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Colo. Senate Leader Plans 'Fetal Homicide' Bill

Colo. Senate Leader Plans 'Fetal Homicide' Bill

April 3, 2015 — Colorado's Senate president has announced plans to propose a "fetal homicide" bill that would allow prosecutors to pursue murder charges against an individual whose actions end a woman's pregnancy, the Daily Beast reports.

Background

The measure comes in response to a recent incident in the state in which a woman responding to an online ad for baby clothes was stabbed and cut open in her abdomen to remove the fetus, which did not survive. The woman, who survived, was seven months pregnant, meaning the fetus could have been viable.

Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett said many in the community have called for him to file a homicide charge against the woman accused of the crime, but he explained that such a charge "is not possible under Colorado law without proof of a live birth."

New Legislation

Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman (R) said his bill would close what he considers a gap in the Colorado justice system. According to the Daily Beast, the bill is prompting concerns that conservatives "might be turning a tragedy into a talking point for anti-abortion legislation."

Critics have also said that the bill, which is yet to be released, shares similarities with "personhood" measures that have been repeatedly rejected in Colorado. NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Director Karen Middleton said, "Coloradans have said 'no,' to anything that smacks of personhood over and over again."

Further, opponents have noted that Colorado's Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act (HB 13-1154) addresses violence against pregnant women and their fetuses. Specifically, the law makes it a crime to end a pregnancy through unlawful action by recognizing the woman as the victim of the crime, according to the Daily Beast. The measure explicitly withholds legal personhood from the fetus or embryo.

Middleton said the current law is "a good compromise, a good step forward, in terms of putting severe penalties in place for criminals without criminalizing women or going down the slippery slope of personhood."

State Rep. Mike Foote (D), who sponsored the legislation, said the unlawful termination of a pregnancy charge has been used eight times since it was enacted, not including the latest case. "[T]he penalties are severe," he said, adding, "I don't think a new bill is necessary" (Zadrozny, Daily Beast, 4/1).