Don’t be deceived about what’s really going on at the state Capitol as a handful of hyper-conservative state lawmakers make noise about the need for a law to protect pregnant women from having their unborn babies murdered.
The whole country gasped a few weeks ago when a 7-months-pregnant, Longmont woman was lured to the home of under the pretense of checking out baby clothes. In one of the most outlandish crimes to occur ever in Colorado, Lane, 35, cut the unborn baby from the the 26-year-old mother’s abdomen, drove the dead fetus to a hospital and told doctors she’d just suffered a miscarriage.
Stories quickly revealed that Lane could not be charged with the murder of the unborn baby because state law does not describe a fetus as a legal person. So while the nation is reeling from the shock that someone could do anything so morbid, Colorado’s long-settled argument over personhood begins anew.
Don’t be mislead by the idea that anyone who cruelly injures a fetus and the mother gets by the criminal justice system unscathed. Lane faces more than 100 years in prison.
Colorado has been down this road before. In 2003, lawmakers addressed people who purposely injure unborn babies and their mothers. In 2013, the law was tweaked to ensure those who deliberately harm the unborn are severely punished. At the same time, the law guarantees that the rights of the mother, and all pregnant women, aren’t usurped by well-meaning legislation with unintended consequences.
Those personhood laws, allowing for murder charges against those who harm unborn babies, exist in numerous states, and they’ve inflicted untold terror among countless women, often the poorest ones.
Critics of Colorado’s latest foray into personhood, Senate Bill 268, point out a handful of notorious cases where pregnant women who lost their babies to miscarriages are dragged into the criminal justice system, accused and usually cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the death of their unborn babies. One of the most egregious examples of this was in Utah, where in 2014 a woman pregnant with twins decided against a cesarean delivery, and one of the twins was stillborn. The Utah government prosecuted her for the death of the twin, and then later backed off when the public outcry became overwhelming. The story is just like other chilling accounts where zealous prosecutors intervene in the most private, painful aspects of women’s lives, involving pregnancy and the death of an unborn child.
That’s only one of a growing list of realities, not possibilities, that legislation like SB 268 can bring down upon Colorado women. That’s not what the bill’s proponents say, and it’s not what they want you to hear. Republican Senate President Bill Cadman of Colorado Springs is leading the charge to get this personhood law on the books. He doesn’t care that voters have overwhelmingly turned down personhood measures at the polls numerous times over the past five years. Undaunted, the backers and sponsors of those bills, far-right, ultra-religious, deep-pocket actors from outside and inside the state, keep coming back. They come back trying to trick Colorado voters into sanctioning personhood as a back-door attempt to make abortion illegal.
Cadman says that’s not what he and others want to do this time. In fact, he’s inserting language that he says specifically states that legal abortion won’t be affected by the personhood impact.
Of course it will. And of course Cadman wants that. His record of trying to restrict access to legal abortion is abundantly clear. He and his wife both worked for Focus on the Family, an organization that has worked zealously to make abortion illegal in Colorado. It’s those same bait-and-switch personalities and tactics that have left Colorado voters so opposed to personhood legislation and so distrustful of the people who promote it.
And that’s what this is really about. State law already brings down the house on anyone who would do something as unthinkable as attacking a pregnant woman and killing her baby.
Better protection against these horrendous crimes would come from a better funded mental health system that better identifies dangerously sick people before they commit crimes like this. All SB 268 would do is open the door for restricting abortion, and persecuting — as well as prosecuting — pregnant women who should never be entrapped by this kind of government intrusion. Colorado is smarter than this.
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