Colorado lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would ban all abortions and possibly emergency contraception, and slap doctors with a Class 3 felony if they provide their patients with either of these services. The measure, House Bill 14–1133, is the latest in a long line of failed attempts to pass a total abortion ban in the state.
HB 14–1133 defines a fetus as an “unborn human being” upon the moment of fertilization, and forbids doctors from prescribing any medication or performing any procedure that could result in the “termination of the life of an unborn human being.” The legislation specifies that it’s not intended to apply to birth control. But since abortion opponents tend to incorrectly assert that the morning after pill ends a pregnancy, reproductive rights groups in the state warn the measure could end up banning emergency contraception along with abortion, depending how it’s interpreted. Under HB 14–1133, doctors could face up to 12 years in prison and a $750,000 fine for violating the policy.
Thanks to the Democrats in the legislature, the measure isn’t expected to advance very far. Most political analysts see it as some type of “purity test” for the Republicans in the state, a purely symbolic gesture that allows them to prove their pro-life credentials.
Nonetheless, reproductive rights groups are mounting an offensive. NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains will hold a press conference to speak out against the bill on Tuesday afternoon, immediately before lawmakers began debating the measure. In an interview with the Colorado Independent, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado’s director, Karen Middleton, explained that it’s important to continue calling attention to these type of extreme attacks on reproductive rights even if they’re not likely to pass the current legislative body.
“Leadership in the Colorado House and Senate is always in the balance,” Middleton noted. “This is a bill that has been introduced in the past and will likely be introduced again. It could get through, maybe not this year, but next year… Voters have to take note.”
“Planned Parenthood will work with our coalition partners, the public, and our champions in both the State House and Senate to ensure that such out-of-touch and dangerous legislation isn’t passed,” Cathy Alderman, the vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, added in a statement.
Republicans in Colorado have been persistently introducing abortion bans for years. The state is the birthplace of the “personhood” movement — the radical push to define life as beginning at fertilization and endow zygotes with all the rights of U.S. citizens — and personhood ballot initiatives have come before voters several times. This fall, voters will consider the Brady Amendment, a measure to expand criminal penalties for pregnant women that could end up being used to restrict abortion.
But Colorado’s personhood initiatives have failed by extremely wide margins, and a bill nearly identical to HB 14–1133 died in the last session. Even outside of Colorado, the personhood movement hasn’t seen much success, since this extremely far-right policy often ends up dividing the anti-choice community. Nonetheless, Republicans simply won’t stop trying.
The GOP lawmakers who continue to sign onto these measures represent powerful players in Colorado. HB 14–1133 is being sponsored by the Republican leader in the House, Rep. Brian DelGrosso (R). Abortion issues, and particularly personhood measures, frequently factor into state-level elections. At least one local Republican who’s indicated his support for personhood is now running for a U.S. Senate seat.
On Tuesday night, HB 14–1133 failed in committee. Two of the legislative committee’s four Republicans voted against it on constitutional grounds. Although Rep. Mark Waller (R), who is running for attorney general, voted against the bill because it violates the Constitution, he confirmed that he believes “human life begins in the womb and it’s important to protect that — it’s the right thing to do.”