Anti-personhood bill sparks CO abortion debate

DENVER - Colorado Democrats are pushing back against the pro-life cause, trying to pass a bill that you could call an "anti-personhood" law.

A lot of people heard about SB 175 in church on Sunday because Colorado's Catholic bishops are rallying their flocks against the bill. In an open letter, Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila urged people to "act to stop Senate Bill 175," and urging them to contact their congressperson or the media.

Read the letter here:

Many contacted the media. A lot of the concern expressed by 9NEWS viewers was over part of the Archbishop's letter that isn't factual.

Aquila wrote: "this bill would eliminate abortion clinic health code regulations."

That isn't true. The nonpartisan state legislative staff and legal experts say the three page bill would not change any current abortion laws.

"This bill applies prospectively. That is, what happens in the future," said 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson. "The proposed legislation quite frankly says nothing about health code requirements or violations. That may not be the most appropriate criticism of the proposed law."

That means another claim in the Archbishop's letter is similarly flawed, when he argues that the bill prevents parental notification policies. Colorado's existing parental notification law would not be affected, though attempts to enact further notification requirements could be.

9NEWS requested an interview with the Archbishop to talk about the factual claims in his letter, but the Colorado Catholic Conference said he was unavailable. When the Archbishop writes that this bill would "prevent lawmakers from enacting laws such as ultrasound requirements," that is true.

Texas has a law requiring pregnant women to see an ultrasound of their unborn child and hear its heartbeat before being allowed to have an abortion.

The bill sponsors want to prevent that sort of policy in Colorado.

"The people of CO have spoken and said 'no' to personhood," said Sen. Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood,) who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Jeanne Nicholson (D-Gilpin County.)

SB 175 says state and local governments "shall not enact any policy that denies or interferes with an individual's reproductive health care decisions." It also says new policies in that area have to be consistent with "current evidence-based scientific data and medical consensus."

"I have problems with the proposed law because it's vague," Robinson said. "This proposed legislation is not only vague, it's also pretty much ineffectual." Robinson points out the bill doesn't empower anybody to define "evidence-based scientific data" and "medical consensus," and it appoints no one to enforce the limits it imposes.

As a practical matter, if opponents ever got a majority, they could simply repeal SB 175 and pass something like an ultrasound law if they wished to do so.

When asked how the bill is not simply a feel-good measure, Nicholson replied, "I think it's a bill that makes it clear that we in Colorado believe that individuals should have the freedom to make their own reproductive health decisions."

"It's one of the worst bills that I've seen in terms of public policy," said Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud.) "When the legislature puts something in statute, it's supposed to mean something."

Lundberg says all this bill really is, is a political statement to declare that the state takes a pro-choice view. The bill is scheduled for debate on the Senate floor Tuesday morning.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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