Amendment 48 Goes Too Far

Rep. Patricia Schroeder

Here's something you still may not know about Colorado's "personhood amendment" on the ballot - chances are you or your own family will be affected if this crazy proposal passes.

My very first job after graduating from Harvard Law
School was as a part-time lawyer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains
in Denver. I was working on cases related to expanding access to birth control
to all couples regardless of their marital status. At the time the birth
control pill was recently approved as safe, but it was not yet legal in all
states for all women. The Supreme Court in 1965 established basic privacy
rights to birth control, but only for women who could produce a marriage license.

Fast forward to 2008, 40 years later. In my worst
nightmare, it never crossed my mind that voters in Colorado would be
considering a constitutional amendment that could outlaw birth control pills.
Emergency contraceptives could also be illegal under Proposition 48, a form of
birth control that if taken up to 72 hours after intercourse can prevent an
unwanted pregnancy, especially used by rape and incest victims.
VIDEO: Life & FertilizationVIDEO: Life & Fertilization

If you need more reasons to Vote No on 48, here’s one: chances are
you or your own family will be affected if this crazy proposal passes. Like
thousands of living women in Colorado in the 1970s, I struggled with
difficult pregnancies. I lost twins during my second pregnancy and almost died
during childbirth. It was a painful time for my family, as it is for all
families. I can only imagine how devastating it would have been if government
officials had shown up on my doorstep, asking questions about what had
happened, was it really a miscarriage? Yet, couples could face that kind of
unthinkable government investigation if Colorado voters allow Amendment 48 to
pass.

If you don’t believe it could happen, just take a
look at the plain language of the Amendment. It would amend the Colorado
constitution to grant, for the first time, inalienable rights, equality of
justice, and due process of law to fertilized eggs. Even the proponents of the
Amendment admit they don’t know all the possible ramifications.

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Would couples struggling to get pregnant be allowed to
use in vitro fertilization, which depends on fertilizing more eggs than a woman
can carry to term? Would common birth control methods, such as the Pill, IUDs,
the Patch, and the Ring, be outlawed because anti-choicers maintain that they operate by preventing
fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus?

Could child welfare agencies be called to investigate
abuse of a fertilized egg? Would a fertilized egg have standing to sue a woman
for getting chemotherapy for cancer because it might be harmed? Amendment 48
would open more than 20,000 statutes and regulations to re-interpretation by
the courts and lawyers. Almost every area of the law would be affected,
including criminal law, family law, trusts and estates, elder law, tort law,
juvenile law, health law, and business law.

In this presidential election year, Coloradans will decide
one of the most competitive senate races in the country, several strongly
contested congressional races, and as many as a dozen statewide ballot
initiatives. There are a large number of questions on the ballot this fall, and
many of the issues are complicated. But it doesn’t take a constitutional
scholar, a medical ethicist or a genius to see that Amendment 48 is ridiculous.
Coloradans have rejected these extreme positions before and must do so again.

Amendment 48 is not a homegrown initiative. National
groups such as The American Life League, Lifeguard, and the Thomas More Law
Center are carrying out a multi-state strategy with the ultimate goal of
overturning Roe v. Wade. In addition to Colorado, they tried to get similar
amendments on the ballot in Georgia, Montana, and Oregon, but failed. These
outside groups are hoping, in Colorado, that the Amendment will sneak through
the clutter of a crowed ballot. They are counting on you to be distracted and
not to focus on the full implications of Amendment 48.

Well, they are forgetting that Coloradans are independent
thinkers. Coloradans believe that they and their neighbors should have the
ability to plan when they want to start a family, decide when they are ready to
become parents, and make other important life decisions. By establishing
constitutional rights from the moment of fertilization, Amendment 48 would
eliminate a woman’s right to make personal, private decisions about her
own health care, in consultation with her doctor and her family. 

Years ago, when I was asked how I could be both a mother
and a Congresswoman, I replied, "I have a brain and a uterus and I use
both." On November 4, I urge Coloradans to use their brains and protect
women’s uteruses.

News Law and Policy

Pastors Fight Illinois’ Ban on ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’

Imani Gandy

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban so-called gay conversion therapy. Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans.

A group of pastors filed a lawsuit last week arguing an Illinois law that bans mental health providers from engaging in so-called gay conversion therapy unconstitutionally infringes on rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

The Illinois legislature passed the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which went into effect on January 1. The measure bans mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts or so-called conversion therapy with a minor.

The pastors in their lawsuit argue the enactment of the law means they are “deprived of the right to further minister to those who seek their help.”

While the pastors do not qualify as mental health providers since they are neither licensed counselors nor social workers, the pastors allege that they may be liable for consumer fraud under Section 25 of the law, which states that “no person or entity” may advertise or otherwise offer “conversion therapy” services “in a manner that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness.”

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The pastors’ lawsuit seeks an order from a federal court in Illinois exempting pastoral counseling from the law. The pastors believe that “the law should not apply to pastoral counseling which informs counselees that homosexuality conduct is a sin and disorder from God’s plan for humanity,” according to a press release issued by the pastors’ attorneys.

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban gay “conversion therapy.” Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans. None have been struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court this year declined to take up a case challenging New Jersey’s “gay conversion therapy” ban on First Amendment grounds.

The pastors say the Illinois law is different. The complaint alleges that the Illinois statute is broader than those like it in other states because the prohibitions in the law is not limited to licensed counselors, but also apply to “any person or entity in the conduct of any trade or commerce,” which they claim affects clergy.

The pastors allege that the law is not limited to counseling minors but “prohibits offering such counseling services to any person, regardless of age.”

Aside from demanding protection for their own rights, the group of pastors asked the court for an order “protecting the rights of counselees in their congregations and others to receive pastoral counseling and teaching on the matters of homosexuality.”

“We are most concerned about young people who are seeking the right to choose their own identity,” the pastors’ attorney, John W. Mauck, said in a statement.

“This is an essential human right. However, this law undermines the dignity and integrity of those who choose a different path for their lives than politicians and activists prefer,” he continued.

“Gay conversion therapy” bans have gained traction after Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager, committed suicide following her experience with so-called conversion therapy.

Before taking her own life, Alcorn posted on Reddit that her parents had refused her request to transition to a woman.

“The[y] would only let me see biased Christian therapists, who instead of listening to my feelings would try to change me into a straight male who loved God, and I would cry after every session because I felt like it was hopeless and there was no way I would ever become a girl,” she wrote of her experience with conversion therapy.

The American Psychological Association, along with a coalition of health advocacy groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, have condemned “gay conversion therapy” as potentially harmful to young people “because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.”

The White House in 2015 took a stance against so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

Attorneys for the State of Illinois have not yet responded to the pastors’ lawsuit.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Tim Kaine Outlines Plan to ‘Make Housing Fair’

Ally Boguhn

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It's part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Donald Trump made some controversial changes to his campaign staff this week, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted his commitment to better housing policies.

Trump Hires Controversial Conservative Media Figure

Republican presidential nominee Trump made two notable additions to his campaign staff this week, hiring Breitbart News’ Stephen Bannon as CEO and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.

“I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years. They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win,” said Trump in a Wednesday statement announcing the hires. “I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again.”

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Both have been criticized as being divisive figures.

Conway, for example, previously advised then-client Todd Akin to wait out the backlash after his notorious “legitimate rape” comments, comparing the controversy to “the Waco with David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Conway is also “often cited by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim organizations such as the think tank Center for Security Policy and NumbersUSA.”

Under Bannon’s leadership, “mainstream conservative website” Breitbart.com changed “into a cesspool of the alt-right,” suggested the publication’s former editor at large, Ben Shapiro, in a piece for the Washington Post‘s PostEverything. “It’s a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

Speaking with ABC News this week, Kurt Bardella, who also previously worked with Bannon at Breitbart, alleged that Bannon had exhibited “nationalism and hatred for immigrants, people coming into this country to try to get a better life for themselves” during editorial calls.

“If anyone sat there and listened to that call, you’d think that you were attending a white supremacist rally,” said Bardella.

Trump’s new hire drew heated criticism from the Clinton campaign in a Wednesday press call. “The Breitbart organization has been known to defend white supremacists,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager. After pointing to an analysis from the SPLC linking Breitbart to the extremist alt-right movement, Mook listed a number of other controversial positions pushed by the site.

“Breitbart has compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. They’ve also repeatedly used anti-LGBT slurs in their coverage. And finally, like Trump himself, Breitbart and Bannon have frequently trafficked in all sorts of deranged conspiracy theories from touting that President Obama was not born in America to claiming that the Obama Administration was ‘importing more hating Muslims.’”

“It’s clear that [Trump’s] divisive, erratic, and dangerous rhetoric simply represents who he really is,” continued Mook.

Kaine Outlines Plan to “Make Housing Fair”

Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Kaine wrote an essay for CNN late last week explaining how the Clinton-Kaine ticket can “make housing fair” in the United States.

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It’s part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Kaine. “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Kaine shared the story of Lorraine, a young Black woman who had experienced housing discrimination, whom Kaine had represented pro bono just after completing law school.

“This is one issue that shows the essential role government can play in creating a fairer society. Sen. Ed Brooke, an African-American Republican from Massachusetts, and Sen. Walter Mondale, a white Democrat from Minnesota, came together to draft the Fair Housing Act, which protects people from discrimination in the housing market,” noted Kaine, pointing to the 1968 law.

“Today, more action is still needed. That’s why Hillary Clinton and I have a bold, progressive plan to fight housing inequities across Americaespecially in communities that have been left out or left behind,” Kaine continued.

The Virginia senator outlined some of the key related components of Clinton’s “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda,” including an initiative to offer $10,000 in down payment assistance to new homebuyers that earn less than the median income in a given area, and plans to “bolster resources to enforce Fair Housing laws and fight housing discrimination in all its forms.”

The need for fair and affordable housing is a pressing issue for people throughout the country.

“It is estimated that each year more than four million acts of [housing] discrimination occur in the rental market alone,” found a 2015 analysis by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

No county in the United States has enough affordable housing to accommodate the needs of those with low incomes, according to a 2015 report released by the Urban Institute. “Since 2000, rents have risen while the number of renters who need low-priced housing has increased,” explained the report. “Nationwide, only 28 adequate and affordable units are available for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income.”

What Else We’re Reading

CBS News’ Will Rahn penned a primer explaining Trump campaign CEO Bannon’s relationship to the alt-right.

White supremacists and the alt-right “rejoice[d]” after Trump hired Bannon, reported Betsy Woodruff and Gideon Resnick for the Daily Beast.

Clinton published an essay in Teen Vogue this week encouraging young people to fight for what they care about, learn from those with whom they disagree, and get out the vote.

“In calling for ‘extreme vetting’ of foreigners entering the United States, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested a return to a 1950s-era immigration standard—since abandoned—that barred entry to people based on their political beliefs,” explained USA Today.

Trump wants to cut a visa program “his own companies have used … to bring in hundreds of foreign workers, including fashion models for his modeling agency who need exhibit no special skills,” according to a report by the New York Times.

A Koch-backed group “has unleashed an aggressive campaign to kill a ballot measure in South Dakota that would require Koch-affiliated groups and others like them to reveal their donors’ identities.”

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