Archive for the ‘abortion’ Tag

North Dakota may grant human rights to individual cells

Officially, the ratio of North Dakota's flag is 33:26, but they're almost always made in the more standard 5:3 ratio

Officially, the ratio of North Dakota's flag is 33:26, but they're almost always made in the more standard 5:3 ratio

The North Dakota House of Representatives approved a bill that would grant human rights to fertilized egg cells, a move designed to challenge abortion and Roe v. Wade.  The bill passed 51-41 and now moves on to the 47-member state Senate.

If passed by the Legislative Assembly and signed into law by the Governor, the bill will face a challenge in the courts, which will almost certainly declare it unconstitutional and a violation of Roe v. Wade. Critics say that defending the law in the courts will be an unnecessary expense for the state, since defeat is almost certain.  The current composition of the Supreme Court, and the likely composition after any Obama appointments, make it unlikely that that tribunal would intervene to overturn its prior precedents in abortion law.

The operative text of the bill reads as follows:

References to individual, person, or human being – Legislative intent. For purposes of interpretation of the constitution and laws of North Dakota, it is the intent of the legislative assembly that an individual, a person, when the context indicates that a reference to an individual is intended, or a human being includes any organism with the genome of homo sapiens.

The measure is very similar to Colorado’s Amendment 48 (blogged about in detail here), which would have modified that state’s constitution to define a fertilized egg as a person.  The people of Colorado examined the issue closely and handed Amendment 48 a huge defeat—73.3% of voters rejected it, almost a 3:1 margin.

To abortion opponents this sort of thing may sound good, but upon examination the law becomes extremely problematic.  Not only abortion, but many common forms of birth control that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus would be illegal; women on the pill could potentially be charged with murder.  The law would also be likely to have a chilling effect on the medical community for various reasons.

Even if the law was a good idea, it is so likely to be struck down in the courts that passing it would amount to only a fairly costly symbolic gesture.  I think the people of North Dakota have more important business for their legislators to be attending to.

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Colorado’s Amendment 48

The Flag of Colorado, one of the best in the Union

The Flag of Colorado, one of the best in the Union

This November the citizens of Colorado will be deciding on 18 ballot initiatives, including one which would amend the state’s constitution to expand the definition of person to include a fertilized egg.  The measure is called–deceptively, according to some opponents–the Colorado Equal Rights Amendment, and is also known as the Definition of Person Initiative or Amendment 48. 

The text of the initiative reads as follows:

Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Colorado: SECTION 1. Article II of the constitution of the state of Colorado is amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION to read: Section 31. Person defined. As used in sections 3, 6, and 25 of article II of the state constitution, the terms “person” or “persons” shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization.

Supporters obtained 103,000 valid signatures to get the measure on the ballot; 76,000 were needed.  They hope the measure will make illegal most, if not all, abortions in Colorado.  Focus on the Family, which is headquartered in Coloado Springs, is one of several groups supporting the measure.

The amendment is the brainchild of 21-year old Kristi Burton, who says “The word ‘person’ in our constitution has never been defined and because of that, there’s a whole group of people in Colorado who aren’t protected. And, certainly that would be the unborn child.”  Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, author of the Roe v. Wade decision, said that the right to an abortion would be nullified by the rights of the unborn if the unborn constituted a person with rights.  As Justice Antonin Scalia argued in his dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey,

The whole argument of abortion opponents is that what the Court calls the fetus and what others call the unborn child is a human life. Thus, whatever answer Roe came up with after conducting its “balancing” is bound to be wrong, unless it is correct that the human fetus is in some critical sense merely potentially human. There is, of course, no way to determine that as a legal matter; it is, in fact, a value judgment. Some societies have considered newborn children not yet human, or the incompetent elderly no longer so.

He further argued that “The States may, if they wish, permit abortion on demand,” if the unborn are not considered persons, “but the Constitution does not require them to do so,” since it contains no definition of person that speaks to the issue at hand. 

Legally, the abortion debate is not really about whether killing unborn persons is okay or not–everyone agrees that killing people is wrong.  The issue is at what stage personhood is gained in the developmental process, from egg to birth, personhood is gained.  The Colorado ballot measure attempts to legally define that point.

The measure has many opponents, who have said that the measure may criminalize certain popular forms of birth control, like the morning-after pill and intra uterine devices,  which operate by preventing the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus.  This could be tantamount to murder if Amendment 48 is approved. 

Abortion rights groups are joined by the state’s major medical associations and societies in opposing the measure, which could make doctors who treat women of child bearing age liable to criminal prosecution, since just about anything more involved than taking a woman’s temperature could potentially impact the health and prospects of a fertilized egg that she is carrying.  Treatment of ectopic pregnancies, which often involves the termination of the pregnancy to protect the life of the mother, might also be considered murder, though I suspect the courts would eventually rule that terminating such a pregnancy, which presents serious risks to the mother, is okay.  However, most agree that lots of litigation is probable if the amendment passes.

Incidentally, only about 50% of all fertilized eggs implant in the womb.  Of those that do, about one in five will miscarry without human intervention.  (A large portion of these failures are due to genetic abnormalities.)  Thus, one might say that, if this Amendment passes, something like 60% of all people in Colorado are never even born, for completely non-abortion related reasons.

I couldn’t locate any polling data on the measure, but I think this vote will be another interesting one to watch on election night.  Colorado polls close at 7pm Mountain Time; the state is widely considered a swing state in this year’s presidential election.

Miscellany

Here are a number of quick new items that I have found interesting; hopefully readers will think likewise about at least some of the following.

Time‘s Michael Kinsley has a good article on “Sarah Palin’s Alaskanomics” that challenges how much experience she has with fiscal conservatism, even besides her early support for the “bridge to nowhere.”  The economy of the state has more to do with Alaska’s natural resources than with Governor Palin, but the details are nonetheless interesting. 

Of the 50 states, Alaska ranks No. 1 in taxes per resident and No. 1 in spending per resident. Its tax burden per resident is 2.5 times the national average; its spending, more than double. The trick is that Alaska‘s government spends money on its own citizens and taxes the rest of us to pay for it. Although Palin, like McCain, talks about liberating ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, there is no evidence that being dependent on Alaskan oil would be any more pleasant to the pocketbook.

Alaska is, in essence, an adjunct member of OPEC. It has four different taxes on oil, which produce more than 89% of the state’s unrestricted revenue.

Former New York City mayor Ed Koch predicts that the “Election Will Hinge on Abortion Issue.”  He says that “the outcome of the presidential election will depend not on the economy, not on the Iraq war, not on the price of gasoline or the issue of national health insurance, but on the issue of the right to abortion.”  He credits McCain’s selection of Palin for making the abortion issue prominent in the race and says she’ll drive evangelicals to the polls just as Obama will drive more minorities, possibly leading to a high turnout election.  Koch will announce his presidential endorsement next week.

To our north, Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has dissolved his country’s Parliament.  To those not familiar with the terminology of parliamentary government, this simply means that he has called for new elections, which will be held October 14th.  Harper’s Conservative party has 127 seats, a plurality, in the House of Commons.  He hopes to gain an outright majority to form a more stable government without having to rely on any opposition parties to pass legislation. Some recent polls say Conservatives may win as many as 168 seats in the 308-member House of Commons, but Harper been downplaying the chances of this, publicly predicting another plurality government.

In other prime ministerial news, Japan’s PM, Yasuo Fukuda, has resigned.  This article has some interesting observations on how two decades of mostly weak and ineffective Prime Ministers have affected Japan’s position and relationship and role with their region and with the United States.  Not really touched on in the article is Japan’s need for some fundamental and painful economic reforms, which probably won’t happen without an executive with some clout. The upcoming leadership election likely won’t produce such an executive.

One of my favorite columnists, Gregg Easterbrook,  has a lengthy item (1356 words) on vehicle fuel efficiency and horsepower in the latest entryto his only partly football-related column, Tuesday Morning Quarterback.  Easterbrook writes that “Less horsepower would mean better fuel efficiency, diminished petroleum imports and lower carbon emissions … [and] would reduce highway deaths” by diminishing speeding and road rage.  He argues for government regulation, writing that:

Courts consistently rule that vehicles using public roads may be regulated for public purposes, such as safety and energy efficiency. NASCAR races occur on private property — there, horsepower is nobody’s business. On public roads, horsepower is very much everybody’s business. You’d be laughed at if you asserted a “right” to drive a locomotive down the freeway. Where is it written we have the “right” to operate an overpowered car that wastes oil and pollutes the sky?

In less important news, KFC is moving Colonel Sanders’s secret recipe.  Apparently, KFC literally has a piece of yellow notebook paper on which Sanders himself hand wrote the secret recipe; the paper is kept in a vault and will be moved while it’s security arrangements are enhanced.  Only two company executives have access to the whole recipe at any one time; people in their supply chain have access only to a small portion thereof.

In other fast food news, 54-year old Dan Gorske has eaten 23,000 Big Macs since 1972.  That works out to about 640 Big Macs per year, or about 1.75 Big Macs per day.  That can’t be good for you.  Gorske credits this feat to his obsessive-compulsive disorder, which also leads him to save every McDonald’s receipt.  The only day he hasn’t eaten a Big Mac was the day his mother died and he says that eating a Big Mac is the highlight of his day. No word on whether he’s considered the possibility that he likes Big Macs perhaps a bit too much.

In slightly more important news, Physicist Stephen Hawking predicts that the Large Hadron Collider, which will come online Wednesday, will not destroy the world.  He puts the chance of it creating microscopic black holes (which would not be dangerous) at less than 1%, but says “I don’t think there is any doubt I would get a Nobel Prize, if they showed the properties I predict.”  Hawking’s main prediction is that microscopic black holes would quickly “evaporate” due to so-called Hawking Radiation produced by quantum effects.  The physicist also doubts that the LHC will produce evidence of the Higgs bosun, which he doubts exists; he has put his money where his voice synthesizer is by making one of his well-known bets: he’ll lose $100 to Michigan University’s Gordy Kane if the Higgs exists.

Palin picking process

Well, more information has come to light on Sarah Palin, Alaska’s governor and presumptive GOP Vice Presidential nominee  (previously blogged about here and here).  The most salacious detail is that Palin’s 17-year old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant.  This detail is newsworthy–but only barely–on account of the culture wars which often play a role in politics.  I’m sure the past few days have been terrible for her, and hopefully the press will leave Miss Palin alone henceforth.  That said, McCain has been vague about when and how he learned of the pregnancy, which, since it is potentially embarrassing, is the sort of thing a person needs to mention when he or she is being considered for the Veep spot.

The New York Times reports that the vetting process for Ms. Palin doesn’t appear to have been very thorough.  Party, government, and business leaders in Alaska report not having been contacted for information on her background, nor was a background investigation conducted on her by the government agency which normally handles that and did handle that for other possible candidates. 

The aforementioned article puts forth a good case that the vetting process for Palinwas woefully inadequate and that her selection was made at the last moment in an attempt to shake up the race and placate the social conservatives who have so much control over the Republican Party.  Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney would not have stirred things up enough, according to the Times article.

Apparently, McCain preferred either his good friend Joe Lieberman, Independent Senator from Connecticut who caucuses with the Democrats, or Tom Ridge, former Governor of Pennsylvania and adviser to the McCain campaign.  However, both of those gentlemen are pro-choice on the abortion issue, and thus totally unacceptable to social conservative power brokers in the party.

Tom Ridge would make a totally kick awesome Vice President.  As indicated, he has a sterling resume: he was twice elected Governor of vote-rich swing state Pennsylvania, in 1994 and 1998, before resigning to become President Bush’s Assistant for Homeland Security and then as the first United States Secretary of Homeland Security.  He thus has experience as a chief executive at the state level and as an executive official at the Federal level.  He earlier served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983-95.  After leaving government, he has served on the boards of Hershey and Home Depot, gaining private-sector business experience. 

But, he’s pro-choice so none of that matters and we get a small state governor with 20 months of experience after being a small town mayor, who is now under investigation for possibly misusing her power.  This reminds me of the Harriet Myers nomination, which I opposed at the time and was glad to see withdrawn.  I’m also opposed to this nomination: Sarah Palin, despite her legitimate strengths and accomplishments, should not be on the Republican ticket.  She’d make a great convention keynote speaker, but she needs more grooming and experience for any higher office.  Her nomination is a gimmick; do you really think there is any chance she’d be the nominee if she were a man?  I sure don’t.

My best wishes to Bristol Palin, her fiance, and their unborn child.  Congratulations–and God bless.