Is a fertilized egg a person? It has no emotion, no beating heart and we cannot even know the exact moment that is created (the exact moment of conception, try documenting that). But in some states, including Michigan, anti-abortion activists are forging ahead with a delusional scheme to get an initiative on the 2008 ballot to establish the “personhood” of a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. Given the vague nature of ballot initiatives, voters could easily be fooled into overlooking the inherent nonsensical nature of the proposal. If passed, it would effectively destroy several of the constitutional rights currently afforded to fully developed people.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, 20-year-old law student Kristi Burton of Colorado conceived the idea for the initiative about a year ago. Since then, she has established the ambiguously titled group “Colorado for Equal Rights” to gain support for the idea of having voters decide if a fertilized egg is a person.

Because the proposal is vague enough to seem harmless but broad enough to have cascading effects, it wouldn’t be long before reproductive rights fall like dominos. The first of our rights to go would likely be women’s private right to an abortion as established by the Supreme Court 35 years ago in Roe v. Wade. If a fetus were considered a person, then any form of abortion would be murder.

Next to go would be certain forms of contraception. Because emergency contraceptives, like Plan B, change the uterine wall and prevent a fertilized egg from implanting there, using this method of birth control could be an offense of the same level as killing a grown person. The same logic holds for in-vitro fertilization. More embryos are produced than could ever be used to form pregnancies. Those excess embryos are stored, used (in some fortunate cases) for stem cell research or simply discarded: It’s not feasible under any circumstances to suggest that all these embryos should be given the same rights as people. The population of America alone would jump by 400,000 instantly.

This proposal is absurd on so many fronts, but like Proposal 2 showed last year in Michigan, it’s very easy to pass vague, counterproductive proposals in the form of ballot initiatives. Although voters should know everything about an issue before stepping into the booth, the majority of them do not. They can be confused and deceived by activists who cleverly word proposals to trip up certain voters. We elect our representatives in government to work on, understand and make informed decisions about such issues. Bypassing the legislative debate is never a good idea and results only in poor legislation.

Anti-abortion activists must face these facts and accept that there are some situations where it is imperative for women to have access to the medical necessities that enable them to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Absurd, deceptive ballot initiatives like this are the only way anti-abortion activists can gain support for their agenda. It’s unfortunate that they are willing to go to such lengths.

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