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Colo. House Committee Rejects Fetal Homicide Bill

Colo. House Committee Rejects Fetal Homicide Bill

May 6, 2015 — The Colorado House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Monday voted 6-5 to reject a bill (SB 15-268) that would have allowed prosecutors to bring murder charges against an individual who unlawfully ends a woman's pregnancy, the Durango Herald reports (Marcus, Durango Herald, 5/4).

Background

The measure came 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 have revised 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 have allowed 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, 4/28).

Debate Over Measure

During debate over the measure, state House Assistant Minority Leader Polly Lawrence (R) said the measure had "nothing to do with abortion" or "with personhood" (Durango Herald, 5/4).

However, lawmakers who opposed the bill expressed concern that it could result in charges against pregnant women in certain situations, such as if a woman miscarries after opting not to follow medical advice (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/28).

State Rep. Mike Foote (D) described the legislation as "trying to put personhood language" into the state's laws (Durango Herald, 5/4). In addition, opponents of the bill argued that the assailant in the recent incident, if convicted, already faces more than 100 years in prison (AP/CBS Denver, 5/4).

Planned Parenthood Praises Vote

Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado praised the committee for voting down the bill, saying the legislation "could have opened the door to prosecutions of women whose pregnancies face complications and tragically end in miscarriage."

The group added, "Furthermore, the bill did not explicitly protect access to abortion, putting Colorado physicians in danger of prosecution if they provide care to pregnant women facing complications in their pregnancy or for providing safe abortion services" (Richardson, Washington Times, 5/5).