Monday, November 19, 2007

In Which the Legal System is Brought to its Knees by a Non-independent Two-celled Organism

Your new blastocyst overlord.

Well, not quite yet, but that's the spectre that's on the verge of being released in Focus on the Family's Colorado.

A proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution that would give legal rights to fertilized human eggs may be headed for the ballot next year...

The measure, just one paragraph long, would ask voters whether inalienable rights, due process rights and equality of justice rights as defined in the state Constitution should be extended to “any human being from the moment of fertilization.”

The proposal must go through several other steps between now and Election Day 2008, including gathering of enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Really. Fertilized eggs get full legal rights. Full personhood. From the moment of fertilization.

And in his well-appointed lair somewhere in the Hamptons, the Law of Unintended Consequences pours a second glass of Glenfiddich and starts giggling uncontrollably.

Wow. Imagine. This brings abortion to a screeching halt, of course, as it is the underlying motivation for introducing this bit of ridiculousness in the first place. What else might it do? IUD possession will be tantamount to holding a smoking gun. Maybe lawyers will line up to bring suits against women on behalf of ectopic pregnancies (perhaps softeningly retitled "Managua Maternities?") everywhere. And nutter billionaires will no longer need to keep a small lap dog on the premises just to have someone to will their fortunes to in order to spite their ungrateful grown children--they can name any of the thousands of fertilized eggs languishing in a freezer somewhere as full beneficiaries.

Lost, as usual in this particular brand of asshattery, is the role of the woman, the woman whose uterus is the claim of squatter's rights by the now fully enfranchised fertilized egg. There is no mention of the fully formed, several-trillion-celled human being whose bodily autonomy is discounted in favor of the two-celled cluster being venerated by the forced-birth contingent. Woman? What woman? We have a blastocyst to defend here, people!

And lord knows the blastocysts need help. Roughly half of them fail to implant in the uterine wall anyway and are expelled from the woman's body without her having any inkling they ever existed in the first place. It's been remarked to the point of exhaustion that this one-in-two rate of failure to implant makes God the biggest abortionist in the world. The fertilized egg is indeed alive, but it doesn't come anywhere close to fitting the definition of viable. It's a potential-filled rogue, but a rogue nonetheless, floating in the general direction of the cervix, but sometimes implanting in the side of the fallopian tube instead, at which point--if we're going to carry the absurdity of full legal personhood to its conclusion--if left unchecked, it becomes the instigator of a murder-suicide. Even making it into the uterus is no guarantee of making it to the point of viabililty. A hundred years ago, that point was pretty much the moment of birth, providing the mother didn't die halfway through delivery, asphyxiating the infant. In 2007, viability means about seven months' gestation. Is that life? Well, it can breathe with a little help and has a shot at an unencumbered adulthood, so yeah, that's life. An egg that was fertilized an hour ago and has even odds of not surviving the next 72 hours inside the woman's body, and exactly zero odds of surviving outside it? Not so much.

Dale Schowengerdt, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal organization based in Arizona that supported the ballot measure before the Colorado Supreme Court, said the timing of the proposal was “pure coincidence,” to next year’s elections.

“It’s an important debate that people ought to have, and Colorado ought to have, about when does life begin,” Mr. Schowengerdt said.

Ah, that one's easy, Mr. Schowengerdt. It begins when it is politically expedient for you to have it begin. And if you really want "life" defined as "sperm crashes into egg; gains full legal standing as US citizen," well, sir, be really, really careful what you wish for.

1 comment:

Homer said...

This is the craziest thing. Hypothetical situation. A couple have fertility treatment, successfully implant one embryo, give birth, and then are killed in an accident. So does their estate go solely to their birthed child, or does it get divided among the child and the fertilized egg(s). What happens if they are really rich, the fertilized egg(s) and implanted and born and then the surrogate parents demand a share of the estate. Sounds like a whole new area for lawyers to litigate.