DENVER – State lawmakers – led by Democrats – killed two measures this week in the Legislature that critics said would have dismantled abortion rights in Colorado.
The issue is hardly new. The efforts have become an annual affair in the Legislature, usually surrounded by news conferences and rallies on either side of the debate.
This year was no different. But there was an added emphasis, as high-profile cases offered a backdrop to the debate.
Most recently, a gunman targeted a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs in November, killing three people, including a police officer. It appears the gunman was motivated by an anti-abortion agenda.
Last year, in March, a Longmont woman’s 7-month-old fetus was cut from her womb by another woman. The incident added to discussions around so-called “fetal homicide” legislation, which would allow prosecutors to file a murder charge in such a horrific incident. Jury selection in the trial began on Thursday.
And overshadowing the entire conversation is pro-life group Center for Medical Progress, which released videos last summer that the group says showed Planned Parenthood profiting from fetal-tissue programs.
A Texas grand jury that was investigating accusations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood stemming from the secretly recorded videos instead indicted two abortion opponents behind the videos on felony charges.
Vicki Cowart, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, visited Durango on Wednesday to meet with supporters and update them on progress since the incident in Colorado Springs. The health center will reopen its doors on Monday following the tragedy that shook staff and pro-choice advocates.
“I didn’t do anything for about the first six weeks after the horribleness except deal with that (Colorado Springs incident),” Cowart told The Durango Herald. “So, I’m trying to get around and talk to people.”
Cowart said staff and supporters are even more passionate about defeating anti-choice measures in the wake of the traumatic incident.
“Planned Parenthood people are defiant. People are like, ‘go get ’em, you show ‘em,’” Cowart said. “They stand up to those bullies. Some of them operate with legislation and some operate with protest. But let’s call them what they are – bullies.”
Two bills were before Democratic-controlled House committees last week.
One measure would have allowed prosecutors to charge someone with murder for killing an unborn child. The bill was rejected, mostly by Democrats.
The other bill that was rejected would have made abortion illegal in Colorado.
Republican Rep. J. Paul Brown of Ignacio supported the bill, though he said he can see both sides of the debate. Last year, he supported a measure that would have funded a state program that provides a form of birth control – known as intrauterine devices, or IUDs – to low-income women.
But Brown couldn’t come to oppose the anti-abortion measure before him on Thursday, stating: “A baby is not something that we can just throw away.”
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Stephen Humphrey, R-Severance, added: “Abortion potentially kills an innocent human being, therefore, abortion is wrong.”