April 4, 2012 — Colorado's Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday tabled legislation (HB 1130) that would make it a crime to harm or kill a fetus, the AP/Daily Camera reports. The bill would not apply to a woman seeking abortion care, but abortion-rights supporters have raised concerns that a so-called "fetal homicide" law would give personhood status to a fetus.
Bill sponsor Sen. Shawn Mitchell (R) on Monday requested time for further discussions with Democrats on the panel who raised concerns (Wyatt, AP/Daily Camera, 4/2). Mitchell asked for a week to rewrite the bill to attract Democratic support. A new hearing for the measure has yet to be scheduled (Hanel, Durango Herald, 4/2).
In its current state, the bill would make individuals who cause "death or injury to an unborn member of species homo sapiens" subject to homicide or assault charges. Although current law allows for harsher sentences for anyone convicted of attacking a pregnant woman, the measure would add a second charge for harming a fetus (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/21). The Republican-led House approved the bill last month.
According to the AP/Daily Camera, the Legislature has defeated similar bills in the past because current state law increases penalties for violent crimes against a pregnant woman.
Judiciary Committee members sought to clarify whether a pregnant woman would be guilty of fetal homicide if she led herself to miscarry by committing an illegal act, such as illicit drug use. Members also argued for hours about whether someone could be charged for killing a fetus if he or she was unaware the woman was pregnant. The Colorado Bar Association opposes the bill because of the lack of clarity on the measure (AP/Daily Camera, 4/2).
Kevin Paul, an attorney for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountain, said no other state law includes similar language. Paul said the proposed bill would open the door to "personhood" for unborn children, which Colorado voters have rejected twice. "There is simply no way you could adopt this bill without adopting that concept," Paul said (Durango Herald, 4/2).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
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Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
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