Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 in Pamela White’s two-part series on the Colorado personhood amendment, coming to the ballot this November. Read the first installment,
Amendment 48: Constitution and Consequences, here.
Although it’s hard to imagine the American public, even
anti-abortion extremists, tolerating the medical neglect of women in the name
of protecting life, there are those in the United States who would use the
force of law to ensure that women give birth to badly deformed, doomed babies
rather than aborting them.
Dr. Andrew Toledo, an OB/GYN and reproductive endocrinologist who practices in Georgia,
listened to such people testify in a subcommittee hearing regarding a
referendum that anti-abortion extremists hoped to get onto his state’s ballot.
The referendum, which did not get on the ballot in Georgia,
is like Amendment
48 in Colorado,
giving the same rights human beings have to eggs at the moment of
"There were countless couples who got up and told their story about how they
had to have an abortion because of a child that was anacephalic
or deformed in some terrible way," Toledo
says. "It didn’t move these people at all. They didn’t care. They just didn’t
care. It didn’t matter if the woman was raped. It didn’t matter if it was
incest. It didn’t matter if the girl was under age."
For Toledo, who
helps couples facing infertility problems to have the children they so
desperately want, this lack of compassion was chilling.
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"If the child is not going to survive, it’s bad enough that the woman’s having
to carry this inside of her," he says. "Knowing what women go through to have
this wonderful event occur only to be told that you’ve got a child that’s not
going to survive birth, and then to think that you have to carry that child, go
through the pain of the delivery process and then watch it die…"
Such an experience would be devastating for most women, he says, adding that he
fully supports any woman who wants to carry a nonviable fetus to term, if
that’s her choice.
In addition to listening to the testimony of others, Toledo
spoke before the subcommittee about the possible impact of Georgia’s
proposed referendum on women’s health and on couples undergoing in vitro
fertilization (IVF) for infertility.
"Where do you start?" he asks. "First of all any form of [hormonal] contraception
would be considered criminal. The family-planning person would be considered a
criminal because you are killing potentially a person because the embryo is not
being allowed to implant. There are so many aspects of this that are just
A father of three, Toledo
says he believes life is sacred, and he also believes that the health and lives
of women need to come first. Laws such as Amendment 48 trivialize women, in his
"What they’re asking people to do is pass laws saying that these fertilized
eggs are equal to a woman in every way," he says. "Here’s the key element that
they’re forgetting from my perspective: Hey, those embryos still need a uterus.
No uterus, no baby."
As an IVF specialist, he wonders how Amendment 48 would impact IVF clinics in Colorado.
"You have to deal with those little embryos in the deep freeze if you’re an in
vitro fertilization center. What do you do with them if the couple doesn’t want
to use them?" he asks. "Are you going to assign them to the state? Are you
going to give them up for adoption and therefore the couple loses their rights
to utilize them or dispose of them in whatever way they want?"
He says he sees couples agonize over what to do with their embryos, doing their
best to make the right decision. Most keep them for later use. Others donate them to other infertile couples
who can’t afford the full in-vitro process. Still others donate them to
research. And some have them destroyed.
"Those are decisions that are very difficult to make but should be made by the
couple, not by the government," he says. "When the government gets involved in
those decisions, we are stepping into a huge mess."
Of course, some of the implications of Amendment 48 are absurd. If a fertilized
egg is a person, how should society respond to the millions of "persons" who
fail to implant inside the uterus and go unnoticed as part of women’s menstrual
flow? Is every menstrual period a reason to mourn?
"I have 10,000 frozen embryos in my lab," Toledo
says. "I told the subcommittee that, according to the referendum, that would
constitute a small city. I asked if my small city gets voting rights. If I put
them in my car, do I get to ride in the HOV lane? There are so many offshoots
of this that are so illogical. It’s just insane."
This post is excerpted from a longer story by the same
author for the Boulder