Despite the defeats of “personhood” measures in 2008 and 2010, Colorado voters will once again vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to grant all the rights of born persons to zygotes, embryos, and fetuses in November 2014.

The Coalition for Secular Government is pleased to announce an updated and expanded paper on the “personhood” movement by Ari Armstrong and myself, titled “The ‘Personhood’ Movement Versus Individual Rights: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception.” The paper is currently available for download as a PDF or for reading as an HTML page.

Formats: HTML / PDF

Please share it with friends and on social media!

Here’s our media release on it:

New Paper Criticizes “Personhood” Movement and Colorado’s Amendment 67
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Coalition for Secular Government:

A new paper criticizes the “personhood” movement and Colorado’s Amendment 67, a measure that would treat abortion as murder under the law; outlaw abortion even in cases of rape, incest, risks to a woman’s health, and severe fetal deformity; outlaw some types of birth control; outlaw common forms of in vitro fertility treatments; and ban embryonic stem-cell research.

The 54-page paper, coauthored by Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong, offers extensive historical and scientific background on the “personhood” movement, abortion, and related matters. The paper also offers philosophic arguments supporting a woman’s right to seek an abortion.

“Amendment 67 is extremely misleading in its language,” Hsieh said. “The proponents of the measure apparently want voters to believe that it is about protecting pregnant women from vicious criminal attacks, but the reality is that the measure would treat women as murderers for getting an abortion or even for using certain types of birth control or in vitro fertility treatments.”

Amendment 67 seeks to extend full legal protections to “unborn human beings,” which its sponsors define as all embryos from the moment of conception.

As the new paper discusses, Colorado law already establishes criminal penalties for harming a pregnant woman’s embryo or fetus against her consent.

If you have any questions about the paper, please email me.


I’m delighted to report that the pledge drive to fund Ari Armstrong’s and my new policy paper in defense of abortion rights is rolling along on schedule. So far, we’ve received 28 pledges for $1,560. That’s over the threshold — HOORAY! So thank you, thank you to everyone who has pledged so far!

However, I’d love to collect a bit more in funds before tomorrow’s deadline, if possible. Why? First, some people don’t pay their pledges, so I’d like a bit of wiggle room for that. Second, I’d love to use any extra funds to promote the paper after it’s completed. Third, a bit more money raised would be good for CSG’s court challenge to Colorado’s campaign finance laws.

You have until tomorrow at midnight to pledge. Please do pledge, if you want to support this project! Any amount is welcome, and your pledge is not due until the paper is published on September 17th.

You can find out more about Colorado’s 2014 “personhood” ballot measure here. If you have any questions about the project or pledging, please email me.

Here are some of the comments that people have made while pledging… which I’m sharing because I appreciate them so much:

While we need staunch defense of abortion rights everywhere, this project is of personal interest to me because my daughters live in Colorado, and I want them to have the fullest protection of their rights possible there.

Thank you for using sane reasoning to argue for positions that I care about. I support your cause, and wish that as a student I could contribute more. Hopefully soon as a professional I can help more.

It’s very important that you write this. Personhood laws destroy reproductive rights, and destroys Republicans’ commitment to and reputation for supporting freedom and individual rights.

I am looking forward to the updated paper. I found the original very interesting and informative.

Keep up the good work! Look forward to the update and to the defeat of Amendment 67.

Me too!! Again, please pledge before tomorrow at midnight if you want to support the writing and promotion of a new paper in defense of abortion rights!


After a hiatus in 2012, I’m sorry to report that “Personhood for Zygotes” is on the ballot again in Colorado in 2014. However, I’m pleased to announce that Ari Armstrong and I will update 2010 policy paper in defense of abortion rights in light of the very much changed political landscape. Once again, we need your support to make that happen!

Colorado’s New “Personhood for Zygotes” Amendment

Despite the defeats of “personhood” measures in 2008 and 2010, the crusaders against abortion rights have returned with yet another attempt to grant the full legal rights of personhood to fertilized eggs.

The ballot question reads:

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution protecting pregnant women and unborn children by defining “person” and “child” in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings? (Full Text)

If successful, this measure would outlaw therapeutic and elective abortions, common fertility treatments, and popular forms of birth control. It would subject women and their doctors to intrusive police controls and unjust criminal prosecutions. It would force Coloradoans to abide by the deeply religious and sectarian view that the fertilized egg is imbued with rights from God.

Due to its misleading wording — particularly its talk of “protecting pregnant women” — 2014′s Amendment 67 will likely fare significantly better in the polls than the “personhood” amendments proposed in 2008 and 2010. It’s unlikely to pass, but that doesn’t mean that abortion rights are secure. The dangerous ideology of “personhood” has spread like wildfire in the past four years among religious conservatives. In the 2012 presidential election, every Republican candidate except Mitt Romney endorsed “personhood for zygotes.”

The ideology of “personhood for zygotes” must be steadfastly opposed — based on a firm understanding of rights in pregnancy — not merely because “it goes too far.”

Support a 2014 Paper in Defense of Abortion Rights

To combat the dangerous ideology of “personhood” and defend abortion rights on principle, Ari Armstrong and I will publish a new version of their policy paper on the “personhood” movement. The updates to the paper will focus on the new language in 2014′s Amendment 67, the widespread embrace of “personhood” by the Republican Party in the 2012 election, the synergy between “incremental” and “personhood” approaches to abortion bans, the defeat of a “personhood” amendment in Mississippi, and more.

However, that work depends on your support! The update to the paper will only go forward if at least $1500 is pledged by August 20th. That will help pay for the many hours of work this update will require. If sufficient funds are pledged, the 2014 paper will be published by September 17th.

So, if you want to help defend abortion rights in this 2014 election, please pledge! Any amount is welcome, and your pledge is not due until the paper is published.

Note: Due to efforts of the Center for Competitive Politics on CSG’s behalf, I hope that she will not have to report on funds collected for this project, as she’s been obliged to do in prior elections. Time — or rather the judge — will tell. In any case, pledges for this paper are helping us have a viable case with which to challenge Colorado’s onerous campaign finance laws.

If you have any questions about the project or pledging, please email me.

Alienating People 101

 Posted by on 29 July 2014 at 10:00 am  GLBT, Politics, Religious Right, Rhetoric
Jul 292014

Based on the opening paragraph of Bait And Switch: How Same Sex Marriage Ends Family Autonomy, I’m pretty sure that I’m not the target audience here:

Abolishing all civil marriage is the primary goal of the elites who have been pushing same sex marriage. The scheme called “marriage equality” is not an end in itself, and never really has been. The LGBT agenda has spawned too many other disparate agendas hostile to the existence of marriage, making marriage “unsustainable,” if you will. By now we should be able to hear the growing drumbeat to abolish civil marriage, as well as to legalize polygamy and all manner of reproductive technologies.

The whole column is ideologically loaded from start to finish. It’s worth reading — or reading as much of it as you can — to see why these kinds of super-charged writings (as too many Objectivists and libertarians tend to produce) are so pointless and off-putting. My view of the “save traditional marriage” crowd is now even lower than before I clicked. I don’t think that’s a win for their side.


I found that photo on Facebook a while back, with the following caption:

This photo was posted on STFU, Conservatives Tumblr page last night [here]. The reason why I’m sharing it is not because of the photo itself (which is epic in it’s [sic] own right), but for the comments it generated.

One person wrote, “but then again, its kind like putting a meat suit on and telling a shark not to eat you”.

STFU responded (with bolded text):

We (men) are not fucking sharks!

We are not rabid animals living off of pure instinct

We are capable of rational thinking and understanding.

Just because someone is cooking food doesn’t mean you’re entitled to eat it.

Just because a banker is counting money doesn’t mean you’re being given free money.

Just because a person is naked doesn’t mean you’re entitled to fuck them.

You are not entitled to someone else’s body just because it’s exposed.

What is so fucking difficult about this concept?


Indeed. Also, Laura Jedeed has some really excellent comments on rape and this image too.

Happily, the rights of women in western countries are more widely recognized and better protected today than at any other time in human history. That’s a huge achievement, and part of why I’m grateful to live in modern America.

However, more progress awaits us. One example was in the news last year:

A recent court case just exposed a barbarity in California law, namely that it’s not rape to trick an unmarried woman into sleeping with you by pretending to be her boyfriend.

Julio Morales was convicted and sentenced to three years in state prison for entering an 18-year-old woman’s bedroom and instigating sex with her while she was asleep after a night of drinking at a house party in 2009. According to prosecutors, it wasn’t until “light coming through a crack in the bedroom door illuminated the face of the person having sex with her” that she realized Morales wasn’t her boyfriend. Holy shit.

But a panel of judges overturned the conviction this week because of a law from 1872 that doesn’t give women the same protections as married women because, as we all know, single women are always down for nonconsensual sex, even when they’re asleep and/or purposefully tricked into the act.

The court admitted that “If the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband” it would be rape. But since there was no ring on her finger, it’s not!

Eugene Volokh had some comments here. I agree that rape by fraud shouldn’t be a punishable offense, except in cases of impersonation of a lover or spouse. (I’m not sure of the case of mere friends.) As Eugene says of such impersonation:

It is, thankfully, apparently a rare sort of lie; it is very far outside the normal level of dishonesty that people expect might happen in their relationships; it is one for which there is no plausible justification or mitigation; and criminalizing it is unlikely to sweep in the garden variety lies that, unfortunately, often appear in people’s sexual and romantic lives.

California law obviously needs to be updated.

Here’s another example. The 2012 election was replete with politicians making ridiculous and offensive comments about rape in order to rationalize their across-the-board opposition to abortion. Most notable was Todd Akin’s justification for denying abortions to women pregnant due to rape:

… from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

Conservatives need to recognize that forced pregnancy — not just pregnancy due to rape but any unwanted pregnancy — is a morally abhorrent violation of rights, not a gift from God.

Alas, the third example hits closer to home for me. In a February 2012 podcast, Leonard Peikoff said that a man is entitled to force himself on a woman if she has a few drinks with him and then goes up to his hotel room. Thankfully, he corrected that a few weeks later, but only in part. By a rather strange analysis, Peikoff concluded that a woman cannot withdraw consent after penetration. In reality, that means that the man can do whatever he pleases to the woman after penetration, even as she kicks and screams and yells and cries in protest. That’s seriously, seriously wrong — and dangerous too.

On a more positive note, you’ll find my own views on the nature and limits of consent in sex in this podcast. (It’s a pretty lengthy discussion… about over 40 minutes.)

Ultimately, my point here is that the rights of women matter — and they’re not yet fully protected. The image at the top of this post reminds us of that. The fact that she’s half-naked doesn’t make her any less of a person with the absolute right to forbid another person access to her body.

That’s a lesson that some people still need to learn, unfortunately.


In his recent article, Why I’m Canceling my SI Subscription, Andrew Klavan is up in arms about the supposedly hostile leftism of culture — Sports Illustrated in particular. It begins:

I am going to let my subscription to Sports Illustrated lapse when it runs out this year. I hope lots of other people will do the same. Like too many other publications, the magazine has become dishonest, dishonorable and even occasionally despicable in its conformist, lockstep left-wing bias. Republican politicians and conservative positions are routinely insulted in articles having nothing to do with either. Yawn-inducing left wing predictability is brought to the discussion of every issue. No SI writer is allowed to disagree with leftism ever. Despite its great photographs and occasionally good athlete profiles, the magazine has remade itself into crap in the name of political conformity.

For me, the Super Bowl issue with its smarmy and poorly reported article on religion in football was the last straw. The article was not an offense to God, it was an offense to journalism. Mark Oppenheimer, a left wing anti-religion writer for the left wing New York Times, among other left wing venues, does the left wing hit job on football players of faith. …

Despite all that overblown rhetoric, he cites just one one example from the article. Here is the offending quote:

It’s clear that for a substantial number of athletes and coaches, there is no tension between being a Christian and being an aggressive athlete. On the contrary, many of them argue that football builds character and thereby makes a man more of a Christian — a commingling of faith and football now accepted by fans.

But is that a mistake? Just 50 years ago such coziness between public Christianity and football would have seemed absurd. Athletes were nobody’s idea of good ambassadors for religion; they were more likely to be seen as dissolute drinkers and womanizers — more the roguish Joe Namath than the devout Roger Staubach.The aggressive, violent play preached by coaches of an earlier generation was accepted as natural precisely because sport was pagan, not Christian. Christianity was peaceful, charitable and pious. Sport was bloody, ruthless, impious.

In the 1950s and 60s that antagonism began to soften…”

That’s it. Not only does that example not support Klavan’s hyperventiliating about left-wing bias, but it also equates public expressions of Christianity by private individuals with conservativism, such that any skepticism about that is nothing but left-wing bias. In fact, (1) most political leftists are Christians, and (2) many devout Christians are uncomfortable with the loud expressions of faith often heard from football players.

Are conservative Christians unaware of just how silly this makes them look to anyone outside their echo chamber?

Alas, I think not. Lord have mercy on us!

Dec 142012

Wow: U.S. House science committee member calls evolution, Big Bang theory ‘lies straight from the pit of hell’:

Georgia Rep. Paul Broun said in videotaped remarks that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell” meant to convince people that they do not need a savior.

The Republican lawmaker made those comments during a speech Sept. 27 at a sportsman’s banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell.

Broun, a medical doctor, is running for re-election in November unopposed by Democrats. He sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

“God’s word is true,” Broun said, according to a video posted on the church’s website. “I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

Broun also said that he believes the Earth is about 9,000 years old and that it was made in six days. Those beliefs are held by fundamentalist Christians who believe the creation accounts in the Bible to be literally true.

It’s not surprising that this [unprintable term] is a politician, but it’s scary that he’s a doctor.


From Facebook:

A notable Objectivist intellectual said the following about the election: “Tragically, the election revealed that we are no longer America. … The American sense of life does still exist, but it no longer is the majority attitude. The sense of life that used to be very widespread dwells now in only about half of us.”

That is, to put it gently, a gigantic non sequitur. It assumes that every Obama voter lacks an American sense of life, while every Romney voter has an American sense of life. That’s a ridiculous claim on its face. It also ignores the millions of Americans who didn’t vote for either Romney or Obama for president.

It’s not even plausible as a general claim, true of “most people.” Anyone who has ever lived in a very red state knows just how frighteningly theocratic most Republican residents and politicians are. Heck, even in the very purple Colorado, many GOP candidates are determined to govern based on their notion of biblical principles. That’s a large part of why Democrats won Colorado, yet again.

Are we supposed to consider the people who voted for Romney because they abhor gays, decry abortion as murder, demand that the borders be closed, and want creationism taught in schools as having “an American sense of life”? Because those people exist — and in large numbers too. Are we supposed to condemn the people who rejected that insular nuttiness as un-American? Really?!?

If y’all want to be doomy and gloomy about this election… well, go right ahead. It’s a free country: Obama hasn’t implemented his mind-control devices… yet. (No, really!) But pretty please with bacon on top, how about we keep a firm grip on the facts and make good use of the basic principles of logic?

The Disaster of Mittens

 Posted by on 26 September 2012 at 10:00 am  Election, Mitt Romney, Religious Right
Sep 262012

As folks know, I’m very ho-hum about this election for reasons that I explained in this radio segment. I despise OBummer and Mittens. In fact, the only thing that irritates me more than those statist jackasses are the blowhards who toss off moral condemnations based on nothing more than a person’s planned vote for president. (Undoubtedly, that is the least significant political action that a person can take all year. No wait, posting rants to Facebook is even less significant.)

Nonetheless, I loosely follow the election news, and I was interested to read this analysis by the insightful Doug Mataconis about the flailing of Mittens’ campaign. After talking about how Ann Romney is upset that conservatives are criticizing the campaign, he writes:

The Romney campaign has been blundering its way through the General Election in a manner that seems rather bizarre given the manner in which they operated during the Republican primaries. Granted, running against Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich is in no way like running against a professional campaign organization like Obama For America, but at least in those days people supportive of Romney’s candidacy could point to a campaign that seemed to be operating the way a campaign that wants to win an election operates. Then, something happened after Romney won the election and, for some reason, the Romney campaign seemed wholly unable to either respond to the Obama campaign’s attacks against it and now seems as gaffe prone [as] Rick Perry was a [year] ago.

Is it really any wonder that some of Romney’s fellow Republicans aren’t very happy with the situation right now? While some of them are no doubt acting out of self-interest (and what’s wrong with that?), there are others who are just clearly frustrated by watching yet another Republican campaign blunder its way through an election.

Since the very outset, this election has been the Republican’s to lose. That’s what they seem to be doing — in their usual style. That doesn’t make me happy. I don’t look forward to another four years of Obama. Even worse, I suspect that the GOP will run an even worse crop of candidates in 2016 — meaning, more theocratic and more statist. That seems impossible, I know, but Republicans are capable of amazing feats of idiocy.

GOP and Voting Strategy

 Posted by on 28 August 2012 at 9:00 am  Activism, Election, Politics, Religious Right
Aug 282012

Wow, this essay — It Is Infuriating That I Can’t Vote For A Fiscal Conservative Without Also Supporting Religious Aggressives — was a huge breath of fresh air for me. Here’s a few quotes:

At some point, I actually would like to vote for a Presidential candidate who has the balls to really tackle our budget problem. Because, as a country, we really do have hard choices to make. And now is the time to have leaders who are actually willing to lead (read: make unpopular decisions), instead of spineless yes-men who quake at the thought of saying or doing things that most people don’t want to hear.

And given that the folks who say they will take a hard line on those sorts of fiscal decisions tend to be Republicans, I assume that to vote for such a fiscal conservative, I would probably be voting for a Republican.

And I would would be fine with that.

Except for one thing…

Thanks to the radicalization of today’s Republican party, voting for a Republican fiscal conservative would also mean supporting Republican Religious Aggressives who want to expand the scope of government to such an extent that the government will be telling me what I can and can’t think and do on certain subjective moral and cultural issues–and enforcing this legally.

And that’s a non-starter.


In short, I support freedom.

The Republicans do not.

The Republicans support increasing the size and scope of government to such an extent that it strips away freedom and limits the choices Americans can make because some people believe these choices are “just wrong.”

And that’s a bummer.

Because I would like to support a true fiscal conservative at some point–our budget mess is a real problem.

But unless the Republican party returns to what it used to be, or a Democrat who is also a true fiscal conservative comes along, I fear that I am not going to be able to vote for one.

Because I just can’t support what today’s Republican Party supports:

Stripping away freedom and increasing the scope of government to the point where America won’t be America anymore.

Hear, hear! (Please read the whole thing.)

In my view, the only way that the GOP will ever listen to the many, many Americans who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal is if those people stop reflexively voting for the GOP simply because the Democrats are marginally worse on some (but not all) key issues.

The GOP knows that evangelicals will sit home rather than vote for a candidate not to their liking; they know that they have to earn the vote of the religious right. As a result, the GOP has become increasingly unprincipled and compromising on every issue — except its (utterly wrong) opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

In contrast, GOP politicians know that fiscally conservative and socially liberal voters will hold their nose and vote GOP just this once… and then again… and again… and again. Hence, GOP politicians don’t even need to pander to those voters while campaigning, let alone actually satisfy them once in office.

The only way to crush the GOP’s love affair with the religious right, in my view, is to punish the GOP at the polls by refusing to vote for their big-spending theocratic candidates. We must say, loud and clear, that we’ll only vote for candidates who are genuinely committed to cutting spending, welfare programs, regulations, and more — while not push any social conservative agenda either. Yes, that will entail some more pain from the Democrats — perhaps very serious pain — in the short term. Alas, I think that’s the only way to turn around the GOP’s ever-growing commitment to spending like mad while imposing biblical law.

I discussed these ideas about voting strategy in greater depth in Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Radio Show. (In fact, I wrote this post before Sunday’s broadcast.) You can listen to that segment here:

Links and other details can be found on the web page for the question.

My basic points were:

(1) The Founders did not create a two-party system by design.

(2) Voting is the least significant political act you can do, albeit still worthwhile.

(3) Fiscal conservatives need to be willing to refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils if they want better candidates.

(4) A good candidate from a third party is often a worthwhile protest vote.

(5) I don’t yet know how I’ll vote, although I’m most likely to vote for Gary Johnson.

(6) Acrimony over voting is wrong, pointless, and destructive.

I’m not too concerned with how anyone votes in this presidential election. I’m definitely not demanding that people vote in some particular way. The process of demanding better candidates from the GOP needed to start long before now… and it can only really begin after R&R either win or lose.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha