Friday, October 24, 2008

“Personhood” Wouldn’t Make Abortion Illegal … Yet

Dana Goldstein over at TAPPED points to some ads being run about the Amendment 48 ballot initiative in Colorado–most commonly referred to as the “personhood amendment.” The amendment seeks to define a fertilized egg as an individual with full constitutional rights. There’s been a lot reported on this (including some research I’ve done), namely that it would make things like not only abortion but also Plan B and contraception illegal. But while researching a forthcoming piece on the Supreme Court, I found that there’s one important thing to keep in mind about ballot initiatives like this and the abortion ban proposed in South Dakota: the right to abortion is still protected under the Constitution.

Such initiatives are, of course, designed to directly challenge Roe v. Wade, but if and until the Supreme Court hears such a case, a federal or state judge would be obligated to immediately place an injunction on such a law. That means that even if it passes, it would be immediately frozen. Now it’s hard to say if the Supreme Court is interested in overturning Roe or not (this is actually under great dispute among pro-choice bloggers), but even if Colorado managed to pass a law restricting such rights, abortion still wouldn’t be illegal in Colorado until the Supreme Court declares that it is.

It’s understandable to be worried about the Supreme Court, especially since it made a pretty sweeping restriction on abortion recently in upholding the legality of the so-called Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. (Note that “partial-birth abortion” isn’t anything close to a medical term.) While pro-choice activists worry about the implications of the Colorado and South Dakota amendments, the result won’t be instant–the bans will only go into place if the Supreme Court overturns Roe.

Cross posted at Pushback.

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