After long debate, panel puts fetal homicide proposal on hold

Posted on April 2, 2012

Fox 31 Denver, April 2, 2012 by Eli Stokols

DENVER — The Senate Judiciary Committee Monday went around and around in circles debating a very complex proposal that sought to increase penalties for anyone who harms or kills an unborn child.

And then, after more than four hours, the Democrat-controlled committee put off a vote on the measure, which appeared to be poised for a 3-4 defeat right down party lines.

The bill, which has already narrowly passed the full House, where Republicans hold a one-seat majority, sparked heated debate over the issue of “Personhood”, with Democrats arguing that the legislation would have conferred such status on the unborn and thus threatened a woman’s right to an abortion in Colorado.

“This is not about abortion,” said Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, the bill’s sponsor. “It merely protects the developing children that women choose to carry.”

Mitchell pushed back hard against Kevin Paul, an attorney for Planned Parenthood who testified and took questions from lawmakers for an entire hour.

“There are 34 states that have a law that recognizes the human dignity and the protect-able interest of an unborn child as a separate, violent act,” Mitchell said.

Paul took issue with the bill’s vague language, specifically the clause imposing homicide or assault charges on individuals who cause “death or injury to an unborn member of species homo sapiens.”

“That is not a common phrase in law or medicine, and it does raise some questions,” said Paul. “Because of the way it’s written, it would permit the prosecution of a women who engaged in criminal conduct that resulted in the termination of her own pregnancy.”

Tim Quinn, representing the Colorado Bar Association, also took issue with the bill’s language.

“We couldn’t tell what the bill did,” Quinn said.

Those supporting the proposal argued that the bill’s limits are clear.

“This is dealing with criminal acts against a human being that is a pregnant mother,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud. “And acknowledging that there’s a higher standard when there are two lives being taken or injured.”

“This bill is neutral on abortion,” said Ed Hanks with the group Colorado Right to Life. “And this bill was written with language that was very specific so as to make it clear that it wasn’t supporting or opposing abortion.

“And these are wanted children in a mother’s womb who do not have justice under the current law.”

Posted in: Colorado