DENVER – Democrats on a Colorado House committee Monday ended an effort to define an unborn child as a “person,” which would have allowed prosecutors to file murder charges in attacks against pregnant women.
Worried that the bill would have created so-called “personhood” in Colorado, Democrats struck the bill down in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee by a vote of 6-5.
“I sympathize with your motives,” said Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, who voted against the measure. “But I do believe we have very strong laws now.”
Senate Bill 268 – sponsored by Republican leadership – was introduced in the last days of the legislative session in reaction to a recent tragic event in Longmont, in which a woman had her 7-month-old fetus cut from her womb by another woman in a vicious attack. The fetus died, but prosecutors said they were unable to file a murder charge under current law.
The bill would have specifically exempted an act committed by a mother, a medical procedure performed by a doctor and the administration of legal medication, in an effort to curb concerns that it would have led to personhood and a ban on abortion.
Colorado would have joined 37 other states that have similar laws.
Republicans were outraged Monday when Ryden, chairwoman of the committee, sought to limit testimony from witnesses to 30 seconds. She ultimately pushed testimony up to one minute, which still fell short of the usual three minutes. Given the emotional nature of the topic and the importance of the bill, supporters of the measure said Democrats should have shown more courtesy. The hearing lasted less than an hour,
“I’m sorry that testimony was silenced and moved so quickly, ” said Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock.
Democrats, however, rebutted that Republican leaders shouldn’t have introduced such a contentious bill in the waning days of the legislative session, which ends Wednesday. Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, pointed out that Senate Republicans introduced the bill April 14, but they didn’t give it a hearing for eight days.
“For a bill that was considered a priority bill, they gave it very little priority at all,” Salazar said.
House Assistant Minority Leader Polly Lawrence, R-Littleton, who sponsored the bill along with Republican Senate President Bill Cadman of Colorado Springs, rejected the notion that the bill would have created personhood.
“This has nothing to do with abortion, this has nothing to do with personhood, no matter how people try to contort this into something it is not,” Lawrence said. “This is about justice.”
Democrats, however, fell back on the fact that in 2013, they pushed legislation that created a new category of crime to address violent acts committed against the unborn. While the measure stopped short of creating a murder charge, it created long sentences for those convicted.
“I’m sorry that we’re back to where we were back in the mid-2000s where we’re again trying to put personhood language back into statute,” said Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, who sponsored the 2013 legislation. “We need to realize that in 2013 we did pass a law that is being used.”