Do confusing ballot measures sporting seductive names make you nervous? How about when they’re initiated by national coalitions with dubious political agendas? Coloradans will vote on many of these issues this November. Careful study will be required to keep your votes consistent with your values. For example, a “civil rights initiative” might sound great, but a closer look at Amendment 46 reveals it to be against modest equal-opportunity initiatives. While “defining personhood” may be a valid lifetime spiritual quest for some, Amendment 48 adds junk science to our state’s constitution and is a blatant attempt to limit a woman’s right to choose.
The 2008 presidential election is noteworthy for the nomination of biracial Barack Obama, the first female Republican VP candidate, and a presidential candidate trying to transcend ageism, yet the U.S. continues to be a society for the privileged that many refuse to recognize. Bigotry based on color, gender, sexual orientation and citizenship or immigration status is part of our “unfinished business.” At the current rate of growth, women worldwide will achieve equal parity with men in government in 2040. The Glass Ceiling Commission, a federally funded group studying the hard-to-penetrate barriers faced by women and minorities, stated: “Over half of all master’s degrees are now awarded to women, yet 95 percent of senior-level managers, from top Fortune 1,000 industrial and 500 service companies are men. Of them, 97 percent are white.”
Amendment 46 is California political activist Ward Connerly’s latest attempt to legislate a colorblind society by rolling back the very opportunities that permit all Coloradans to succeed in life. Outreach, recruitment and education counter a world where the oppressed still have fewer chances to advance. Linda Meric, executive director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, expresses dismay over the way Connerly has “used deception and deceit to push his anti-equal opportunity agenda.” Meric continues, “Providing access enables people to be the best that they can be by raising standards and providing opportunities for all qualified individuals to fairly compete.” 9to5 works to close pay and education gaps by improving availability of training and by making a case for the changes needed by a diverse population. These programs could be eliminated if 46 were to pass.
Amendment 48, one of too many anti-abortion measures that have made their way to paper ballots across the country, seeks to define “personhood” as beginning with fertilization. Aside from amending the state constitution with an inane way of looking at embryos and fetuses, what purpose could this clearly religious interpretation have except to restrict abortion, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research? Politicized definitions lead us down a treacherous path where someone else’s values can dictate our most personal decisions. Those who continually push government out of their private lives surely must realize that a woman’s right to choose is as personal as it gets.
Ballot initiative 46 would amend the state constitution to prohibit “the state from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” This is essentially the same one passed by California a few years ago, and is a direct answer to the unofficial “quota” system used by governments and universities. Affirmative action was a program passed by Congress during the civil rights era to counter years of discrimination against minorities and women. It was meant to dismantle preferential treatment based on race and gender, not to reinstitute a new system that discriminated against white and Asian males. Anyone who has tried to get into a ranked university these days knows that high academic scores and commitment to community service are not nearly enough; points are given for being the “correct” race. Certainly we all want to encourage education for the disadvantaged, but that doesn’t always align with race. And many studies have shown that mere racial preference for college or law school does not in any way ensure success for these students. As a formerly economically disadvantaged student who happens to be the “wrong” race, it was always weird to see economically advantaged blacks skipping the line. Let’s help those who are truly economically or educationally disadvantaged, and stop putting everyone in racial groups.
Amendment 48 is also simple, but extremely controversial. It “defin(es) the term ‘person’ to include any human being from the moment of fertilization as ‘person’ is used in those provisions of the Colorado constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law.” This goes to the heart of so many social questions in the U.S. today. What exactly is a “person”? When we talk about inalienable human rights, what do we mean by “human”? When does human life begin? I find that most radical pro-choicers will avoid this question like the plague, and they should. When the question is whether a woman’s body is her own to control, then most of us are going to say, “Hell, yes!” But when that means ending a human life, most of us take a step back. We all seem to have a different answer as to when human life begins, but that isn’t intellectually honest. There is no scientifically “magic” time when a fetus becomes a baby. Our legal answer right now is whenever a woman and her doctor say so. Is this sufficient?
If we are intellectually honest, we come to the conclusion that human life begins at the actual “magic” moment, when a sperm fertilizes an egg, and the result is a new entity. What we do then, as a society, is have a conversation about when and whether human life matters. I believe that human life and dignity matter, so I’m voting “yes” on both these initiatives.
There’s no such thing as an “unofficial quota system.” That’s a myth being used to play on the basest of fears to pass this deceptive amendment. Summer camps that interest girls in math and science would be scrapped under 46. In California, a similar initiative caused breast cancer screening clinics and battered women’s shelters to be sued as being in violation of the law.
Intellectual honesty offers the following definition of “entity,” a thing with distinct and independent existence. What zygote can claim that? Is it a “magic moment” if a woman is raped?
Ballot issues such as 46 and 48 are surrounded by the same misleading and inconsistent rhetoric that clouds this entire election. You’ll have to go beyond personality to choose wisely this November. On the right side, religious fundamentalists present a philosophy that takes refuge in fear, control and violence while preying on an unthinking population. The left offers hope, fueled by optimism, creativity and intelligence. One of these paths will shape the Supreme Court for years to come. Seize opportunities to become informed and make sure your vote is counted.
Hannah B. Hayes is a small-business owner and an activist for peace and justice. A recent graduate of Leadership Evergreen with a master’s degree in education, Hayes has remained active in this community through her writing and organizing for 35 years.
Deciding when a “person” is eligible to be destroyed is about as personal as it can get. Every woman who has become pregnant, whether she carried to term or not, realizes that this is a deeply personal and moral issue. All Amendment 48 does is to place the question firmly in front of us, rather than gloss over it with slick women’s rights jargon. No one is oppressing women when they get pregnant, and it’s ridiculous to continue to refuse to recognize the actual science of the beginning of human life in this way. By the way, this initiative was written and advocated by a Colorado woman, not by any “national organization with (a) dubious political agenda.”
And, neither is Amendment 46. Yes, Ward Connerly is an African-American man from California, but the amendment was proposed and is advocated by Coloradans, including my friend Jessica Peck Corry. It does not end any assistance to minorities and women to overcome actual disadvantages. It merely ends quota systems, with no actual relevance to real disadvantage. Both of these amendments are necessary due to the obfuscation and slickness of the left.
Attorney and political activist Kelly Weist has served on the board of directors of the Colorado Federation of Republican Women and is the co-founder of Mountain Republican Women. She is an adjunct professor of political science at Metropolitan State College of Denver.