More “wisdom” from the “pro-life” crowd

That title should really read More bullshit from the anti-abortion crowd, but I have good reason to lean toward one requiring quotation marks, as the “letter” I’m about to “discuss” includes a slew of “air quotes,” a favorite “weapon” among America’s more blinkered “observers.”

Next month, Coloradans will vote on Amendment 62, a “personhood” measure that would define a newly fertilized human ovum as a person with constitutionally protected rights and therefore render illegal not only abortion but in vitro fertilization, embryonic stem-cell research, and certain forms of contraception. Anti-choicers tried this same bullshit in 2008 and the measure failed by a 3 to 1 margin in a state that hardly classifies as blue. Amendment 62 is on a course to fail in a similar fashion (Denver Post editorial; “Life” “News”.com whine).

Naturally a lot of the semiliterates and scientific illiterates backing this “initiative” are dutifully dispatching their dyspeptic bullshit to Colorado newspapers. Yesterday’s Post included this triad of prevaricating ignoramuses. Here is the first in its native form:

Re: “Reject the return of ‘personhood,’ ” Oct. 1 editorial.

Your editorial states that “because Amendment 62 would define human life as beginning the moment of ‘biological development,’ some common forms of birth control would be illegal because they prevent a fertilized egg from attaching.”

First, the expression “fertilized egg” is misleading — and demeaning. When a sperm fertilizes an egg, the being created is called a “zygote,” whose gender is already determined. When that one-celled human splits into two cells, he or she is no longer a “fertilized egg,” but an “embryo.” By the time of “attachment,” the embryo may be a collection of as many as 256 cells, already differentiating into skin, nerve, muscle, etc.

And yes, some common forms of birth control do prevent that living, growing, human embryo from attaching, thus killing him or her. That is the only action of the IUD and RU486. That may also be the action of other chemicals, such as the so-called “emergency contraceptive” (EC) pill, which may prevent ovulation, but it may not, in which case, an egg is released that may be fertilized; if that happens, then EC kills the embryo by preventing implantation.

Nicola Tomaino, Aurora

I’m not going to waste time explaining the myriad ways in which this soars gaily off the rails, but here’s the same letter, edited for accuracy and semantics and with “scare quotes” removed.

Your editorial states that “because Amendment 62 would define human life as beginning the moment of ‘biological development,’ some common forms of birth control would be illegal because they prevent a fertilized egg from attaching.”

First, what I’d like to write is misleading — and demeaning. So instead I’ll stick to facts. When a sperm fertilizes an egg, the result is a zygote, the future sex of which is chromosomally determined. When this zygote splits into two cells, it is called an embryo in non-human placental mammals but in humans remains defined as a zygote until the fifth day after fertilization, when it becomes known as a blastocyst. If and when attachment of the blastocyst to the uterine wall occurs, this collection of fewer than 100 cells, coded with the information to eventually differentiate into skin, nerve, muscle, etc., it is called an embryo until the eighth week of gestation, when it is termed a fetus.

And yes, some common forms of non-emergency birth control do prevent the blastocyst from implanting in the uterus, thus avoiding the onset of pregnancy. This is not the action of either the traditional IUD, which prevents ovulation, or mifeprestone (formerly RU-486), an abortifacient; the newer Copper-T IUD may prevent implantation. It is also not the action of emergency contraceptive” (EC) pills–e.g., Plan B–which, according to the medical consensus, prevent conception or ovulation but do not interfere with post-fertilization events. (Source 1, source 2)

Of course, these zealots are about as moved by appeals to reason as coked-up zombies, so I’m writing this for the benefit of myself and a small choir.

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