DENVER — It was a “Throwback Thursday” in the House Judiciary Committee meeting as lawmakers returned, as they do seemingly every year, to a discussion of abortion and “personhood” — the question of what kind of rights to extend to the unborn.
Once again, Democrats who continue to control the House, voted down a measure that aimed to broaden state statutes so that an unborn child killed as the result of a criminal act will be recognized as the victim of that crime.
The vote, in a shock to absolutely no one, was right down party lines: 4-6, with all the panel’s Democrats voting against the measure and all of its Republicans voting yes.
Personhood, Democrats were again eager to point out, has twice been overwhelmingly rejected Colorado voters.
“The decision about what to do with my body is my decision,” Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, said. “This is personhood all over again. It says ‘species homo sapiens’ right in it. Been there, done that, and we just don’t need to go there again. The people of this state have spoken.”
House Bill 1049 would have made “death or injury to an unborn member of the species homo sapiens” punishable as a homicide or assault.
Democrats and Republicans differed on whether that would threaten a woman’s access to reproductive services.
“This bill is about criminal justice,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Janak Joshi, R-Colorado Springs. “This bill is about protecting women and giving their unborn children protection under the law.”
Democrats on the committee noted that last year’s passage of the Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act was an effort by Democrats to allow prosecutors to seek justice for the deaths of unborn children without impacting women’s reproductive rights.
“It enhanced the crime against the mother,” countered Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, who supported H.B. 1049. “But it created no crime against the fetus.
“In liberal California, they grant victim status to the fetus. In Colorado, a Scott Peterson could not be charged with the death of his unborn child — with double homicide, one charge for Lacey and one for his unborn child.”
While the bill sponsor professed that the bill has nothing to do with abortion rights, its supporters based their arguments in support of it on their belief that a fertilized egg is a “person.”
“An unborn child is a person,” said Robert Fortune, representing the Life Network of Colorado Springs. “Period.”
Committee Chairman Daniel Kagan, D-Denver, informed witnesses that it’s already a felony crime to unlawfully terminate a pregnancy.
And a practicing obstetrician testified that the bill could impact women’s reproductive rights.
“As a physicians, HB 1049 interferes with my ability to legally provide patient care,” said Dr. Jennifer Hyer. “I’ve seen situations when a woman’s pregnancy is a threat to her life, including sepsis and hemorrhage. I’ve seen ectopic or tubal pregnancies where the fetus implants in the fallopian tube, not the uterus. In all of these situations, if the fetus is not removed from the mother, the woman could die.
“As a physician, HB 1049 would force me into an impossible situation,” she continued. “And there is nothing in HB 1049 that would stop me or any other physician for being prosecuted for performing an abortion, even if it’s to save a woman’s life.
“It shouldn’t be the role of politicians to tell me and my patients what kind of procedures I should use or what kind of medicine I should practice. Women have to decide for themselves whether to continue a pregnancy or not. Forcing a woman with pregnancy complications or forcing a woman with an unintended pregnancy to have a child she doesn’t want isn’t in anyone’s best interests.”