What would appear to be on its face, a bill designed to allow criminal charges to be brought against third parties who injure a pregnant woman and her late-term, unborn child, turns out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Colorado’s Republican controlled House has passed the second reading on House Bill 1130. The final vote on the bill is expected early next week and could come as soon as Monday. It is expected to pass the House and then head to the Senate for debate. A similar bill died in committee earlier this session in the Democratic-controlled Senate. What does all this mean?
In early 2011, Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, introduced a bi-partisan bill which included similar language to House Bill 1130 with the following language added: “The bill does not confer the status of ‘person’ upon a human embryo, fetus, or unborn child at any stage of development prior to live birth.” Thereafter, Rep. Waller was attacked by a pro-life group (Colorado Right to Life) accusing him of giving up the “battle with the liberal, Godless, left-wing abortion industry.” Rep. Waller ended up killing his own bill. In the 2012 session, a new bill was sponsored by Rep. Janak Joshi, R-Colorado Springs, without the aforementioned language.
Is this “type” of bill unusual? Not really, but the failure to apply any limitations on the gestation period makes it ripe for debate. As of 2010, over 38 states had fetal homicide laws. What makes this so controversial at this time is the failure to place any developmental limitation on the age of the fetus. Of the 38 states with such laws, at least 20 states have fetal homicide laws that apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy and include such language as “any state of gestation,” “conception,” “fertilization” or “post-fertilization.”
These specific type of “fertilized egg” bills are being introduced and/or passed in Republican controlled Houses/Senates and have the potential of conferring “personhood” status on a fetus at any stage of development.
Colorado’s House Democrats have argued that it criminalizes abortion and acts as an end around on the voters of the state with its personhood language. The voters of Colorado have twice defeated personhood measures brought before them in 2008 and 2010. This bill attempts to skirt the voters and make the death of a fertilized egg or beyond, a homicide.
As reported by the Daily Kos, State Rep. Daniel Kagan (D) reported after the bill passed the second reading:
“…we were unable to prevent the Republican majority in the House from passing on second reading the First Degree Homicide of the Unborn Child bill. Under some circumstances, it makes both termination of pregnancy and the use of the morning after pill a homicide. It also confers personhood on a newly fertilized egg.”
So what do the Republicans say about the bill? According to the Denver Post, Rep. Waller believes Rep. Joshi’s bill is similar to a bill in California, “a very progressive state” (WTH? That is a debating point?) and Rep. Joshi has responded:
“If Democrats want to shield offenders who commit crimes against pregnant women, that’s their prerogative. If a pregnant women is beaten by an abusive husband or killed by a drunk driver, and her child does not survive, the perpetrator should not get away with those crimes.”
Rep. Joshi is playing off the outrage that occurred when a pregnant woman was injured by a hit and run driver and while her 34 week old baby was delivered successfully, he subsequently died. Had the driver been apprehended, no charges could have been brought for the death of the child under current Colorado law.
This purported outrage by the Republicans and their attempt to “save” unborn children is typical of what is occurring throughout the country and is just another example of the war on women and their reproductive rights and choices. If Rep. Joshi’s sole concern is the ability to charge a drunk driver or abusive husband who has injured an unborn child, then why not introduce legislation that would make it a crime with the bi-partisan language of Rep. Waller’s bill specifically denying the creation of personhood status on the fetus? Because criminal prosecution of individuals who may injure an unborn child is not the real focus of the Republican controlled House and none of the Republicans are willing to battle pro-life groups. It is all about controlling a woman’s right to choose and ‘personhood’ status.
If Rep. Waller hadn’t caved in last session, a bi-partisan bill would be in place and there would be no concern about the criminality of that drunk driver. Now, with a Democratic-controlled Senate, it is likely (although not guaranteed) that this bill will die, like the prior one, but for totally unrelated reasons.
As a woman who is really frustrated and disgusted with what is occurring throughout this country, I intend to be front and center at the March Against The War on Women scheduled for April 28, 2012.