The Denver Post’s Ridiculously Biased Story on Bob Beauprez and IUDs

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

If there’s one thing that makes me more angry than politicians endorsing stupid policies, it’s journalists writing biased and fact-distorting “news” stories. Frankly I usually don’t expect any better from politicians. But I do expect better from journalists, who are supposed to be the defenders of truth, justice, and America’s constitutional republic.

John Frank’s recent article in the Denver Post, “Bob Beauprez’s IUD Remark in Debate Generates Controversy,” represents the worst kind of biased (and frankly partisan) “reporting.”

By way of background, it is no secret that I advocate a woman’s right to get an abortion and that I strongly oppose the so-called “personhood” ballot measure. Indeed, I’ve spent many hours researching and writing about the “personhood” efforts over the years (see the paper I coauthored with Diana Hsieh). In 2006, the last time Beauprez ran for governor, I endorsed Democrat Bill Ritter over Beauprez, largely over “Beauprez’s religious stand against abortion.” This year, I have (tentatively) endorsed Beauprez over incumbent John Hickenlooper, partly because Beauprez has substantially run away from his efforts to outlaw abortion, and largely because I’m sick of Hickenlooper’s antics.

But whatever my personal positions, and whatever Frank’s personal position may be, intellectually honest people can at least be open and candid about the facts. On that score Frank has failed, miserably.

Frank correctly notes that, in a recent debate, “Beauprez suggested that intrauterine devices, known as IUDs, cause abortion.” Specifically, he said, “IUD is an abortifacient.”

Then Frank writes,

Beauprez drew a rebuke from experts in the medical community who called his assertion false. . . . The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and 10 other physician organizations, as well as the Federal Drug Administration, define IUDs as contraceptives that prevent a pregnancy. . . . Dr. Daniel Grossman, an ob/gyn who does reproductive research and who practices in San Francisco, said the definition of a pregnancy as the implantation of a fertilized egg is an established scientific standard. He said IUDs are not abortifacient.

But the relevant debate is not whether an IUD can kill a zygote once it has implanted in the uterus; rather, it is whether an IUD can kill a zygote before it implants in the uterus—and for Frank to ignore that issue is journalistic incompetence (or else intentional fraud). Basically, Frank is trying to trip up Beauprez on a definition, rather than address the substantive underlying issues.

So what are the facts? In 2012, Pam Belluck wrote for the New York Times:

By contrast [to hormonal birth control pills], scientists say, research suggests that the only other officially approved form of emergency contraception, the copper intrauterine device (also a daily birth control method), can work to prevent pregnancy after an egg has been fertilized.

A web site for Paragard, a brand of copper IUD, states, “The copper in Paragard . . . interferes with sperm movement and egg fertilization. Paragard may prevent implantation.” Implantation of what, you may ask? Obviously, of a zygote. And what happens if a zygote does not implant in the uterus? It dies. The FDA-approved prescription information for Paragard states, “Mechanism(s) by which copper enhances contraceptive efficacy include interference with sperm transport and fertilization of an egg, and possibly prevention of implantation.”

In other words, the copper IUD can work by preventing fertilization, and it can work by preventing the implantation of a (fertilized) zygote. If it works by the first means, it is a “contraceptive,” meaning that it prevents conception. But if it works by the second means, calling it a “contraceptive” is misleading, which is why the so-called “pro-life” crowd calls it “abortifacient.” But, by the definition of Frank’s “experts,” it’s not an abortion if it kills a zygote before it implants in the uterus. Well, they can define it that way if they want, but the definition used does not alter the underlying facts.

Let’s use another example to illustrate the point. I could define a “journalist” as a writer of news stories who gets his facts straight and who does not omit relevant facts. By that definition, John Frank is not a “journalist” (“hack” might be a better descriptive, at least in this case). But another common meaning of “journalist” is simply anyone who gets paid to write for a news organization. By that definition, Frank is a “journalist.” But real journalists (in the first sense of the term) do not play “gotcha” games with definitions as a way to obscure the relevant issues.

I believe the editors of the Denver Post do have integrity and do try to publish good, factually complete stories, so I call on them to issue a correction to Frank’s story.

Of course, as a matter of policy, it should matter not at all whether an IUD can act to prevent the implantation of a zygote. Women have a moral right to use the birth control methods of their choice and to seek an abortion if they wish to do so. A zygote is not a “person” and does not have rights. Frank does helpfully report that Beauprez said “in an interview after the debate” that “the use of IUDs [is] a ‘personal choice.'” Indeed it is—and it should continue to be.

How the Left Paints the Right as Anti-Woman

The following article originally was published March 16 by Grand Junction Free Press.

The birth-control mandate that forces insurance companies to provide “free” birth control is an extensive forced wealth transfer scheme, compelling everyone who doesn’t use birth control to pay for others to use it. It is blatantly unjust, violating the rights of women and men as consumers as well as the rights of religious organizations that condemn the use of birth control. So how is it that Republicans are losing the issue so spectacularly? How is it that the left so successfully paints the right as “anti-woman?”

Some have suggested that the Obama administration shoved the birth-control mandate down the throats of religious institutions specifically to get a rise out of Republicans. It was a conscious political strategy, in this view. Whether or not Democrats intended that result, they achieved it. The Democrats left the animal skins and clubs lying about, and many Republicans gleefully dressed the part of troglodyte.

Rather than clearly and consistently answer, “Women have every right to purchase and use birth control, but they don’t have the right to force others to pay for it,” Republicans managed to come up with a rather different set of claims. Consider:

• Rick Santorum said that birth control is “harmful to women” and “harmful to society.” Birth control is “not okay,” he added; it is “counter to how things are supposed to be” because sex should be “for purposes of procreation” and not “simply [for] pleasure.”

• When law student Sandra Fluke publicly endorsed the birth-control mandate, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute” and suggested that she make sex tapes available. (He later apologized.)

• Newt Gingrich condemned “post conception birth control”—which notably can include the standard birth control pill—and endorsed banning it.

• Gingrich, Santorum, and Ron Paul all have supported the so-called “personhood” movement, which would totally ban all abortions from the moment of conception, ban the birth control pill, and ban standard types of in vitro fertility treatments.

The reason the left is able to paint the right as “anti-woman” is that there is more than a grain of truth to the claim.

The left successfully used the “anti-woman” tag in 2010 against Ken Buck, who lost the U.S. Senate race in Colorado. After Buck endorsed a “personhood” measure in Colorado (before backpedalling), Planned Parenthood ran ads proclaiming, “Colorado women can’t trust Ken Buck.”

Given the background debates, many voters found it easier to interpret even Buck’s innocuous comments in a sinister light. In response to the blatant gender-based attacks by his opponent Jane Norton, Buck joked that people should vote for him he doesn’t “wear high heals.” Attacking Buck over that comment was a cheap shot, but it was also a shot that Buck himself invited by entertaining the “personhood” agenda.

Now the Democrats are trying to beat the Republicans by “Ken Bucking” the lot of them. Democrats think that by winning the votes of independent women, they can win. And they’re probably right. As Rachel Maddow writes for the Washington Post, “Today’s Republican candidates are all Ken Buck now.” If Democrats can make the charge stick—and Republicans are making that all too easy—the Democrats win.

Unfortunately, rather than focus on individual rights, distracted Republicans allow the left to get away with various absurd lies about the mandate. One lie is that birth control paid through insurance is “free.” It is certainly not free for those forced to pay higher insurance premiums.

Another lie is that declining to force people who don’t use birth control to pay for others to use it somehow limits “access to birth control.” We think red wine is good for our hearts, but that doesn’t mean we should be able to force others to stock our wine cellars or that our “access” to red wine is limited if they don’t. There is a huge difference between having the freedom to buy something and having the “freedom” to help yourself to somebody else’s cash.

Yet another creative lie is that not forcing religious institutions to provide birth control would somehow impose “theocracy.” Every person, including those who join religious groups, properly has the freedom to voluntarily enter into contracts. Theocracy means imposing religious doctrines by force of law; the birth-control mandate imposes the comparable injustice of forcibly interfering with religious groups. (Of course, much of the controversy regarding religious groups arises from the phenomenon of employer-paid insurance, a relic of inane tax policies. But that is a separate discussion.)

The unfortunate fact is that neither the left nor the right defends the rights of individuals to control their own resources and bodies and contract by mutual consent. Where is the political leader who will take a pro-choice, pro-individual rights stand across the board?

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari blogs at AriArmstrong.com in the Denver area.

The Case for Abortion Rights

The latest issue of The Objective Standard has published an article on abortion rights by Diana Hsieh and me, “The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties.” While this article updates the discussion about the anti-abortion movement, it offers the basic, timeless case for abortion rights.I’ll offer a brief synopsis here.

The first part describes the modern abortion movement, which is basically divided into those who want to immediately declare the “personhood” of zygotes and fetuses from the moment of conception, and those who push for marginal restrictions on abortion.

The second main part discusses why abortion is important for millions of women. Some women need to get an abortion for reasons of health, rape or incest, or serious fetal deformity. Many more women justifiably seek an abortion because, due to their finances, family situation, emotional stability, or goals in life, they are simply not prepared for motherhood. Abortion bans would severely harm the lives and well-being of many women (and their doctors and supporters).

Then the paper address “The Moral Basis of Abortion Rights.” (Diana deserves the lion’s share of the credit for this section.) The basic idea is that individual rights apply in a social context, not to a being contained wholly within the body of another.

The final section ties abortion rights to all our other rights. Abortion bans negate a woman’s right to control her own body. Restrictions on abortion necessarily infringe rights of property, contract, and speech. Moreover, because restrictions on abortion obviously are rooted in sectarian faith, they open the door to more sectarian-based laws and to endless sectarian conflict.

I invite you to read the entire article. See also my follow-up post about Newt Gingrich’s anti-abortion zealotry.

Newt’s Nutty Abortion Stance

Today two articles came out slamming Newt Gingrich for embracing the hard-line anti-abortion “personhood” movement.

Paul Hsieh wrote the first for Pajamas Media. He emphasizes the fact that Gingrich’s proposals would ban the birth control pill and IUD. He writes, “If Gingrich (or any other ‘personhood’ supporter) wins the 2012 GOP nomination, the future legality of birth control pills and IUDs would immediately become a national political issue, to the detriment of the Republicans. Just as the ‘personhood’ issue tipped the swing state of Colorado in favor of the Democrats in 2010, it could also tip a few critical swing states in favor of Obama in 2012.”

I wrote the other article for The Objective Standard. Like Paul, I discuss the strategic foolishness of Republicans embracing the “personhood” movement, referencing Ken Buck’s loss of a U.S. Senate Seat. I also discuss Gingrich’s comments regarding birth control.

One additional point I make is that Gingrich’s proposals would subject women who get abortion to severe criminal penalties:

If, as Personhood USA asserts, a zygote is a person with the same right to life as a born infant or adult, then any action that intentionally kills a zygote, embryo, or fetus constitutes murder, as a representative of the organization emphasizedduring a November news conference. By the logic of the position and in accordance with existing murder statutes, abortion would be legally prosecuted as murder. Any doctor or husband who assisted in an abortion would be prosecuted as an accessory to murder. A Canadian anti-abortion group forthrightly argues that women who get abortions should face severe prison sentences. A Colorado supporter of Personhood USA explicitly calls for the death penalty for women who get abortions.

For a more detailed discussion of the issue, see the essay by Diana Hsieh and me, “The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties.”

Nanny Statist Sullivan Arrested for Consensual Crimes

Pat Sullivan, who as Arapahoe County Sheriff from 1984 to 2002 busted drug dealers and prostitutes, himself was recently arrested for attempting to trade meth for sex.

As CBS summarizes, “Today, he’s accused of offering methamphetamine in exchange for sex from a male acquaintance, and he’s locked up in the jail that bears his name, the Patrick Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility.”

Sullivan was a hard-core drug warrior. CBS continues, “In 2007 and 2008, Sullivan actively participated in state and local meth task forces, created to help the state deal with the drug problem.”

I mentioned the story to Jacob Sullum over at Reason, and Sullum looked up more details on Sullivan’s drug-warrior past. Sullum reviews a Denver Post story about how current drug warriors set up Sullivan with paid informants and surveillance. (As I mentioned on Twitter, ordinarily those who surveil consenting adults trading drugs for sex are justly regarded as perverted stalkers.) Sullum writes:

This sort of sleazy setup is an egregious waste of law enforcement resources, and it is manifestly unjust to threaten someone with six years in prison for attempting a peaceful, entirely consensual transaction with another adult. But that is par for the course in the war on drugs, a cause Sullivan enthusiastically served for many years. He led opposition to a 1998 medical marijuana initiative and calledasset forfeiture “an incredible tool” in the battle againt meth.

Thankfully, because of asset-forfeiture reforms that I helped to promote, the cops are less likely to steal Sullivan’s house or car over the alleged drugs.

But Sullivan was not merely a drug warrior, he also enthusiastically busted people for prostitution. Consider this February 6, 1990 article by theDenver Post:

Gerald Perry of the Denver Broncos turned himself in yesterday to begin serving a 15-day jail sentence for soliciting a prostitute. …

Sheriff Pat Sullivan said the offense that Perry was convicted of occurred in the portion of Aurora that is in Adams County. Perry was sentenced by an Aurora municipal judge to the Arapahoe County Jail, but in the order written by the court clerk, the Adams County Jail was specified….

He said the Broncos left tackle will be confined in the jail’s 12-cell medical unit except for meals and recreation periods.

“Someone of his stature and reputation would be disruptive” if placed in the facility’s general population, said Sullivan. …

The sheriff said that with time off for good behavior, Perry could walk out of the jail Feb. 14. “He gets six days of good time, as long as he’s good,” Sullivan said.

Reading that in light of Sullivan’s own recent arrest is downright creepy.

But Sullivan’s Nanny Statism did not extend only to drugs and prostitution, with which he was allegedly involved, but also to gambling. Consider this March 24, 1990 article by John Sanko in the Rocky Mountain News:

Gov. Roy Romer says he doesn’t want Colorado cities turned into miniature versions of Las Vegas or Atlantic City, where casino gambling is the name of the game. …

“I don’t think this is healthy, I don’t think it’s wise and I don’t think it’s needed,” Romer said of plans to bring casino-style gambling to eight small towns and allow electronic poker in others.

“It would put us on a slippery slope that we would not recover from and we would become a full-scale gambling state.”

Lawmakers who support the gambling plan scoffed, but Romer got no argument from Fort Collins District Attorney Stuart VanMeveren.

“It brings in prostitution , it brings in a lot of transients, it brings in a lot of other social problems,” VanMeveren said.

Speaking for the state’s law officers, Arapahoe County Sheriff Pat Sullivan said serious problems cropped up in the past just with fund-raising “casino nights” for charities.

We wouldn’t want low-life drug-dealing prostitutes doing something like raising money for charity through casino nights!

So as sheriff Sullivan fought drug use, prostitution, and gambling — the Nanny State trifecta — and he also advocated controls on civilian gun ownership. In an email today, Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners wrote:

One of the reasons I am so opposed to the government being involved in your Second Amendment rights is that it takes the power away from you and puts it in their hands.

In the hands of people like the former Republican Sheriff of Arapahoe County, Patrick Sullivan.

Sullivan made a habit of helping out groups like the Brady Campaign when it came to preventing law-abiding citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

He even testified before Congress for Handgun Control in favor of the Brady bill, and in the State Capitol against any concealed carry reform.

During his 18-year tenure as Arapahoe County Sheriff, Sullivan was a poster boy for big government…

But not only was Sullivan a major Nanny Statist, he was also a tax-and-spender. Vincent Carroll reviews for the Denver Post:

[Sullivan] agreed to participate in a political advertisement in 1992 against the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in which he pointed to a section of the amendment that he said “cuts cops and puts criminals back on the street.”

That claim was a lurid falsehood — which voters apparently sensed because they approved TABOR that year by a comfortable margin.

Given how little Sullivan cared for others’ freedoms, it’s a little hard to feel too sorry for him now that he has been arrested for consensual crimes.

And yet we must also remember all the violence Sullivan stopped as a peace officer, and all the innocent people he helped protect from harm.

Lovers of liberty must point out the basic injustice of Sullivan’s arrest, even though it’s the sort of police action Sullivan himself once endorsed.

Opponents Reply to ‘Personhood’ Push

Colorado’s anti-abortion “personhood” advocates held a media conference November 21 in which they announced their proposed language for the 2012 ballot.

Previously I posted video of the entire event. Here I add the replies by Monica McCafferty, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and Emilie Ailts, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.

For my criticism of the “personhood” proposals, see the paper I coauthored last year.

Anti-Abortion ‘Personhood’ Tries for Round Three

The so-called “personhood” movement has been knocked down badly in Colorado twice before in the 2008 and 2010 elections. By wide margins voters defeated ballot measures intended to ban all abortions. But the measures’ organizers are back with a new, slightly modified anti-abortion measure for the state’s 2012 ballot (assuming the group gathers enough signatures).

I attended the group’s November 21 media conference at the state capitol, filmed it, and asked a few questions. Please note that my purpose in filming the event was largely journalistic; my main goal was to record the views of the group’s participants. Of course I pressed some questions on matters that I find important. Embedded is the complete video of the event, plus some extra footage of Kristi Burton Brown answering questions.

My opposition to the “personhood” measures is well known (in the relevant circles); I coauthored a paper against the measures in both 2008 and2010.

The proposed 2012 measure is mostly the same as the previous measures, though it spells out some of its implications in greater detail. I posted thefour-page media packet distributed by the group’s organizers, including a page with the complete text of the new proposal:

From Personhood Nov. 21, 2011

The major difference for the 2012 measure is that it explicitly allows abortions to protect the life of the pregnant woman. One of the problems with the previous measures is that they left the life of the woman in a precarious state under certain conditions. See the section of the 2010 paper, “Abortions to Protect a Woman’s Health.” The new measure states:

Medical treatment for life threatening physical conditions intended to preserve life shall not be affected by this section. … “Medical treatment for life threatening physical conditions intended to preserve life” includes but is not limited to treatment for cancer, ectopic and molar pregnancy, twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, and placenta previa.

This language would give doctors some much-needed latitude to perform abortions to save the life of the woman. (Note that the measure’s supporters are loath to call these “medical treatments” abortions, but that’s what we are in fact talking about.)

But what if a doctor needed to perform an abortion only to protect a woman’s long-term health, as opposed to her life? Abortions under such circumstances would be banned if the measure were passed and fully enforced. And ambiguous cases would be decided by prosecutors and the courts.

Still, the measure’s supporters have made a serious effort to address one of the concerns with the earlier measures. Unfortunately, the remaining problems with the measure are manifold and severe. Consider:

* Obviously, the measure would totally ban all elective abortions.

* The measure explicitly says that abortions would be banned even in cases of rape or incest.

* The measure would ban all forms of birth control “that kills a person”; i.e., that can prevent a zygote (post-fertilized egg) from implanting in the uterus. Notably, that includes the birth control pill, the IUD, and “morning after” drugs.

* The measure would ban all fertility treatments “that kills a person”; i.e., that involves the destruction of embryos created outside the womb. In practice, the measure would shut down most fertility procedures that involve creating embryos outside the womb and limit such treatments to the wealthy and to those with rare physiological conditions.

* The measure would subject women who get abortions (along with those who assist her) to severe criminal penalties, counting an abortion legally as “murder.”

* While the 2012 language explicitly protects women with “spontaneous miscarriages,” the entire problem is that it would be the responsibility of coroners, prosecutors, and the courts to distinguish natural miscarriages from intentional harm to the fetus. So the new language changes nothing on that score.

One thing that bothered me about the media conference is Burton-Brown’s insistence that her opponents are liars. But it is Burton-Brown herself who has been consistently cagey about the implications of the “personhood” measures. During the conference, she flatly refused to state whether “personhood” would ban the birth control pill (hint: if consistently enforced it would). In any case, neither Burton-Brown nor anyone else has found a single factual error in the paper coauthored by Diana Hsieh and me (though obviously the “personhood” crowd disagrees with our analysis of the basic facts). In general, people ought not call their opponents liars unless they have really good evidence that such is the case; Burton-Brown presented no such evidence (though I have not evaluated all the claims of all of the opponents of “personhood”). Indeed, the main reason for the 2012 rewrite is to address various criticisms.

Obviously I’ll have much more to say about Colorado’s 2012 “personhood” measure in the coming months. For now, it suffices to say that it is the identical measure as before, only with more verbiage, with the notable exception of the language about “life threatening physical conditions.” It richly deserves defeat again, and I do not doubt that Colorado voters will oblige. The problem is that, if unchallenged, it softens the ground for incremental abortion restrictions leading to a long-run total ban.

Meanwhile, Team Obama rejoices as the Republican Presidential candidates fall all over themselves endorsing such wildly unpopular nonsense.

November 29 Update: See the replies by Monica McCafferty, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and Emilie Ailts, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.

A Note on the Hancock Affair

Michael Hancock was elected mayor of Denver on June 7. On June 2Complete Colorado courageously or irresponsibly (depending on one’s point of view) ran a story with the following headline, “Mayoral Candidate Hancock Linked to Prostitution Ring.” Soon after midnight today (June 11) the Denver Post published its own story on the matter, following stories by9News, 7News, and other outlets.

Hancock said in a video released by the Post that he has never hired a prostitute.

The purported evidence allegedly linking Hancock to a local prostitution ring (now under investigation) comes from a former owner of the illegal service. Hancock’s (misspelled) name appears in the records along with his phone number.

If Hancock is innocent, then his lawyer is doing an excellent job making him look evasive. Assuming he is innocent, this is a serious frame-up, and I’d be interested to learn what sort of possible criminal penalties the framer might be facing if caught.

I can think of a couple of scenarios by which Hancock’s name and number might have ended up in the records (other than him hiring a prostitute). This is purely speculative and hypothetical on my part. But, conceivably, somebody could simply have forged the records, which would have been fairly easy to accomplish. Or, conceivably, somebody could have “borrowed” Hancock’s phone to set up the initial contact, then called from a different number to hire the prostitutes. As the Post reports, the records contain the line, “Calls from diff #’s (pay ph.).”

But here my purpose is not to try to figure out the correct scenario, for I lack the evidence to do that. Instead, I’d like to make a broader political point.

It is certainly not inconceivable that some city employee has hired a prostitute. Indeed, I’d be quite surprised if that were not the case, and so would everyone else. The same general investigation has already brought down a judge, Edward Nottingham. As the Post reports, the same prostitution records “are believed to include many elite Denver professionals.”

What I find disturbing about this is that Americans now expect a significant portion of the population, including a significant portion of elected officials, to knowingly break the law and then chuckle about it, whether it’s hiring a prostitute or smoking a joint. And yet these same laws we openly mock in some cases destroy people’s lives, whether through a nasty prison sentence, a fatal no-knock raid, or the inherent violence of the black market.

Now, as I have argued, I believe prostitution is immoral even though it should be legal. Where it involves consenting adults, it’s not the sort of thing over which we as a society should be launching criminal investigations or throwing people in jail. Where it does not involve consenting adults, it is a vicious crime that should be forcibly stopped.

I do think voters should weigh whether they want to support candidates known to have hired prostitutes, just as in our personal lives we should weigh whether we want to become friends with people who hire prostitutes. Generally the answer should be no.

But, again, if we wish to live in a free society, we must restrict the field of the illegal to a small subset of the field of the immoral. The only acts that should violate the criminal code are those that violate the rights of others (and I mean the actual rights, not the make-believe “rights” to tell everybody else what to do).

Outside prostitution, certain other sorts of “victimless crimes” can be perfectly moral even though illegal; consider brewing beer during Prohibition. Come to think of it, Denver’s former mayor, John Hickenlooper, now the governor of Colorado, made his name brewing beer, an activity once outlawed by the very state he now leads.

Ultimately, it does not actually much matter whether Hancock hired a prostitute. It does matter very much that whether someone becomes the target of a criminal investigation depends to a very large degree on arbitrary enforcement and blind luck.

***

Anonymous commented June 13, 2011 at 7:09 AM
“Limited Government Conservatives” are the driving force behind this victimless hunt.

‘Personhood’ and the Fetal Protection Bill

Anti-abortion activists killed a bill to protect fetuses from criminal and reckless harm, as I recently pointed out. Over at Big Media, Jason Salzmanalso quotes from the Colorado Christian Family Alliance, which opposed the bill.

Today, Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post advances the story by paraphrasing State Representative Mark Waller, who blames the pro-choice side for including language denying the legal “personhood” of fetuses.

Bartels also quotes Colorado Right to Life as accusing Waller of failing to fight the “battle with the liberal, godless, left-wing abortion industry.” (Obviously the line is intended as a smear on multiple counts; many people other than those who facilitate abortions favor legal abortion, as do many religious people and non-left-wing people.)

But Bartels is wrong to imply that the “single sentence” about personhood is what primarily doomed the bill. Both the Colorado Catholic Conference and the Colorado Christian Family Alliance mention the personhood line, but they also dislike the fact that the bill repealed other (mostly unenforceable) laws pertaining to abortion. A release yesterday from the Alliance does not even mention the “personhood” issue (see below).

Notably, the Alliance gives anti-abortion activists full credit for killing the bill, and the Alliance pledges to accept only clearly “pro-life,” meaning anti-abortion, language.

The Alliance material quoted by Salzman also claims the bill “codifies taxpayer funding for abortion mills.” But I looked at the bill and found no language along those lines. Update: State Senator Pat Steadman returned my call and confirmed the bill did not pertain to “taxpayer funding” of abortions. Steadman said it’s “ridiculous” to think the bill has anything to do with tax funding, “because that’s unconstitutional” according to Article 5, Section 50; “I can’t imagine what provision of the bill they would even cite to make that claim.”

Obviously the anti-abortion crowd is attempting to hijack the fetal protection bill, which is why the line about “personhood” was important. To review, in 2010 State Senator Dave Schultheis ran a bill explicitlygranting legal “personhood” to fetuses, and in 2008 and 2010 anti-abortion groups ran a “personhood” initiative in Colorado (and have threatened to do so again in 2012).

So for Waller to accuse the pro-choice side of hanging up the bill over “personhood” language is completely disingenuous. The central problem is that the anti-abortion side will not allow a bill to proceed unless it is a backdoor attempt to outlaw abortion.

Another reason why language denying legal “personhood” to fetuses was needed in this year’s bill (1256) is that its title and language explicitly refers to an “unborn child.” As I’ve argued, this “vague, non-objective” language “obscures the important distinction between a fetus and a born child.” Given that ambiguity, language clarifying that a fetus is not in fact legally a “person” is absolutely essential to the bill.

Now, for a bill with a neutral title, such as “A Bill to Protect Embryos and Fetuses from Criminal and Reckless Harm,” specific language about “personhood” would not be necessary, so long as the bill’s provisions unambiguously refrained from restricting abortions.

In general, a good bill would be much shorter and much simpler than 1256. However, a good bill must also prevent anti-abortion zealots from hijacking the law for backdoor abortion bans.

March 17 Release from the Christian Family Alliance of Colorado

Pro-Life Citizens Rally to kill sneak attack on Colorado’s voter-passed Pro-life Laws
Even the bill’s drafter, attorney Michael Dohr, admitted the bill “removes all criminal abortion statutes” thereby ratifying abortion-on-demand in Colorado

Denver, CO – Today, Christian Family Alliance of Colorado responded to deceptive State House GOP leadership back pedaling on a bill designed to subvert Colorado’s voter-passed pro-life laws.

HB 1256, the so-called fetal homicide bill, inspired by a recent hit and run crime committed against an Aurora women and her unborn child, was pulled after pro-life citizens rallied to expose the deceitful bill.

The language of the bill, rather than address only fetal homicide, went far beyond to strike part 1 of article 6 of title 18 that would decriminalize all abortion related criminal activity.

“It saddens CFAC to know that even House GOP leadership seemed prepared to nullify all of Colorado’s voter-passed pro-life laws and therefore ratify abortion-on-demand in the Centennial State,” said Neville.

“We’d expect that from a Planned Parenthood lobbyist like Senate sponsor Pat Steadman, but not from those who claim to value the lives of unborn children.”

“Thankfully pro-life citizens rallied in time to end the travesty that was HB 1256. They are now looking forward to working with real pro-life legislation that will finally close Colorado’s fetal homicide loop hole,” concluded Neville.

Anti-Abortion Zealots Kill Fetal Protection Bill

You’d think anti-abortion zealots might want to protect fetuses from criminal harm, right? Wrong.

“Right-fringe… abortion extremists” opposed Colorado House Bill 1256, as State Senator Pat Steadman told Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post, causing the bill’s sponsors to withdraw the measure concerning fetal protection.

As I’ve reviewed, Colorado law is deficient in that it criminalizes only intentional termination of a pregnancy (against the woman’s wishes). What if, through a criminal or reckless act, somebody unintentionally kills a woman’s wanted fetus? That’s what happened with the hit-and-run in Denver.

The new bill defined four levels of offense: intentionally killing a fetus after deliberation (against the woman’s wishes), intentionally killing a fetus without prior deliberation, recklessly causing the death of a fetus while knowing the woman is pregnant, and recklessly causing the death of a fetus without knowing the woman is pregnant. These basic categories of offense make a lot of sense, which is why I favored the bill (despite some problems with it).

In a subsequent op-ed, I offered the basic theoretical foundation for such a law: “Legal protections for a woman’s fetus properly extend from the legal rights of the woman herself.”

Why, then, did anti-abortion activists, who claim to want to protect fetuses, oppose the bill? On March 14, the Colorado Catholic Conference sent an action alert via email opposing 1256. This Catholic group offered two main arguments. First, the “bill fails to recognize an unborn child as a separate victim of homicide or assault,” as the bill explicitly states that a fetus is not a person under law. Second:

The Colorado Catholic Conference also opposes the fact that this bill seeks to repeal the criminal abortion statute that is still on the books in Colorado. The pro-life community looks forward to the day when Roe vs. Wade is overturned, and there is no benefit to the pro-life community to repeal our criminal abortion statute, even if currently it is not enforceable.

I take it this refers to statutes 18-6-101 through 18-6-105, which bill 1256 would have repealed. Statute 18-6-102 outlaws the ending of a “pregnancy of a woman by any means other than justified medical termination or birth.” The key, then, is what constitutes “justified medical termination,” which 18-6-101 defines. The measure severely restricts abortion to cases of likely death of the woman, “serious permanent impairment of the physical health of the woman” (including mental health), serious fetal deformity, cases where the woman is under sixteen, rape, and incest.

As I have argued, these statutes seriously violate the rights of pregnant women to get an abortion. But apparently the Colorado Catholic Conference would rather prevent actual laws that protect fetuses from criminal harm, in order to leave unenforceable statutes on the books that outlaw elective abortions.

This is just the latest illustration of how anti-abortion zealots undermine the rights and lives of actual people, in order to maintain the faith-based fantasy that a zygote is a person. So the next time a criminal gets away with killing a woman’s fetus, feel free to blame the anti-abortion crusaders who killed bill 1256.