Colo. House Approves Fetal Homicide Bill

March 21, 2012 — The Colorado House on Monday voted along party lines to approve legislation (HB 1130) that would make it a crime to harm or kill a fetus, unless the mother had agreed to an abortion, the Durango Herald reports. Lawmakers advanced the bill to the Democratic-controlled Senate on a 33-32 vote, with Republicans supporting the measure.

The bill would impose homicide or assault charges on individuals who cause "death or injury to an unborn member of species homo sapiens." Although current law allows for harsher sentences for anyone convicted of attacking a pregnant woman, HB 1130 would add a second charge for harming a fetus.

Rep. Janak Joshi (R), the bill's sponsor, said the measure is to protect women. "Somehow we have missed giving them the protection of the law when a criminal hurts them during their most vulnerable state of life, which is pregnancy," he said.

Democrats said the bill could infringe on abortion rights (Hanel, Durango Herald, 3/19). Rep. Daniel Kagan (D) said the language could lead to murder charges against a woman who takes emergency contraception to prevent a pregnancy or against abortion providers. Republicans countered that the bill has been amended to exempt these instances (Jorgensen, Colorado Observer, 3/20).

Democrats also voiced concern that the bill is an attempt to introduce "personhood" into state law. Colorado voters have twice rejected personhood ballot initiatives (Durango Herald, 3/19). "We need to respect what [voters] have said," Rep. Lois Court (D) said, adding, "This is personhood plain and simple" (Colorado Observer, 3/20).