DENVER – On a party-line vote, House Republicans passed a bill to make it a crime to harm or kill a fetus, unless the mother has consented to an abortion.
House Democrats fought the bill, calling it a way to introduce “personhood” into the law books.
Voters have twice rejected a personhood ballot initiative from an anti-abortion group that would grant unborn children the same legal rights as people. The campaign plans to try again this year.
House Bill 1130 would allow prosecutors to add homicide or assault charges to anyone who causes “death or injury to an unborn member of the species homo sapiens.”
It passed 33-32 in the House on Monday, with all Democrats opposed. There was no debate Monday, but representatives argued about it for two hours before a preliminary vote Friday.
The sponsor, Rep. Janak Joshi, R-Colorado Springs, said his bill is to protect women.
“Somehow, we have missed giving them the protection of the law when a criminal hurts them during their most vulnerable stage of life, which is pregnancy,” Joshi said.
Current law already calls for enhanced sentences for people convicted of attacking a pregnant woman, but Joshi’s bill would add a second charge for hurting the fetus.
Democratic women said the bill was an attack on a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, worried that the bill might allow for criminal charges against a woman who uses birth control or the “morning-after” pill.
Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, said the bill tried to do what voters rejected.
“This is about personhood. This is about a woman’s right to choose,” Fields said.
Republicans disputed the claim.
“That is such a red herring,” said Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan. “This issue of crimes against the unborn is one of the most important issues.”
The bill now goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Locally, Reps. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, and Don Coram, R-Montrose, voted for the bill.