Ari Armstrong recently posted the following essay on the practical implications of granting the legal rights of persons to fertilized eggs to his blog. Why are we writing about this issue again? Unfortunately, because the same theocrats who brought us Amendment 48 are seeking to put a similar measure on the ballot in Colorado for 2010. I’m re-posting Ari’s essay here (with his permission) as a refresher course on the aims of the religious right.

What Are the Implications of ‘Personhood?’
by Ari Armstrong

If fully implemented, the so-called “personhood” measure that may again appear on Colorado’s ballot to define a fertilized egg as a person will outlaw all or almost all abortions, excepting procedures necessary to save the life of the woman. On that point advocates and critics of the measure agree. More contentious are claims about the measure’s impact on birth control, fertility treatments, and legal issues surrounding miscarriages and women’s health.

Ironically, a document from PersonhoodCO (the organization supporting the measure), “Scare Tactic Alert”, attacks straw men, ignores substantive criticism, and obscures key issues of the debate even as it promises to reveal the “outright lies” of critics and to give “truthful answers.” However, the document does clearly reveal the intentions of the measure’s supporters on a number of important points. It is worth reviewing to note both where it misleads and where it clarifies the positions of the measure’s sponsors.

“It Will Ban Abortion”

The document says flatly of the measure: “It will ban abortion.” If passed and implemented, it will ban all elective abortions. It will ban all abortions even in cases of rape, incest, and fetal deformity.

Embryonic Stem-Cell Research Will Be Banned

Under the “personhood” measure, any scientific research or medical procedure that involved the destruction of a fertilized egg (or embryo at any stage) would be outlawed, as the measure’s sponsors loudly declare.

Abortion Will Be Deemed Murder

The document makes clear that, under the “personhood” measure, a woman will be criminally charged for getting an abortion. A woman will be charged with a crime if she “acted with criminal culpability which includes the performance of an act and a matching criminal intent. These standards would be the same as would be applied to any mother who harms her children, born or preborn.”

The document confirms: “actions taken with criminal intent will be punished under the existing criminal code, irrespective of whether the child is in or out of the womb.”

Abortion Could Trigger the Death Penalty

Not only would abortion be considered murder under the “personhood” measure, it could be punished with the death penalty. This applies both to doctors who perform abortions and women who get them.

The document denies that the measure “will threaten doctors who perform legitimate surgeries.” However, a “legitimate” surgery, according to the document, cannot include any intention “to kill the child in the womb.”

The document states: “In Colorado, the death penalty is only available for first degree murder with aggravating factors. First degree murder requires deliberation and intent.”

While the document does not directly state that the death penalty could also apply to women who obtain abortions, the document states that women will be punished “under the existing criminal code.” By implication, if a woman deliberately and intentionally aborts an embryo or fetus, she could be subject to the death penalty.

Colorado Statute 18-1.3-1201(1)(a) states, “Upon conviction of guilt of a defendant of a class 1 felony, the trial court shall conduct a separate sentencing hearing to determine whether the defendant should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment…”

Birth Control That Can Prevent Implantation Will be Outlawed

The “Scare Tactic Alert” document claims it is a “lie” that the measure “will ban contraception.” However, the document also defines “contraception” strictly to mean something that prevents the fertilization of an egg. Any form of birth control that prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus will be outlawed under the measure. Notably, this includes the birth control pill.

The document states: “the beginning of life (under normal sexual reproduction) takes place when the sperm touches the ovum. Barrier methods of contraception that prevent the union of the sperm and the egg will not be outlawed, since neither a sperm nor an egg by itself is a human being.”

The birth control pill acts primarily as a contraceptive, in that it prevents the fertilization of an egg. However, according to the documentation distributed by the manufacturers of the birth control pill, it can also act to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg.

For example, my wife takes TriNessa. According to WebMD, this birth control pill acts to “prevent pregnancy in 3 ways. One way is by preventing the release of an egg (ovulation). A second way is by changing the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for an egg to meet sperm (fertilization). A third way is by changing the womb lining, making it difficult for a fertilized egg to attach to the lining of the womb (implantation).”

Watson Pharmaceuticals, the producer of TriNessa, agrees that this pill can act to “reduce the likelihood of implantation.”

As Diana Hsieh and I review in our paper on the subject (page 4), the birth control pill is more effective than condoms at preventing unwanted pregnancy. My wife and I find it to be the best form of birth control for us, and we utterly reject the insane claims of of the “personhood” advocates that using the birth control pill is morally wrong, much less the equivalent of murder that should subject women to severe criminal penalties.

Most Fertility Treatments Would Be Outlawed

PersonhoodCO claims it is a “lie” that the measure “will ban in vitro fertilization.” However, as Diana and I explain in our paper, fertility treatments generally involve the destruction of fertilized eggs as a necessary aspect of effective treatment (see pages 6-7).

The “Scare Tactic Alert” document admits that fertility treatments that involve the destruction of fertilized eggs would be banned. The measure would, in effect, practically ban fertility treatments for nearly all women.

As Diana and I summarize, “[F]ertility clinics would be left with two options. They could fertilize one egg at a time, vastly raising the costs and time of the procedure because most eggs don’t fertilize. Or they could implant all fertilized eggs into the woman, in some cases posing a health risk or producing more children than a couple can raise well. The practical result of Amendment 48 likely would be to shut down Colorado’s seven reproductive clinics.”

Doctors Would Be Subject to Prosecutorial Oversight

PersonhoodCO states, “[I]n those extremely rare situations where a woman needs treatment that might unintentionally result in the death of the child, the doctor would not have acted with intent to kill or even harm the child, but with intent to cure the mother.” (Note here that PersonhoodCO is simply defining any procedure “where a woman needs treatment” as not counted as an “abortion.”) Furthermore, when abortion was outlawed “there were no prosecutions of doctors for legitimate medical treatment,” the document claims.

There are two main problems with these claims of PersonhoodCO. First, what counts as a “legitimate medical treatment” is precisely the issue in question. Now, who decides such matters is the woman in consultation with her doctor. Under the “personhood” measure, politicians, prosecutors, and judges will decide. Knowing this, doctors will tend to err on the side of not acting to protect a woman’s health. If a doctor chooses not to take action in a difficult case, he will suffer no criminal penalty even if the woman dies. If the doctor chooses to act, he may be charged with murdering a zygote by a prosecutor who doubts the procedure was necessary.

Second, today doctors have much better equipment and procedures than they had several decades ago, so doctors today simply have more opportunities to medically intervene to protect a woman’s health.

The broader issue is that doctors may effectively be prevented from acting in cases where “only” the woman’s health, rather than her life, is at risk. By the logic of the “personhood” measure, a doctor should at least sometimes allow a woman to suffer long-term health consequences in order to save a zygote. The measure takes such determinations out of the hands of women and doctors and places them in the hands of government officials.

Suspicious Miscarriages Could Invite Prosecution

PersonhoodCO claims it is a “lie” that the measure “will threaten women who miscarry with criminal prosecution.” The problem with that claim is that telling the difference between an unintentional miscarriage and an intentional act can be difficult. Who gets to decide whether a woman’s diet, herbal remedies, or physical damage was intended to cause an abortion? Again, under the “personhood” measure, the answer is government officials, so far as prosecution is concerned.

The Abortion Industry?

One of the more dishonest claims made by PersonhoodCO is that criticisms are coming from “the abortion industry.” No doubt clinics that perform abortions also oppose the measure. However, many independent critics, including Diana and me, are in no way a part of the “abortion industry,” and PersonhoodCO’s smears are childish and dishonest.

Diana and I wrote our paper, Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person, without financial compensation. We wrote and promoted that paper because we are horrified by the vicious nature of the “personhood” measure.

Any reader of our paper will realize that PersonhoodCO is attacking straw men in its “Scare Tactic Alert.” We do not, for example, claim that the measure “will ban contraception.” Instead, we claim, as PersonhoodCO itself claims, that the measure will ban forms of birth control that may prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg.

Conclusion

At least the “Scare Tactic Alert” clearly lays out many of the intentions and implications of the “personhood” measure. Unfortunately, the document also smears critics of the measure, distorts what critics of the measure have said about it, ignores substantive criticism published in 2008, and understates the impacts of the measure in areas such as the potential for criminal prosecution in cases of suspicious miscarriages.

By implying that all criticisms of the “personhood” measure are “scare tactics,” PersonhoodCO wrongly suggests that substantive criticisms of the measure have been exaggerated. Notably, not a single advocate of the “personhood” measure has attempted to directly refute anything from the 2008 paper.

Critics of the “personhood” measure do not need to resort to “scare tactics” to defeat it. The objective facts about the measure and its implications are truly horrifying.

Dec 072009
 

I’m delighted to report that Politics without God, the blog of the Coalition for Secular Government has been resurrected from the dead! Thank you, Gina Liggett!

Gina’s first post is a sobering look at the plans of the evangelical right: Religious Right Takes a Deep Philosophical Breath. Go take a look.

The Coalition for Secular Government will be active in the 2010 elections, focusing on Colorado. Colorado will have a slightly modified version of the vile Amendment 48 on the ballot again, so Ari and I plan to modify and republish our policy paper — Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person — to cover all “personhood” measures. It will be good to get back into the fray of politics, I think.

Oct 182008
 

I’m pleased to report that I make a small appearance in the just-published New York Times column “On Religion,” written by Samuel Freedman: For Atheists, Politics Proves to Be a Lonely Endeavor.

The column focuses on Colorado’s Amendment 48, particularly on the difficulty of mobilizing secular voters in opposition to this faith-based measure. I appear toward the end, as part of a gentle criticism:

With their trust in the power of reason, atheists might also be ill-equipped for the gritty work of retail politics — the phone banks, the door-knocking, the car pools to the polls. If nothing else, they are coming late to the craft.

As founder and leader of a Colorado-based coalition for secular government, Diana Hsieh has written a detailed position paper attacking Amendment 48. Other atheist activists have written letters to the editor and participated in online forums about the ballot measure. Relatively few, however, have thrown themselves into the get-out-the-vote operations that conservative Christians, for instance, have excelled at.

“We need to get more of our people out,” said Ms. Hsieh, 33, a doctoral candidate in philosophy at the University of Colorado. “It’s just not the strategy I’ve taken. I’m a policy-wonk type. Going to talk to people outside the grocery store is just not going to be my strong suit.”

It’s true: my battle is philosophical. Support for Amendment 48 is rooted in the deeply-held but false belief that “life begins at conception.” (By that, people mean that a new person, with the right to life, is created at conception.) Recent polls show that, of likely Colorado voters, 41% believe that “life begins at conception” and 39% support Amendment 48. The overlap is not coincidental. So as I said in a recent press release for the Coalition for Secular Government:

To effectively combat measures like Amendment 48, the whole ‘pro-life’ ideology must be challenged at its root… Reproductive rights must be defended on principle, based on the objective facts of human nature. With regard to abortion, the fact is that a fetus or embryo is only a potential person so long as encased within and dependent on the woman. Once born, the infant is a new individual person with the right to life. That view ought to be the basis for the laws of a free society. Any alternative — any attempt to grant rights to the embryo or fetus — would violate the rights of pregnant women.

While I don’t dispute with the importance of “retail politics” for winning elections, the defeat of the religious right in Colorado will require sustained philosophic arguments about the nature, source, and scope of rights. I’m pleased with what I’ve been able to do on that score so far. And once I finish my Ph.D at Boulder this spring, I’ll be able to do far more than I can now. Nonetheless, I hope to never stand outside a grocery store arguing abortion with random passersby!

Finally, I must mention that it was a pleasure to discuss these issues with Samuel Freedman. He was sharp, fair, and interested in my views. His column reflects that — and I am very appreciative.

 

MEDIA RELEASE: COALITION FOR SECULAR GOVERNMENT

Nearly 40% of Colorado Voters Seek to Destroy Reproductive Rights

Sedalia, Colorado / October 7, 2008

Contact: Diana Hsieh, co-author of “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life” and founder of the Coalition for Secular Government, Diana@SecularGovernment.us or 303.304.0689

A poll of likely voters shows strong support for Amendment 48, the ballot measure that would grant the full legal rights of persons to fertilized eggs. The survey, conducted on September 28th by Rasmussen Reports with 500 likely voters, shows that 39% plan to vote for the measure, 50% to vote against it, while 11% are unsure. (See .)

Such strong support for Amendment 48 should surprise anyone familiar with the barrage of criticism published in Colorado media in recent weeks. Critics of the measure have warned voters of its destructive effects on Colorado’s laws if passed and enforced. They have shown that it would usher in a near-total ban on abortion, outlaw the birth control pill and in vitro fertilization, and subject pregnant women to police controls. Yet these latest poll results are basically unchanged from a June poll, also by Rasmussen. (See .)

Diana Hsieh, founder of the Coalition for Secular Government and co-author of “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life,” argues that the broad support for Amendment 48 is driven by a deeply-held faith pretending to be “pro-life.”

The most recent Rasmussen poll showed that 41% of Colorado voters believe that “life begins at conception.” That number explains the strong support for Amendment 48, despite the media barrage against it. “People who endorse that slogan regard a fertilized egg as a new, whole person with a right to life,” Hsieh said. “They regard the enormous sacrifices forced on real men and women by the measure as insignificant — or even ennobling. Their vote is based on faith, without regard to the real-world requirements of human life and happiness. It’s not ‘pro-life’ at all.”

“To effectively combat measures like Amendment 48, the whole ‘pro-life’ ideology must be challenged at its root,” Hsieh said. “A mushy slogan like ‘it simply goes too far’ is unconvincing, even misleading. It doesn’t speak to the fundamental dispute. Worse, it suggests that some compromise — like banning most abortions — would be acceptable.”

“Instead, reproductive rights must be defended on principle, based on the objective facts of human nature. With regard to abortion, the fact is that a fetus or embryo is only a potential person so long as encased within and dependent on the woman. Once born, the infant is a new individual person with the right to life. That view ought to be the basis for the laws of a free society. Any alternative — any attempt to grant rights to the embryo or fetus — would violate the rights of pregnant women.”

For a principled defense of reproductive rights, see the Coalition for Secular Government’s issue paper, “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person,” available at http://www.seculargovernment.us/docs/a48.pdf, particularly the section “Personhood and the Right to Abortion,” pages 10-13.

Sep 172008
 

Ari Armstrong’s and my CSG issue paper on Colorado’s Amendment 48 — Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person — got a very favorable mention in a report on the measure in Salon: Did you just call me a zygote?.

The mention is in the last paragraph: “The bottom line — which is laid out thoughtfully and convincingly in this article (PDF) — is that Amendment 48 is creepy as hell. I hope that Colorado’s citizens have the sense not to pass it.”

Slowly but surely, we are making some headway!

Sep 152008
 

… from the Coalition for Secular Government:

  • Last Wednesday, Ari Armstrong and I attended a fundraising dinner for the Colorado chapter of Republican Majority for Choice. Ari and I were generously invited to the event because of our issue paper, “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person.”

    I was very impressed with the 200-strong turnout, as well as the commitment to individual rights so clearly expressed by master of ceremonies Hank Brown. The event was a bright spot in our fight against Colorado’s Amendment 48, which would grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs in Colorado’s constitution. I do hope to see more pro-choice Republicans speaking up for reproductive rights within their party.

  • Ari Armstrong’s op-ed — “With Palin, McCain ignores Colorado warning” — was published by the Boulder Weekly. That op-ed was distributed by the Coalition for Secular Government.

    Independent of CSG, Ari also published an excellent op-ed in the Rocky Mountain News entitled Lessons for U.S. politicians from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this weekend. (Ari is the author of a fantastic short book Values of Harry Potter.)

  •  

    I have an unusual request: I’m seeking a bit of your hard-earned dough to support my activism for individual rights in Colorado and elsewhere. Let me explain:

    I’ve recently applied for the “Leadership Program of the Rockies” (LPR), a nine-month training course for the up-and-coming policy makers in Colorado, particularly aimed at people of a more conservative persuasion. You can find out more about the program on their web site.

    Lin Zinser completed this program two years ago. She found it helpful with regard to media and grassroots organization, although the philosophic content of the program is definitely of mixed quality. The people who run it are friendly to Objectivism, however. Yaron Brook will be speaking as part of the program this year, as he’s done for the past few years. Also, Atlas Shrugged is required reading for the program.

    I expect the content of the program to be helpful in my work with the Coalition for Secular Government, as well as with other forms of activism. The program itself will be an opportunity for me to advocate good ideas to the future political leaders of Colorado.

    The cost of the program is $895. I’ve been asked by LPR whether I might know of anyone willing to fund a scholarship for me. So, I’m asking whether any of you might be willing to make a contribution toward that end.

    Paul and I can afford to pay the full tuition ourselves, but doing so would definitely cut into the funds available for the Coalition for Secular Government. CSG accepts no donations; costs are borne entirely by Paul and myself. That’s because our costs are not great and the regulations pertaining to tax-exemption are too burdensome to be worth navigating. Yet the LPR tuition would be a pretty hefty expenditure: it would cut into the money available for other CSG activities, such as printing and distributing our issue paper on Colorado’s dangerous “Personhood” Amendment. Consequently, some help in funding would be very much appreciated. Plus, because LPR is tax-exempt, any money you donate would be tax-deductible.

    Basically, your donation to LPR would be a round-about way of supporting the work of the Coalition for Secular Government.

    If you wish to donate, please contact Jenn Hamann, the finance director of the Leadership Program of the Rockies, sometime in the next few days. Her e-mail address is JennHamann#AT#aol#DOT#com. Please indicate that you wish to help fund a scholarship for me in particular, provided that I’m accepted into the program. You can donate via LPR’s website (with PayPal) or by check to Leadership Program of the Rockies; 1777 South Harrison Street, Suite 807, Denver, CO 80210. And please e-mail me, if you like, so that I can thank you properly and update you on the program.

    Thank you!

     

    The following article has been offered as a non-exclusive op-ed by the Coalition for Secular Government to newspapers in the interior west.

    With Palin, McCain Ignores Colorado Warning
    by Ari Armstrong

    “I have to win here if I’m going to be the next president of the United States,” John McCain told a Colorado crowd in July. The fact that the Democrats came to Colorado for their convention also proves the presidential importance of the Interior West, a region known for its independent streak and partisan upheavals.

    However, McCain seems not to have learned the political lessons of the Interior West, despite the fact that he’s from Arizona. By selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate to attract the evangelical vote, McCain risks alienating the independent voters and non- sectarian Republicans he needs to win.

    Recent polling results from the Pew Research Center indicate that most Americans now think churches should keep out of politics. Even half of conservatives share this view. The Interior West is particularly leery about faith-based politics; Pew results from 2005 examined by Ryan Sager suggest that 59 percent of residents think “government is getting too involved in the issue of morality.” Yet faith-based politics is one of Palin’s signature issues.

    Palin endorsed the teaching of creationism in tax-funded schools before softening her stance on the issue. She ardently opposes abortion, describing herself as “pro-life as any candidate can be,” apparently even in cases of rape, incest, or health problems. Speaking to a church as governor, Palin said that it’s “God’s will” that she help build an energy pipeline; she added that the Iraq war is “a task that is from God.” Political reform, Palin argued, “doesn’t do any good if the people of Alaska’s heart isn’t right with God.”

    Given McCain’s desire to win Colorado, he might have examined why this once solidly Republican state is currently governed by Democrats. One central reason is the domination of the Republican Party in the state by the religious right.

    Democrats captured the final branch of state government in 2006 when Bill Ritter defeated Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez in the governor’s race. Ritter was accomplished in his own right as the Denver District Attorney but lacked high-level political experience. While Beauprez’s campaign suffered a variety of failings, Beauprez’s own commitment to faith-based politics, and his selection of a running mate of the same cloth, hurt him badly.

    Beauprez himself opposed abortion and favored faith-based welfare. His running mate, Janet Rowland, shared those views and had also come out in favor of teaching creationism in tax-funded schools. When asked about the separation of church and state, Rowland replied, “We should have the freedom OF religion, not the freedom FROM religion.” Such expressions rubbed independent-minded Westerners the wrong way.

    Yet McCain is following a similar path. On his official web page, McCain says that his ultimate aim is “ending abortion.” His running mate, like Rowland, shares that view and favored tax-funded religious education. Palin, like Rowland, would leave Americans without freedom from religious law. Will the team’s commitment to faith-based politics be too much for voters in the Interior West to swallow?

    The McCain-Palin ticket has a lot going for it that the Beauprez- Rowland ticket did not. McCain is a decorated military veteran with a lengthy career in the Senate. Palin is credible on energy, appealing to low-tax conservatives, and friendly toward gun owners. She has a record as a reformer, and she’s an attractive, vibrant, and poised speaker.

    Moreover, the left’s shrill personal attacks against Palin may serve only to evoke public sympathy for her and energize her supporters. The left’s complaints about Palin’s lack of experience may underscore their own candidate’s inexperience, as Barack Obama tends to come off as a glorified motivational speaker. Yet the Obama-friendly left, in its attempt to itself cozy up to the evangelical vote, shies away from criticizing the McCain-Palin ticket over the issue of separation of church and state.

    Nevertheless, as independent and traditionally Republican voters evaluate McCain and Palin on their own merits, rather than merely as the alternative to Obama, many will grow concerned over the pair’s commitment to faith-based politics. This will cost McCain votes and other forms of support.

    McCain may have energized the religious right, but in doing so he has brought faith-based politics to the forefront of his campaign, leaving freedom-minded independents and secular Republicans without a candidate they can support. The question remaining is which presidential candidate will make them more fearful.

    Ari Armstrong is the editor of FreeColorado.com and a co-author of “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life” at SecularGovernment.us, a paper criticizing the Colorado proposal to define a fertilized egg as a person.

     

    William Saletan of Slate has recently posted a couple of informative updates on the Bush administration’s attempt (or lack thereof) to define abortion.

    The context is the proposed new law that would grant special protections for religious health care workers who chose not to provide abortion care or information to patients out of reasons of “conscience”. In effect, the new law would forbid employers from firing such workers and enforce this by threatening the employer with loss of federal funding.

    Leaving apart the fact that such issues should be settled by private contract (as nicely argued by Thomas Bowden of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights in their recent press release, “Let Doctors Protect Conscience by Contract”), this proposed law has spawned a controversy over what exactly constitutes an “abortion” in the eyes of the federal government.

    As Saletan documents in his first piece from 8/28/2008, “Contraceptive Fudge”, the initial definition was:

    …[A]ny of the various procedures — including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action — that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation

    However, this was dropped after protest from physicians and reproductive rights advocates who correctly noted that this would include some forms of birth control that are not generally regarded as “abortion” — including IUDs and sometimes birth control pills.

    Saletan also points out that a number of religious advocacy groups have already argued that “hormonal contraception is abortion”, including Pharmacists for Life International, Christian Legal Society, and Concerned Women for America, and that the current definition still leaves the door open for this interpretation.

    When others have asked Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt to clarify this point, he has been cagey. In Saleton’s second piece from 8/29/2008, “Contraceptive Fudge: Addendum”, he notes the following statement by Leavitt:

    But when pressed about whether the regulation would protect health-care workers who consider birth control pills, Plan B and other forms of contraception to be equivalent to abortion, Leavitt said: “This regulation does not seek to resolve any ambiguity in that area. It focuses on abortion and focuses on physicians’ conscience in relation to that.”

    Secretary Leavitt is trying to have it both ways. While claiming this would not “change a patient’s right to a legal procedure”, his deliberate characterization of this issue as one of “ambiguity” is leaving the door open for the conflation of popular forms of birth control with abortion, and thus preparing the way for future restrictions of birth control in the name of restricting abortion.

    Saletan also explicitly supports the private contract approach to the “conscience” issue, and I applaud his principled stance:

    As a pharmacist, you have every right to refuse to fill contraceptive prescriptions. But your customers have every right to boycott your store, and your employer has every right to fire you. If you don’t like your employer’s policy, open your own pharmacy.

    He also notes that federal government is soliciting citizens’ opinions on this issue. You can e-mail them at: consciencecomment@hhs.gov.

    Here’s a slightly edited version of the comment I sent them:

    The US government needs to be completely clear and unambiguous as to whether it regards standard forms of contraception such as birth control pills and IUDs as forms of “abortion”, if they result in the expulsion of an egg that has already been fertilized but not yet undergone implantation.

    Rather than fudging this issue and calling it an “ambiguity”, it must let practicing physicians such as myself know whether restrictions on abortion will also entail restrictions on these other forms of contraception.

    If the Bush administration wants to call those “abortions”, then please be up front about it and say so. If the administration does not consider those to be “abortions”, then say so and clear the air. To straddle the fence does a grave disservice to millions of men and women, and also leads to the concern that there is a hidden agenda amongst some in the government to also include restrictions on these forms of birth control when they propose future restrictions on abortions.

    Paul Hsieh, MD

    You too can let the Feds know what you think!

     

    MEDIA RELEASE: COALITION FOR SECULAR GOVERNMENT

    Faith-Based Politics Is a Losing Strategy

    Sedalia, Colorado / August 27, 2008

    Contact: Diana Hsieh, founder of the Coalition for Secular Government and co-author of “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life,” Diana@SecularGovernment.us

    The wholehearted embrace of faith-based politics by Democrats is the big news of the Democratic National Convention. “It’s a losing strategy, particularly in more freedom-minded states like Colorado,” said Diana Hsieh, founder of the Coalition for Secular Government.

    A recent Pew survey showed that Americans are growing more wary of the persistent attempts of politicians to inject their private faith into public policy. A majority of Americans of all political stripes oppose the mixing of politics and religion.

    In Colorado, the Republican Party’s determination to enact laws and policies based on sectarian Christian values has resulted in stunning defeats in recent elections. Colorado was once a solidly red state, but now it’s purple, and turning blue.

    “Despite these losses, the religious right is still on the warpath in Colorado,” Hsieh said. “This election, they’re attempting to force God’s law on the state via Amendment 48, the ballot measure which would grant fertilized eggs all the legal rights of persons in the Colorado constitution. If passed and implemented, the amendment would criminalize abortion as murder and ban the birth control pill. It would be a disaster for the men and women of Colorado.” See “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life,” a Coalition issue paper by Ari Armstrong and Diana Hsieh, available at http://www.SecularGovernment.us/docs/a48.pdf.

    Now the Democrats are imitating this losing strategy by infusing liberal politics with religious fervor. They’re holding interfaith prayers, opening their platform to religious opponents of abortion, and supporting faith-based initiatives. Ironically, they’re doing so in Colorado, the very state that was handed to them as a result of voter disgust with the religious right.

    “It’s political suicide. The Democrats will only alienate the majority of Americans committed to the principle of secular government,” Hsieh said. “Who can those voters support, when both Republicans and Democrats seek to govern by their personal faith rather than rational principles?”

    “To protect freedom of religion and conscience, Republican and Democratic leaders must embrace the separation of church and state on principle. Politicians should govern according to the secular principles of individual rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, not religious scripture,” Hsieh said.

    The Coalition for Secular Government (www.SecularGovernment.us) advocates government solely based on secular principles of individual rights. The protection of a person’s basic rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness — including freedom of religion and conscience — requires a strict separation of church and state.

    Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha