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Colo. Senate Passes Fetal Homicide Bill

Colo. Senate Passes Fetal Homicide Bill

April 28, 2015 — The Colorado Senate on Monday passed a bill (SB 15-268) that would allow prosecutors to bring murder charges against an individual who ends a woman's pregnancy, the AP/Colorado Springs Gazette reports.

However, according to the AP/Gazette, opposition from state lawmakers who support abortion rights suggests the bill's chances of passage in the state House are slim (Wyatt, AP/Colorado Springs Gazette, 4/27).

Background

The measure comes in response to a recent incident in Colorado in which a woman who was seven months pregnant was assaulted in an effort to remove the fetus. The woman survived, but the fetus did not.

Prosecutors were unable to bring homicide charges under the state's Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act (HB 13-1154). The law makes it a crime to end a pregnancy through unlawful action by recognizing the woman as the victim of the crime. However, the law explicitly withholds legal personhood from the fetus or embryo.

Bill Details

The fetal homicide bill would revise the definition of "person" in Colorado's homicide and assault statutes so that it refers to "a human being and includes an unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth."

The bill would allow three exceptions: acts by the woman carrying the fetus; "a medical procedure performed by a physician or licensed medical professional" at the request of the woman or her legal guardian; and "the lawful dispensation or administration of lawfully prescribed medication" (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/17).

Abortion-Rights Supporters Voice Concerns

During debate over the measure, state Sen. Pat Steadman (D) spoke out against the law, saying that "the law we have on the books does offer justice to crime victims."

Meanwhile, other lawmakers who oppose the bill said it could result in charges against pregnant woman in certain situations, such as if a woman miscarries after opting not to follow medical advice. "It makes me and many others extremely nervous to go into this territory," said state Rep. Morgan Carroll (D) (AP/Colorado Springs Gazette, 4/27).