount how the existing campaign finance rules impaired my ability and willingness to speak against those amendments. Then I will explain why the proposed revisions will have the very same chilling effects on the speech of ordinary citizens like me. Finally, I will suggest changes to the current system that would substantially protect freedom of speech within the constraints of Colorado’s constitution.

In 2008, Ari Armstrong and I wrote and published an 18-page policy paper against Amendment 48. We didn’t merely want to oppose the advocates of “personhood,” we also wanted to offer an alternative to the major pro-choice coalition, which we regarded as compromising on the moral issues. They didn’t speak for us; we wanted to speak for ourselves.

Ari and I published that 2008 policy paper under the auspices of the “Coalition for Secular Government.” That’s a nonprofit corporation registered in Colorado, but really, that’s just me and a blog. The Coalition for Secular Government didn’t solicit or accept donations, and I paid for its few expenses personally. Consistent with that, Ari and I wrote the paper without any compensation whatsoever: it was purely a volunteer effort. After we completed the paper, I spent a few hundred dollars of my own money to print and mail copies of the paper to media and activists in Colorado.

At the time, I didn’t imagine that these activities would be subject to any campaign regulations. After all, I was just exercising my right to speak freely on an issue that I cared deeply about — or so I thought. However, just to be sure, I checked the web site of Colorado’s Secretary of State. I found nothing relevant to my activities, so I thought I was in the clear.

However, I was very wrong in that. A friend knowledgeable about Colorado’s campaign finance laws told me about the regulations for “issue groups.” So I went back to the web site of Colorado’s Secretary of State, searching for information. Even once I knew what to look for, it took me over an hour to find the relevant regulations. Even after I read them again and again, I was still quite confused about how to comply with the law.

More importantly, I was appalled that my home state forbade me from speaking freely on an ballot issue that I cared deeply about — even just to spend a few hundred dollars of my own money promoting a paper that I wrote with a friend. Even worse, I could be subject to hefty fines for failing to comply with laws that I could neither find by diligent searching, nor understand by careful reading.

In addition, I found complying with the regulations — entering store names, addresses, and amounts for my few purchases of photocopies, envelopes, labels, and stamps — to be so onerous that, after filing my first report, I swore that I’d not promote the paper in any way that required money thereafter. Hence, the burdens of complying with the law — even just to spend a few hundred dollars — were sufficient to silence me, in part.

The same problems arose in 2010 when Ari Armstrong and I wanted to significantly revise and expand our paper for Amendment 62. Instead working for weeks on the new paper for free, we used a new business model that I’d developed in the meantime to solicit pledges to fund the project. People who supported our work could pledge to fund it in any amount they chose. If $2000 or more was pledged in total, we would update and expand the policy paper. People would only pay their pledges if we completed the work by the deadline. Much to our delight, we received 63 pledges, ranging from $4 to $300, for a total of $2795. These contributors agreed with our position, and they wanted us to speak for them in defense of abortion rights.

Ari and I were enthused and motivated by these pledges. They were concrete proof that we weren’t alone: other people cared about what we were doing and supported us with their own hard-earned dollars. Plus, we were very grateful to be able to pay ourselves for the many hours of work required to revise, publish, and promote the new paper. With these funds, we could also buy Facebook ads to promote the paper.

Alas, my enthusiasm wore off quickly when I remembered the reporting requirements for “issue committees.” Once again, I had trouble finding the rules: I had to call the office of the Secretary of State to be pointed to their location on the web site. When I realized that I’d have to report the names and addresses of most of our contributors, I was deeply distraught. That reporting of personal information was required for any contribution of $20 or more. For contributions of $100 or more, I had to report the person’s employer and its address too.

I was upset because such reporting violated the privacy of my contributors. As part of their right to free speech, people should be able to speak anonymously — or fund the speech of others anonymously. These campaign finance regulations forbid that for any contribution of $20 or above, and that’s wrong. Voters do not have a right to know the sources of funding for other people’s political speech, any more than your neighbor has a right to know what you got for your birthday or what you buy at the bookstore.

Moreover, I feared serious harm might come to my contributors from this invasion of their privacy. Due to the furor over abortion in some quarters, the publication of personal information about my contributors made them easy targets for harassment or even violence by anti-abortion activists. Would you be willing to risk your life or your job in order to donate $25, $50, or $100 to a political cause? That’s what my contributors were asked to do, and that’s not reasonable.

On a more personal level, I was disheartened by the prospect of compiling and filing the reports. I knew that process would be far more onerous this time than in 2008. It was even worse than I expected, however, for reasons that I will explain shortly.

For a while, I considered canceling the project entirely. However, I couldn’t stand the thought of being silenced by these campaign finance regulations. Instead, I decided to inform every pledger of the reporting requirements, then allow them to cancel or decrease their pledges, if they wished to preserve their privacy. Most were shocked and angered that the state of Colorado required me to gather and publish their personal information in order to accept their support for my work. Some reduced their pledges to be below the $20 and $100 thresholds. Most didn’t want to be silenced, so they reaffirmed their commitment to pay what they’d pledged. A few were even so angry that they increased their pledges.

Consequently, Ari and I went forward with the project, revising and expanding the paper into a robust 43-page defense of abortion rights titled “The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception.” I was — and still am — extremely proud of that paper. Yet the burden imposed on me by these campaign finance regulations was almost too heavy to bear.

To comply with the law, I spent hours filling out and faxing paperwork to open bank and PayPal accounts for the Coalition for Secular Government. Then, once contributors began to pay their pledges, I had to compile and submit reports to the state every two weeks. Each report required a few hours of my time, and each was due a mere two to three business days after the close of the reporting period. To file the reports, I had to keep an extra set of books in an Excel spreadsheet, just so that I could track my contributions and expenditures in the format required for the reports. Of course, the reports for the state never quite matched my own records on the first try, so I’d have to double-check and triple-check every entry. I had to e-mail contributors for their addresses, and sometimes for places of work. Sometimes, finding the address of a business was a difficult chore: I was in a panic at 11:30 pm on the night that a report was due, desperately trying to find a physical address for Facebook. Even once I’d gathered all that information, the process of inputting it into the system — typing in address after address — was a major chore.

To add insult to injury, I was petrified of making a mistake with every report I filed. Too much was unknown to me — for example, the Facebook ads for the paper were paid for on my personal credit card, so should I report that as an expenditure when that credit card was billed, when it was paid, or when I reimbursed myself? When should I report contributions sent as checks — when I picked them up from the post office or when I deposited them in my account? If a person wrote two checks for $19, would I have to report his name and address if I received and/or deposited them on the same day? I didn’t know the answers to those questions, and I couldn’t afford to consult a lawyer. I could only try to be careful — and hope for the best.

However, I forgot to file my first report for a few days, due to a mess of other pressing problems in my life from a backed up septic pipe in the house to scheduled travel to the east coast. In addition, I didn’t have all the information that I needed for that report, including the addresses of many contributors. On realizing my error, I was in a state of dull panic for days, worrying that the $1000 I’d earned for writing the paper — if not more from my personal funds — would vanish in a puff of $50-per-violation-per-day fines. So I begged for a waiver. That was degrading, but I was desperate, particularly because I had no idea how some unknown state employee would judge my failure to file the report on time. Much to my relief, the waiver was granted some weeks later.

Those experiences strongly discouraged me from raising and spending more money to oppose Amendment 62, as I would have done otherwise. I could have asked for contributions to fund more Facebook ads, for example, but I didn’t want to have to file more reports. I was simply weary of and disgusted by the whole process.

In short, compliance with the campaign finance laws consumed hours of my life — hours that I could have spent promoting the paper, writing op-eds, working on other projects, or even just watching a movie with my husband. With every dollar contributed or expended, I risked fines that I couldn’t afford to pay. I was unable to speak as a matter of right, but rather only by government permission. I felt the pressure to just give in and give up — to say nothing — very keenly.

How many other ordinary citizens decline to speak out on ballot measures due to these regulations? I can’t give you numbers, but as one of those ordinary citizens, I can tell you that the chilling effect is very real.

Now, I’d like to turn to the proposed revisions to these regulations, whereby the reporting threshold would be increased from $200 to $5000 for total expenditures or contributions. By that new standard, the Coalition for Secular Government would have been exempt from filing in 2008 and 2010. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not good enough: you’re tacking up curtains on a house too ugly for anything but the wrecking ball.

Unfortunately, our state constitution forbids full recognition and respect for free speech rights in its demand for campaign finance regulations. However, the Secretary of State can and ought to make those regulations minimally intrusive and minimally burdensome. The proposed revisions do not do that: the reforms must go deeper.

So what’s wrong with the proposed revisions?

First, the proposed threshold of $5000 in total expenditures and contributions is far too low. A grassroots group without any resources or employees — such as the Coalition for Secular Government — could easily exceed that amount in contributions or expenditures, just to expose a few thousand voters to its message.

Second, the threshold will burden even groups who never exceed it. Groups under the threshold will be obliged to monitor total contributions and expenditures on work related to ballot measures just to ensure that they’re not obliged to report — or risk huge fines.

Third, such a threshold would encourage small groups not to collect or spend more than $5000, so as not to be burdened by onerous and invasive reporting requirements. As such, their speech would be silenced, as if by a glass ceiling set at $5000.

Fourth, once a group reaches the $5000 threshold, the reporting requirements are just as intrusive and onerous as they are now — meaning far too intrusive and onerous. Every $20 contribution will have to be reported, as well every $20 purchase at Office Depot. That is not required by the Colorado constitution, and it ought to stop.

Instead of the proposal made, I ask the Secretary of State to reject the whole notion of a threshold for reporting based on total contributions or expenditures. Instead, to comply with the Colorado constitution, only require the reporting of single donations and expenditures when over some significant amount, say $5000. Moreover, full addresses should not be required for either contributions or expenditures. Instead, groups should only report names and perhaps cities.

Moreover, people attempting to speak out should not be subject to fines beyond their ability to pay — as with the current system of $50 per day per violation. Instead, fines should be proportional to the actual expenditure or contribution — and require deliberate fraud, not mere mistake or ignorance.

Finally, a group’s political opponents should not be able to drag them into court before an election over alleged campaign finance violations in order to silence them, as happened to the proponents of Amendment 48, and surely happens to others routinely.

With such changes to the campaign finance regulations, ordinary citizens in Colorado would be far more free to speak out on political issues than they are now. Under the present system, only large groups with millions of dollars — armed with lawyers to advise them on the law and assistants to compile and file reports — can afford to speak freely. The rest of us — ordinary citizens like me — are burdened and intimidated into silence. That flatly contradicts the stated purpose of campaign finance regulations in the Colorado constitution — and the changes proposed by the Secretary of State would only perpetuate that wrong.

Hence, I urge the Secretary of State to reform the current system of campaign finance regulations for “issue groups” in a substantial way, not merely as proposed. If these regulations must exist, make them minimally intrusive and burdensome so as to protect the free speech right of ordinary Colorado citizens.

Links:

Coalition for Secular Government:
http://www.seculargovernment.us/

Coalition for Secular Government on Amendment 48 (2008):
http://www.seculargovernment.us/a48.shtml

Coalition for Secular Government on Amendment 62 (2010):
http://www.seculargovernment.us/a62.shtml

Opponents of Amendment 48 Silencing Proponents Using Campaign Finance Regulations:
http://archive.squarestate.net…

Contact Information:
Diana Hsieh, Ph.D
diana@dianahsieh.com

Coalition for Secular Government
http://www.seculargovernment.us/
P.O. Box 851
Sedalia, CO 80135

 

A few days ago, I closed the books on the pledge project for Ari Armstrong’s and my policy paper, The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life. I’m so grateful to all the people who contributed to Ari’s and my work by their pledges. The paper would not have been updated without those contributions — many of them very generous and all of them appreciated. Given that the measure didn’t even break 30%, I’m so glad that we put in those grueling hours. Plus, I’m really proud that we offered the most substantive defense of abortion rights from an Objectivist perspective written to date.

I can’t properly explain how motivating the pledges are. It’s not just that I’m paid for my work. It’s that I’m paid directly by individuals, many of whom I know personally. And in the process of pledging, those people tell me what my work means to them. Given that activism can seem like a grind sometimes, that’s hugely important to me.

Amy Mossoff was one of the pledgers on this project, and I really appreciated her take on the pledge model as a way of raising money for such projects. Here’s what she said, shortly after the paper was released:

I haven’t read the whole paper yet (just the intro), but I already know that am pleased with my (oh so small) investment. Thanks for your great work, and the brilliant pledge idea, which allows me to support things like this without sacrificing or else feeling like my scarce money was just a meaningless drop in the bucket.

Exactly!

Unfortunately — and for the very first time — a few people failed to make good on their pledges. I’ve sent multiple invoices over many months, but I’ve not heard back from these few people. I wouldn’t mind quite so much if they would just write me to explain. As I’ve said with every pledge project, I’ll gladly void the pledge (or offer a refund) to anyone not satisfied with the product delivered, provided that he explains his reasons. Of course, if a person lost his job and needed every penny to put food on the table, I’d be happy to void his pledge too. I’d just like to hear back, so that I’m not left hanging. So… if you’re one of those people who pledged but never paid, please do me the courtesy of e-mailing me some kind of explanation.

For now, while I have so many other projects in the works, I’ve decided to put the Coalition for Secular Government on hold. I might blog for Politics without God on occasion, but likely nothing more. However, never fear… Ari and I will surely fight Colorado’s next “personhood” measure in 2012. We’ve already put in far too much work on the issue to let those theocratic bastards take the moral high ground… ever!

 

I’m delighted to report that Colorado’s “personhood” measure was defeated strongly, yet again. Ari Armstong and I were certain of its defeat, but we worried that it would gather significantly more support than did Amendment 48 in 2008. (Amendment 48 was defeated with 73% NO and 27% YES.)

Much to my delight, the results so far (with 88% of precincts reporting) show that “personhood” is almost as unpopular as ever, with 70% NO and 30% YES. That’s despite the more confusing language of Amendment 62 and far less of a campaign in opposition by the major coalition, Protect Families, Protect Choices — in comparison to 2008′s Amendment 48. While “personhood” is still a threat, particularly in the long-run, I’m hopeful that enough Colorado voters understand its moral and practical evils to vote against it, time and again.

Once again, I want to give a heartfelt thanks to everyone who pledged to support our hugely revised policy paper on it: The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception. That paper was viewed 3,000 times in HTML format, and downloaded 500 times as a PDF and 100 times as in e-book format.

Unfortunately, Stephen Bailey did not prevail in his race against Jared Polis, but I’m so glad that he ran. And Amendment 63 — for health care choice — looks like it will be defeated by a narrow margin. The rest of Colorado’s election results — including the dead-heat in the Senate race between Ken Buck and Michael Bennet — can be found on 9 News.

 

As I mentioned in a prior post, Ari Armstrong’s and my op-ed on Colorado’s Amendments 62 (personhood) and 63 (health care choice) was published in the Denver Daily News on Friday, October 22nd. It was a non-exclusive op-ed, so we hoped that some of the smaller papers around the state might choose to print it too. That hasn’t happened that we know of, so I thought I’d post it here before the election. Hence:

A62, A63 reveal ideological rifts
Friday, October 22, 2010
By Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong

This year’s ballot presents voters with a mystery. Amendments 62 and 63 are based on opposite political premises, yet many prominent groups either endorse both or oppose both. What explains this contradiction?

Amendment 62, the so-called “personhood” measure, would grant full legal rights to embryos. Its goal is to eliminate a woman’s choice to get an abortion, use the birth control pill, or obtain common in vitro fertility treatments.

Amendment 63, Health Care Choice, seeks to protect people’s choices in health care by forbidding state government from assisting in the enforcement of ObamaCare. It would preserve people’s choices in insurance as well as ensure their ability to pay directly for health care.

Amendment 62 destroys liberty and choice in health care, while Amendment 63 protects those values. Yet few seem to recognize that.

In an Oct. 15 e-mail, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains opposes both 62 and 63. The group alleges that Amendment 63 “drives up health care costs by reducing insurance coverage.”

In fact, those rising costs are due to government controls and welfare programs, and the mandate to buy insurance will only exacerbate the problem.

Likewise, Progress Now opposes both measures. Planned Parenthood and Progress Now follow the standard left-wing approach on these issues, advocating some choices in health care while denying others.

Religious-right advocates of Amendment 62, on the other hand, attempt to package their measure with Amendment 63. In an over-the-top video complete with Obama as the Angel of Death, proponents of 62 attempt to appeal to Tea Partiers. They suggest that the same movement responsible for legal abortion led to the bailouts and ObamaCare.

Amendment 62 supporters also endorse a “Blue Book Alternative,” which features one-sided praise of their measure along with positive language about Amendment 63.

Both the left and the religious right, then, express contradictory views about liberty and individual choice. They support it in some cases, but not in principle. Why is that?

The left rejects America’s founding ideal of liberty as each person’s freedom to pursue his own life and happiness using his own property. They regard rights as entitlements to goods and services provided by others, not freedoms to think and act without coercive interference.

That’s why Planned Parenthood does not merely want to protect the freedom of women to obtain abortions from willing doctors using their own funds, health insurance, or private charity. Instead, Planned Parenthood wants to force people to fund others’ health care, including abortions. Therefore, the organization seeks to protect the right to abortion while denying any right to choose what health insurance to buy, if any.

The religious right claims to support individual rights, but its conception of rights is little more than sectarian dogmatism. Rights are whatever God declares them to be, on this view.

By contorting some Bible passages and ignoring others, advocates of Amendment 62 claim that newly fertilized zygotes — even before implantation in the uterus — must be declared persons with full legal rights. By similar methods, they ignore the Bible’s overt hostility to individual rights and capitalist values.

The consistent, secular view of individual rights is opposed to both the entitlements of the left and the dogmatism of the religious right. Rights, on this third view, define the individual’s proper sphere of freedom in a social context. They enable each person to act by his own judgment and for his own life and happiness.

Such rights are based on the facts of man’s rational nature, not the whims of the majority or the arbitrary commands of God. They apply equally to every person, to individuals living in society, as opposed to an embryo or fetus entirely contained within a pregnant woman’s body.

By this secular view of rights, any attempt to dictate the choices of others is morally wrong. Nothing can justify the forcible seizure or control of another person’s property, whether via Medicare taxes or insurance mandates. And nothing can justify forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term or banning the pill.

Under a consistent, reality based view of individual rights, Amendment 62 violates rights while Amendment 63 protects them.

Philosopher Diana Hsieh and political writer Ari Armstrong coauthored the paper, The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life, available at SecularGovernment.us.

 

As some of you might recall, the Coalition for Secular Government is subject to Colorado’s campaign finance laws due to our pledge-funded policy paper against Amendment 62: The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life.

For those of you curious about the ins and outs of the speech regulations with which I must comply, I present this excerpt from Colorado Campaign and Political Finance Manual:

Issue committees

Definition: Any person, other than a natural person, or any group of two or more persons, including natural persons, that has a major purpose of supporting or opposing any ballot issue or ballot question, AND that has accepted or made contributions or expenditures in excess of two hundred dollars to support or oppose any ballot issue or ballot question OR has printed two hundred or more petition sections.

Issue committee status applies to organizations made up of members who support or oppose an issue in their community. Please familiarize yourself with the laws concerning issue committees before you as a group engage in political activity, to ensure that you comply with any campaign finance laws that may apply.

You must register an issue committee if you:

* Are a group of two or more individuals (natural persons) or businesses (or both);

* That supports or opposes a ballot issue or ballot question (see below for definition); AND one of

* You have accepted or made contributions or expenditures of $200 or more to support or oppose that ballot issue or ballot question; OR

* You have printed more than 200 petition sections or more than 200 petition sections have been accepted. (This provision effective 1/1/2011)

Registration and reporting requirements

Registration is required within 10 calendar days of accepting contributions or making expenditures in excess of $200 to support or oppose any ballot issue or ballot question.

Issue committees at the state, county, or special district level, or those active in multiple counties or special districts, register with and report to the Secretary of State. Municipal issue committees (those supporting or opposing ballot measures at the local municipal only) register with the municipal clerk. Filing dates vary depending on whether your issue committee is statewide, county, special district, school district, etc. Please consult TRACER for the filing calendar applicable to your committee.

Only the registered agent may sign and electronically file the committee’s reports.

Any amendments or changes to your registration must be filed with the appropriate officer within five days of the change.

There are no contribution limits or prohibitions for contributions to issue committees.

The name and address of the contributor must be reported for all contributions of $20 or more, and the contributor’s occupation and employer must be listed for contributions of $100 or more.

An issue committee may only be closed by filing a termination report indicating a “zero” balance. Issue committees may return unexpended campaign funds to the contributors or donate them to a charitable organization recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.

A disclaimer statement is required on communications produced by expenditures of more than $1,000 made by an issue committee.

Major Contribution Report

Contributions received within 30 days before a primary or general election, which exceed $1,000, must be reported as “major contributions” in the TRACER system in addition to reporting such contributions on regular reports.

The Coalition for Secular Government is clearly subject to those regulations: we’re a group, our major work is our policy paper against Amendment 62, and we’re accepting and spending more than $200, thanks to the generous people who pledged to support the policy paper. Hence, we must comply.

Initially, I thought that those campaign finance instructions were clear enough. They’d be a pain, but at least I’d know what to do. However, now that I’ve submitted two reports, I can’t say that any longer. For example:

  • I’ve promoted the policy paper via Facebook advertisements. I used my own personal credit card for that, and I’ve not yet reimbursed myself from CSG’s funds. So when does that become an expenditure that I must report — when my personal credit card is charged or when I reimburse myself?
  • Many people paid me through PayPal, which was awesome, because that’s more convenient than checks. However, PayPal automatically takes a small percentage in fees from such transactions. So what do I report as the donation amount — the amount given or the amount received?
  • When I receive checks, I don’t report them until they’re deposited in the bank. However, does the same apply to payments via PayPal? And in my case, I had limitations placed on my PayPal account for a while that prevented me from accessing the funds. Was I obliged to report those funds, even though temporarily inaccessible?

In short, the laws are just not clear. As a result, I’ve tried to do whatever seemed like the safest option open to me. I don’t have an army of lawyers to guide me… and even if I did, that might not be enough! With every wrong move, I risk $50 per day in fines.

Of course, the fundamental problem with such regulations is not that compliance is difficult, time-consuming, and nerve-wracking. That’s true, and it’s important, but it’s not essential. These campaign finance regulations would be wrong, even if compliance with them was easy, quick, and fun. Even in that case, the regulations would be a blatant violation of every person’s free speech rights. People should not have to register with the government to speak their minds. They should not have to register with the government to donate money so that others can speak for them.

Speaking personally, I feel that violation of free speech rights more clearly and more personally now than ever before. I’ve been forced — coerced, at the point of a gun — to spend hours of my time attempting to comply with these regulations, so that I might have permission to speak my mind. That’s vile — and it’s disheartening to me.

And I’m not alone in those feelings. The practical result of such speech regulations that is that ordinary citizens keep quiet, while well-funded “special interests” dominate the political debates. That’s not an unintended consequence: that’s what the politicians and bureaucrats want, I think. Free speech in America is under assault — not by outright censorship but rather by devious regulations in the name of “transparency” and “fairness.”

I hope that makes you angry — angry enough to want to strike back at the politicians and bureaucrats muzzling all of us. If so, then let me suggest that you donate to the free speech work of the Institute for Justice. IJ is the only organization that I know to be fighting for free speech, including against campaign finance laws, on principle and by concerted effort. And they’re effective too! I plan to write another check to IJ — once again, directed toward their free speech projects — in the next few days. If you want to protect free speech rights in America, then I urge you to do the same.

 

Ari Armstrong and I published an op-ed on Colorado’s Amendment 62 (personhood for zygotes) and Amendment 63 (health care choice) in Friday’s Denver Daily News: A62, A63 reveal ideological rifts.

Our article observes that many groups either oppose or endorse both Amendments 62 and 63. Yet these measures are based on opposite political premises. Amendment 62 (personhood) violates rights, while Amendment 63 (health care choice) protects them. The article then explains how both the entitlement left and religious right advocate a false view of rights. And it sketches a secular view of rights whereby each person is left free to act by his own judgment and for his own life and happiness.

Go read the whole thing!

For more information on Amendment 62, see Ari Armstrong’s and my policy paper: The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception.

For more information on Amendment 63, visit the Independence Institute and Patient Power Now.

Also, Paul has been busy advocating free market medicine via FIRM: Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine. Here’s his two most recent endeavors:

Enjoy!

 

The Institute for Justice recently launched its Citizen Speech Campaign against campaign finance laws. Here’s their announcement:

Freedom of speech and freedom of association are so important that they are enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Yet across the nation, in nearly every state, government regulation stifles the ability of citizens to exercise their rights to speak and to associate with one another to discuss the most pressing issues of the day. The culprit? So-called campaign finance laws.

For example, in 24 states, citizens who wish to spend money to speak out about ballot issues must register as political committees or “PACs” and navigate a complex maze of regulations. As a result, a group of citizens in Florida who want to pool their funds to speak out against a controversial amendment that would inhibit development in the state must register with the government, appoint a treasurer, open a separate bank account, and track and report every penny that they raise and spend for their efforts. In Colorado, a group of citizens was sued under these laws for putting up lawn signs opposing a local initiative and sending post cards to neighbors.

Another 22 states add contribution limits to these regulatory burdens for citizen groups that spend money on speech supporting or opposing candidates. For example, in Rhode Island, individuals may contribute no more than $1000 per year to such groups. The result is that although individuals and even corporations may spend unlimited amounts on ads saying vote for or against a candidate, individuals in Rhode Island who join together in unincorporated groups are limited to $1000 each.

To remedy this, the Institute for Justice launched its Citizen Speech Campaign on September 29, 2010. Kicked off with a lawsuit, Andrew Nathan Worley, et al. v. Dawn K. Roberts, et al., that challenges Florida ballot issue campaign finance laws, the campaign is a nationwide effort to ensure the promise of the First Amendment’s command that government “shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.”

To catalogue the various state laws that restrict citizen speech, the Institute today released a new research report, Keep Out: How State Campaign Finance Laws Erect Barriers to Entry for Political Entrepreneurs. The report, written by University of Missouri economist Jeff Milyo, explains why citizen speakers are important and how state campaign finance laws get in their way.

Along with the report, the Institute is launching a public campaign calling on officials in the 22 states that impose both contribution limits and PAC requirements on groups that wish to speak out about candidates to bring their laws into compliance with the First Amendment.

As part of this campaign, IJ is highlighting stories of political entrepreneurs — and I’m pleased (sort of) to report that I’m one of them: Colorado Blogger Wrapped Up in Red Tape.

The story concerns the onerous campaign finance laws applicable to me (or rather, the Coalition for Secular Government) because — horror of all horrors — we’re a group receiving and spending more than $200 in opposition to a ballot measure, namely Amendment 62.

The sidebar begins:

Diana Hsieh was a blogger when few people knew what the term meant. A passionate advocate for individual rights, she launched her now-popular blog Noodlefood in 2002 while working as a programmer as a way to get herself to write regularly on political and philosophical issues. Today, Diana presides over a mini-empire of online activism including blogs, discussion groups and even a small nonprofit. A recent Ph.D. in philosophy, Hsieh regularly speaks at philosophy conferences, writes articles and podcasts on various subjects–and still manages to find time to care for a small farm’s worth of dogs, cats and horses at her home in Sedalia, Colorado.

Go read the rest of the story!

The campaign also released a fun video about “Camp Politics”:

I’ve not yet read the primary report — Keep Out: How State Campaign Finance Laws Erect Barriers to Entry for Political Entrepreneurs — but it looks like more good work from IJ in defense of freedom of speech. If you like what IJ does here, please consider donating for its free speech work. Our very ability to advocate our ideas depends on our freedom of speech — and IJ is acting in defense of everyone willing to speak his mind.

 

This post is drawn from Ari Armstrong’s and my new policy paper: The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception. I’m currently posting the full paper as a series of blog posts. You can read the full paper in PDF format or HTML format.

The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception

By Ari Armstrong and Diana Hsieh, Ph.D
A policy paper written for the Coalition for Secular Government (www.SecularGovernment.us)
Published on August 31, 2010

Amendment 62 Is Not a ‘Message’

Ironically, the fact that Amendment 62 is so outrageous in its implications may cause some Colorado voters to not take it seriously. Many voters may be tempted to think: “surely they don’t really want to ban abortions even in cases of rape, incest, deformity, or risks to the health of the mother; surely they don’t really want lengthy prison sentences or even the death penalty for women who get abortions; surely they don’t seriously want to outlaw the birth control pill; surely they don’t want to shut down fertility clinics; surely not.” But the most consistent advocates of Amendment 62 do intend those effects–and they will strive to use “personhood” laws to make them the law of the land.

The religious right typically packages the issue of abortion with a variety of other cultural issues, such as relativism, postmodernism, promiscuous sex, violent video games, and pornography. They claim that voting for “personhood” laws will send the “message” that “all human life has value.”[175] Dan Maes, the Republican candidate for governor of Colorado in 2010, endorsed Amendment 62 but then stated, “People are overestimating the personhood amendment. It simply defines life as beginning at conception. That’s it. Who knows what the intent of it is? They are simply making a statement. That is all I see it as. Do they have another agenda? I don’t know.”[176]

Yet Amendment 62 is not merely a “message” or a “statement.” It does not say, “Resolved: All human life has value.” Nor does it say, “Resolved: Life begins at conception.” (Nobody doubts that a zygote is alive.) Rather, Amendment 62 is a specific measure with specific, foreseeable political implications. A vote for it is a vote for those sweeping political changes. It is a vote for granting full legal rights to zygotes from the moment of fertilization–at the expense of the real men and women of Colorado.

As this paper has shown, Amendment 62 and comparable proposals would fundamentally change Colorado law. If Roe v. Wade were reversed, the consistent enforcement of the measure would outlaw abortion in all cases except perhaps for extreme and immediate risk to the woman’s life, outlaw popular forms of birth control, outlaw all embryonic stem-cell research and the most common in vitro fertilization techniques, and impose severe police and prosecutorial control over the sexual lives of most couples. Not only would it cause some women to suffer and die needlessly, but it would violate the rights of many actual persons and prevent them from making the best choices for their lives.

In its essence, Amendment 62 is profoundly anti-life.

Some who endorse Amendment 62 hope that Colorado voters will overlook the real and frightening implications of the measure, and instead vote based on their disapproval of irresponsible sex and their affection for cuddly babies. Yet in this case, an irresponsible vote would be worse than irresponsible sex. The way to change the culture in the direction of greater responsibility and stronger moral values is not to pass a law that would endanger women, foster a police state, foist parenthood on unwilling couples, and severely violate the rights of millions of actual people.

If you believe that “human life has value,” the only moral choice is to vote against Amendment 62.

Read the full paper in PDF format or HTML format.

 

This post is drawn from Ari Armstrong’s and my new policy paper: The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception. I’m currently posting the full paper as a series of blog posts. You can read the full paper in PDF format or HTML format.

The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception

By Ari Armstrong and Diana Hsieh, Ph.D
A policy paper written for the Coalition for Secular Government (www.SecularGovernment.us)
Published on August 31, 2010

‘Personhood’ and the Separation of Church and State

To the world at large, advocates of “personhood” might seem to be little more than unusually devoted and consistent opponents of abortion. They might seem to be motivated by a commitment to scientific fact and inalienable rights. Yet in fact, they are religious zealots seeking to impose the tenets of their faith by force of law. Consequently, any “personhood” measure, in addition to the other harms they threaten to unleash, would violate the proper separation of church and state.

“Personhood” advocates do not conceal or disguise their religious agenda. They proclaim it, loudly and persistently. Consider a few representative claims.

Kristi Burton, the public face of Amendment 48 in the 2008 campaign, explained her reason for fighting to ban abortion: “It just came to me. I prayed about it and knew God was calling me to do it.”[159]

As noted previously, Personhood USA’s founders proclaim their religious motives:

Personhood U.S.A. is led by Christian ministers Keith Mason and Cal Zastrow…who are missionaries to preborn children. …They also lead and participate in peaceful pro-life activism, evangelism, and ministry outside of places where preborn babies get murdered [sic]. Personhood USA is committed to…[h]onor[ing] the Lord Jesus Christ with our lives and actions.[160]

In Personhood USA’s “Amendment 62 Campaign Video” for 2010, a spokesman (erroneously) claims that the Declaration of Independence declares that “the rights of the unborn…come from the Creator.” The video follows this statement with a Bible passage purportedly supportive of “personhood.” Personhood USA thanks the “thousands of volunteers and hundreds of churches that made Amendment 62 a reality.” For background music, the video uses the Bluetree song, “God of this City,” which begins, “You’re God of this city, you’re the King of these people, you’re the Lord of this nation.”[161]

Personhood Colorado (while misrepresenting the arguments against “personhood”) tailors its message to the religious:

Now the Church must unite and act boldly for the child in the womb. Amendment 62 needs men and women of faith to promote the culture of life in our churches by organizing campaigning events and prayer teams.

In 2008, an unprecedented number of churches awoke from their slumber to put the Personhood Amendment on the ballot. This year, we are on the ballot and need to reach out to even more churches so that we may continue to educate and advocate for the preborn child.

Personhood is a Spiritual Battle. The secular world and their false gods have no reason to protect the preborn child. However, with the power of God’s promises, and the loving support of His people, all of the lies and scare tactics used by the secular world will be defeated.

God’s word is clear. The only real question is, will we be faithful? …There are a number of resources available for you to use in your churches. One is a letter by the Alliance Defense Fund, a national Christian law firm, assuring pastors of the legality of working on a constitutional amendment vis-a-vis their non-profit status. …

The most important aspect of our outreach to the churches is 1) to have God’s people praying for the preborn child and for this campaign, and 2) to have God’s people work to get Amendment 62 [passed].[162]

Colorado Right to Life, whose vice president helped submit Amendment 62 to the Secretary of State, “commits to never compromise on” what it holds to be “God’s law,” which is that “[e]very human being has a God-given right to life from the beginning of that person’s biological development [fertilization] through natural death.”[163] The organization also includes a web page titled “The Bible and Abortion” to highlight the many Biblical passages the organization deems supportive of “personhood.”[164]

The “About” web page for Personhood Florida begins and ends with Bible passages. The organization declares, “As the hands and feet of Christ it is up to us to safeguard this most fundamental of these rights–human personhood.”[165]

Personhood.net, a website of Georgia Right to Life, proclaims four “laws of personhood,” where the first two are explicitly based on God’s will, as revealed through Judeo-Christian scripture:

Law 1: A person is a living physical/spiritual being created in the image of God, male and female, from their earliest biological beginning until natural death.

In a Judeo-Christian worldview the human being as such is afforded a special status and dignity on account of being created in the image of God: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Gn 1:27) …Because we bear the image of God, all mankind, and, by extension, each and every human life has a “specialness” and worth that demands respect.[166]

And:

Law 2: A person’s right to life is inalienable regardless of age, race, sex, genetic pre-disposition, condition of dependency or biological development.

Genesis 2:7 (ESV) “…then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” The right to life is inalienable because it originates with God.[167]

Abort73.com, a website featured prominently by Personhood USA, is a project of Loxafamosity Ministries.[168] “Motivated by our Christian calling,” the organization works to “establish justice” and “expose evil injustices” in accordance with its religious views. The organization’s seven-point statement of religious faith, which discusses among other things the Christian’s need to evangelize, concludes with a call to recognize the “social implications” of the “announcement of the gospel of Jesus,” which the group holds to include the policy goal of totally banning abortion.[169]

Such proclamations of deeply religious motives are representative of the “personhood” movement and pervasive within it. “Personhood” activists leave no doubt that their political agenda is fundamentally motivated by religious faith. For example, upon turning in signatures for what would become Amendment 62, supporters cheered for Jesus and broke out in the song, “Onward Christian Soldiers.”[170]

Undoubtedly, “personhood” advocates offer a secular argument to supplement their appeals to God’s will–as seen in a prior section. Yet even that argument is fundamentally religious, in that the logical leap from the human biology of the embryo and fetus to its personhood requires an assumption of God’s gift of rights at conception. The secular argument is mere veneer for the thoroughly religious worldview that animates the calls for “personhood.”

In fact, American Right to Life, “The Personhood Wing of the Pro-Life Movement,” explicitly warns against appealing to science rather than focusing on basic religious dogmas:

Don’t make excuses for Planned Parenthood murdering countless children by saying, “Now that we have 4D ultrasound, we know that this is a baby.” Long before ultrasound, the mutilated body of the first aborted child, and the millions since, testified to the wickedness of child killing. 3,500 years ago the Mosaic Law in the Hebrew Scriptures recognized the unborn child as a person…[171]

Evidently, even “personhood” advocates don’t take their own secular arguments very seriously–and no wonder, since they’re so simplistic and fallacious.

In all likelihood, “personhood” advocates resort to secular claims only to appeal to mainstream voters, and perhaps to ward off future legal challenges. In that respect, they resemble the Christians promoting creationism under the pseudo-scientific banner of “intelligent design.”

Ultimately, we should take “personhood” advocates at their word: they seek to impose God’s law on America. They want to force all Americans, whatever their religious beliefs, to conform to the dictates of their faith. As such, Amendment 62 and other “personhood” measures must be regarded as prime examples of faith-based politics–or worse, outright theocracy. They violate the separation of church and state–and that’s an additional reason to reject them.

Despite the frequent claims from the religious right that America was founded as a “Christian nation,” the U.S. Constitution is a thoroughly secular document, referring to religion only to forbid any mingling of faith and politics. Most importantly, the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

In his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists, Thomas Jefferson expounded the significance of this basic law:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.[172]

What does that analogy of a “wall of separation” imply about the relationship between church and state? As philosopher Onkar Ghate argues, its original and proper meaning is two-fold. First, the state ought not use its powers of coercion to shape people’s religious beliefs or practices, such as by requiring people to accept Islam or attend church. Instead, the state must only consider whether people’s actions, regardless of any religious motivation, violate the rights of others. So the state should intervene to stop men from beating their wives, even if sanctioned by religious scripture. And it should allow people to speak in tongues, even though that is foolish. Second, churches cannot be permitted to harness the power of the state to promote or enforce their preferred religious beliefs and practices, such as if priests acted as television censors or received special tax refunds. Instead, churches must respect the rights of others, using only persuasion to motivate belief.[173]

In essence, a proper government cannot give any more or less weight to certain beliefs just because they are religious in nature. The government must allow people freedom of conscience–including the freedom to act on their beliefs, however wrong or even absurd–provided that they do not violate the rights of others in the process. Yet the government itself must act solely based on rationally provable facts about man’s nature, including secular principles of individual rights–not based on any claims of religious faith. Such is the true meaning of a separation of church and state.[174]

Despite some secular veneer, “personhood” advocates aim to force Americans to comply with their notion of divine law. As we have seen, they proclaim that purpose, loudly and clearly. As such, they seek to violate every American’s freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

Of course, “personhood” activists have every right to attempt to persuade others to follow divine law, as they see it. They have every right to condemn abortion on religious grounds–and attempt to persuade pregnant women not to abort. However, to impose their views by force–whether as vigilantes or political activists–constitutes a grave violation of rights.

In sum, due to their inherently religious motivation and justification, “personhood” measures violate the separation of church and state–and thereby threaten the very foundations of our freedom. A just and proper government must determine the rights involved in pregnancy on the basis of empirical fact, informed by an objective theory of rights. It must recognize and protect the rights of actual persons, not invent rights for merely potential persons. It must uphold the right of the pregnant woman to terminate her pregnancy at any time, for any reason.

Read the full paper in PDF format or HTML format.

 

This post is drawn from Ari Armstrong’s and my new policy paper: The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception. I’m currently posting the full paper as a series of blog posts. You can read the full paper in PDF format or HTML format.

The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception

By Ari Armstrong and Diana Hsieh, Ph.D
A policy paper written for the Coalition for Secular Government (www.SecularGovernment.us)
Published on August 31, 2010

The Morality of Abortion

In addition to the political debates about abortion rights, many people condemn abortion on moral grounds as an evasion of responsibility for the known consequences of sexual intercourse. In fact, however, the termination of a healthy pregnancy can be–and usually is–a morally responsible choice.

Most people do not object to abortions in cases involving rape, incest, deformity, or risk to the woman’s life. Yet they question or even condemn abortions obtained for seemingly less weighty reasons, such as financial hardship, the demands of career or school, problems in the romantic relationship, or not wanting another child. Moreover, when birth control was not used–or used carelessly–people may condemn the abortion as particularly irresponsible. Undoubtedly, these moral objections to abortion stem from implicitly regarding the embryo or fetus as a person, at least in part. People often suppose that the interests of the embryo or fetus should be weighed against the interests of the pregnant woman, such that the termination of a healthy pregnancy cannot be morally justified. In the face of these views, we should ask: Is abortion a morally proper choice simply because the pregnancy and resulting child is unwanted? If so, why?

People should not allow themselves to be buffeted through life by accidental circumstances, for to do so is to court disaster and misery. Instead, people ought to consciously direct the course of their lives by their own rational judgment and long-range planning. With respect to procreation, a woman and her partner ought not bear a child just because she happens to become pregnant. Instead, they ought to consider the impact of the pregnancy and resulting child on their health, finances, careers, and overall well-being. They ought to consider whether their relationship is stable enough to withstand the strain of raising a child. They ought to have a child only if they are willing and able to be good parents.

As Ayn Rand wrote in her essay “Of Living Death,” in defending the morality of abortion:

The capacity to procreate is merely a potential which man is not obligated to actualize. The choice to have children or not is morally optional. Nature endows man with a variety of potentials–and it is his mind that must decide which capacities he chooses to exercise, according to his own hierarchy of rational goals and values. …

It is only animals that have to adapt themselves to their physical background and to the biological functions of their bodies. Man adapts his physical background and the use of his biological faculties to himself–to his own needs and values. That is his distinction from all other living species.

To an animal, the rearing of its young is a matter of temporary cycles. To man, it is a lifelong responsibility–a grave responsibility that must not be undertaken causelessly, thoughtlessly, or accidentally.[156]

A couple seeking to live fully rational, purposeful, and hence human lives must decide for themselves whether and when to have children, based on their interests, capacities, and circumstances. To fail to do that–to assume the enormous responsibility of a child simply due to the accident of pregnancy–would be self-destructive. As such, and given that neither the embryo nor the fetus is a person with a right to life, abortion can be a moral choice.

These same basic considerations apply, even when irresponsible sex causes the pregnancy. Unfortunately, such is common. One study found that 46 percent of women who got pregnant unintentionally weren’t using any birth control. Among the rest, only 13 percent of birth-control users and 14 percent of condom users reported correct use.[157] The undesirable outcome is not surprising, as the difference in outcomes between “perfect use” and “typical use” of birth-control methods is dramatic.[158]

Couples who cannot be bothered to use birth control or who use it carelessly, then terminate the resulting pregnancy by abortion, deserve some blame. Yet the problem in such cases is not the abortion. If an unwanted pregnancy was caused by irresponsible behavior, then that behavior ought to be morally blamed, not any ensuing abortion. (Similarly, if a skier breaks his leg by skiing too fast in dangerous terrain, we ought to blame him for that skiing, not for his sensible choice to restore his leg to health by surgery.) In the future, the couple ought to resolve to always use birth control properly, in order to avoid the distress, expense, and risks of another unwanted pregnancy. Yet they should feel no guilt for the abortion, if that best served their interests–but only for engaging in irresponsible sex. Moreover, to the degree that a couple’s irresponsible use of birth control indicates habits of irresponsibility, to demand that the couple forego abortion as a matter of moral duty would itself be terribly irresponsible. Such a couple would likely be ill-prepared for the immense burdens of parenthood, and a child should never be inflicted as punishment for the irresponsible decisions of its parents.

Opponents of abortion often present adoption as the moral alternative to abortion for an unwanted pregnancy. Yet adoption is not a viable option for many couples, often for good reasons. To carry any pregnancy to term itself involves some risk, as well as time, effort, and endurance. For some women, that burden might be too great. Moreover, putting up a child for adoption can involve severe and enduring emotional costs, precisely because the born infant to be bestowed on strangers is a person–and one’s own child. That is not true of the embryo or fetus destroyed in abortion.

Opponents of abortion also claim that couples can protect themselves against unwanted pregnancy by refraining from sex entirely. However, sex is a magnificent human value integral to any healthy, developed romantic relationship. To advocate this course is to demand that a woman and her partner choose between abstinence and procreation. That is morally wrong: it is not a choice that couples in a modern society should be obliged to make.

In sum, anti-abortion activists often gather support for their cause by associating abortions with promiscuous, irresponsible sex and other self-destructive behaviors. However, women often become pregnant unexpectedly through no fault of their own. In other cases, the error was not the abortion but the irresponsible sex. Whatever the cause of the pregnancy, the embryo or fetus is not a person whose interests must be balanced against those of the woman. So a couple faced with an unintended pregnancy ought to consider the impact of bearing a child on their own lives, as well as the kind of life they could offer that born child. In many cases, abortion might be not just a moral option, but the best one too.

Read the full paper in PDF format or HTML format.

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