Colorado's Amendment 48 (2008)

Amendment 48 was a 2008 ballot measure in Colorado that sought to define a fertilized egg as a person with full legal rights in the state constitution. The Coalition for Secular Government vigorously opposed this "personhood" measure. Happily, Colorado voters rejected it resoundingly: 73% against and 27% in favor.

In 2010, these "personhood" advocates presented Colorado voters with a very similar ballot measure: Amendment 62. Once again, Colorado voters rejected "personhood" resoundingly: 71% against and 29% in favor.

The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life

For an in-depth discussion of the moral and practical wrongs of these attempts to grant zygotes and fetuses legal rights, as well as a vigorous defense of the view that rights begin at birth, please read The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception by Ari Armstrong and Diana Hsieh (Ph.D.), published in August 2010 by the Coalition for Secular Government.

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 (

Published on August 31, 2010

Formats: HTML / PDF / E-Book

CSG Commentary on Amendment 48

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Letters to the Editor

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Vote NO on Amendment 48

The following information about Amendment was written for before the 2008 election.

Colorado's Amendment 48 is the 2008 ballot measure that would define a fertilized egg as a person with full legal rights in the Colorado constitution. (Read the full text.) If passed and implemented, it would pose a grave threat to the life, liberty, health, and happiness of the women and men of Colorado.

  • Amendment 48 would make abortion first-degree murder, except perhaps to save the woman's life. First-degree murder is defined in Colorado law as deliberately causing the death of a "person," a crime punished by life in prison or the death penalty. So women and their doctors would be punished with the severest possible penalty under law for terminating a pregnancy -- even in cases of rape, incest, and fetal deformity.

  • Amendment 48 would ban any form of birth control that might sometimes prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus -- including the birth control pill, morning-after pill, and IUD. The result would be many more unintended pregnancies and unwanted children in Colorado.

  • Amendment 48 would ban in vitro fertilization because the process usually creates more fertilized eggs than can be safely implanted in the womb. So every year, hundreds of Colorado couples would be denied the joy of a child of their own.

Amendment 48 would have severe legal consequences for Colorado. Men and women would be legally bound to sacrifice themselves for the sake of a zygote -- even before it implants in the womb, even before it develops any recognizable human form, even before it has any capacity for awareness. The people of Colorado would be forced to sacrifice themselves based on the faith-based fiction that zygote is the equal of a born baby.

The common claim that "life begins at conception" cannot justify Amendment 48. The fact that something is human and alive does not make it a person. Every cell in our body is both human and alive, yet we don't worry about giving blood for testing or scraping off a few skin cells in a fall. A fertilized egg is distinctive because, in addition to being alive and human, it might develop into a born baby given the right conditions. What supporters of Amendment 48 cannot show, however, is that a potential baby has the moral status of an actual baby. The difference between them is enormous.

An embryo or fetus is wholly dependent on the woman for its basic life-functions. It goes where she goes, eats what she eats, and breathes what she breathes. It lives as an extension of her body, contained within and dependent on her for its survival. It is only a potential person, not an actual person. That situation changes radically at birth. The newborn baby exists as a distinct organism, separate from his mother. Although still very needy, he lives his own life. He is a person -- and individual. His life must be protected as a matter of right.

Consequently, when a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy she does not violate the rights of any person. Instead, she is exercising her own rights over her own body -- likely in pursuit of her own health, well-being, and happiness. Amendment 48 would destroy those rights in Colorado.

For a detailed analysis of Amendment 48, download and read the Coalition for Secular Government's issue paper by Ari Armstrong and Diana Hsieh: Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person.

Amendment 48 is based on sectarian religious dogma, not objective science or philosophy. It is a blatant attempt to impose theocracy in Colorado. Please vote NO on 48!


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