Colorado Democrats Defeat Fetal ‘Personhood’ Legislation

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Colorado Democrats Defeat Fetal ‘Personhood’ Legislation

Jason Salzman

Democrats in Colorado's state house have killed a bill, introduced after a grisly attack on a pregnant women, that would have given legal rights to a fetus.

A bill in the Colorado legislature that would have given legal rights to an “unborn child” was defeated in a Democratic-led state house committee yesterday, doing away with the proposal for this year. State Republicans pushed for the law after an attacker cut a fetus from a woman’s womb.

Opponents of the measure called it “fetal personhood,” because the legislation explicitly defined a “human being” to include an “unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth.” This would have allowed prosecutors to bring murder charges against perpetrators in crimes against pregnant women, and could have had a far-reaching impact on Colorado abortion rights.

Proponents of the bill, which passed the Republican-controlled state senate this month, said the law was needed to provide justice to both women and their fetuses. And they argued that exceptions in the bill protected abortion rights.

Opponents of SB 286 countered that such a law potentially restricted access to abortion, while subjecting pregnant women and their doctors to criminal investigation. What’s more, they argued, there is no evidence that such legislation protects pregnant women or their fetuses.

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“SB-268, despite what the supporters of it claimed, would have been dangerous for women who face complications in their pregnancy or who miscarry, and could have criminalized doctors for providing health-care services to pregnant women including abortion services,” Cathy Alderman, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said in a statement. “The bill’s exceptions were vague and untested, and inadequate for protecting Colorado women’s health.”

The proposed law was modeled after legislation promoted by Americans United for Life, a national anti-choice organization that considers passage of “fetal homicide” bills a tactic in its campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Organizers of Colorado’s three failed personhood measures, including the author of the 2104 amendment, opposed the legislation, arguing that it legitimized abortion and “does not afford the child in the womb the equal protection of the law with regard to his or her right to life.

Rep. Mike Foote, one of the leading Democratic opponents of the bill, said that an existing Colorado law provides sufficient penalties in crimes against pregnant women.

“It’s a law that was carefully crafted to avoid this very issue, to avoid putting personhood into our law,” Foote told the Colorado Statesman yesterday.

The alleged attacker in the recent Colorado case is facing more than 100 years in prison. It’s alleged that the defendant’s ad for baby clothes lured the pregnant woman to her Longmont home in March, where she was attacked.