Colorado’s “Personhood” Candidates Take a Beating

In the previous two election cycles, Colorado voters defeated so-called “personhood” measures—intended to outlaw all abortion from the moment of conception and also restrict birth control and in vitro fertility treatments—by overwhelming margins. In 2010 the measure went down 71-29; in 2008 it lost 73-27. If failed to make the ballot this year, but it was still very much a live issue in the 2012 elections. Democrats used the issue effectively to push its allegations that the GOP wages a “war on women.”

Paul Ryan took continual heat for his support for “personhood”; for but one example see an article by Colorado Pols. And Democrats hammered down-ticket Republicans relentlessly on the issue.

Joe Coors, who challenged incumbent Democrat Ed Perlmutter, got badly beat, 53-41 percent. Now, I don’t think Coors would have won even had the “personhood” issue not been on the table, and elsewhere Mike Coffman won despite his support for “personhood.” Nevertheless, the Democratic Party distributed the following mailer knowing it would move votes:

In my state house district, the Democratic challenger trounced the incumbent, Robert Ramirez, 51-43 percent. The left hit Ramirez with a relentless onslaught of mailers hammering him for supporting “personhood,” of which the following, distributed by an outfit called Fight Back Colorado, is an example:

There is no doubt that “personhood” shifted votes to Democrats up and down the ticket in Colorado, though of course it’s hard to say if that one issue made the difference in any given race.

Democrats honed this campaign strategy in 2010, when it defeated Ken Buck in the U.S. Senate race by attacking his abortion-banning stance.

As I’ve been pointing out for some time, Colorado demographically tends to be the type of place where people want government out of our wallets and out of our bedrooms. Unfortunately, the Republican Party in this state is dominated by a religious right that wants to outlaw all abortion and discriminate against gays—and that explains to a large degree why Democrats now control the entire state government, again.


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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 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.”

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.

‘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.

Law Should Protect Wanted Fetuses While Allowing Abortions

The following article originally was published March 1 by Denver Daily News.

A hit and run in Denver last December killed a woman’s fetus and led to calls for new legislation. If someone harms a woman’s fetus against her will, whether intentionally or through negligence, what is the proper legal penalty?

We recognize a woman’s right to bear a child, and we condemn as viciously evil the intentional killing of a woman’s wanted fetus. Likewise, when negligence or criminal violence causes the death of a fetus, we regard that as horribly tragic and look for legal recourse.

But the fact that the law should protect a woman’s wanted fetus does not imply that the law should also prohibit women from getting an abortion, though opponents of abortion often argue as much.

The mistake is to think that, because the law should protect a woman’s wanted fetus, therefore the fetus is a person with full legal rights, just like every born child and adult.

Legal protections for a woman’s fetus properly extend from the legal rights of the woman herself. Every woman has the right to life, liberty, and the security of her person. One of a woman’s most profound choices is whether to bear a child. A pregnant woman who wants to bear a child devotes great care and resources to having a healthy baby, and she contemplates her fetus in anticipation of the independent person it will become. Therefore, killing a woman’s wanted fetus, whether intentionally or as the consequence of violence or negligence, violates that woman’s rights.

Likewise, because the woman is an independent person with full rights, whereas her fetus is totally contained within her body and not a biologically separate and independent person, the woman has the right to get an abortion if she chooses.

Unfortunately, some on the religious right have attempted to hijack the issue of fetal protection for backdoor attempts to outlaw abortion. For example, in 2010 Senator Dave Schultheis’s bill attempted to define a fetus as a person in a fetal homicide bill.

Whereas sensible fetal protection laws protect a woman’s rights to her own body and choices, legally defining a fetus as a person strips a woman of her rights. If a fetus is legally declared a person with the right to life, then, logically, the pregnant woman must be legally forbidden from getting an abortion, even if that endangers her health, and even if she must be imprisoned and physically restrained to force her to give birth.

Thankfully, newly introduced House Bill 1256 explicitly avoids conferring personhood to fetuses. Existing laws already criminalize the “unlawful termination of pregnancy,” and last year a Mesa County court sentenced a man to five years in prison for giving his pregnant former girlfriend an abortifacient without her knowledge, the Daily Sentinel reported. [See also my previous post.] The new bill creates four ranges of offense, ranging from recklessness to the deliberate killing of a woman’s wanted fetus.

Bill 1256 has some problems. Rather than outline the general principles applicable to call cases, it contains unnecessary language about committing an offense while driving a vehicle. Moreover, the bill obscures the important distinction between a fetus and a born child by referring to an “unborn child.” Such vague, non-objective language should be removed.

Overall, though, the new bill seeks to more fully protect women against crime and reckless acts. While the law should not be contorted to serve an anti-abortion agenda, it should consistently protect the rights of every born person, including the rights of a pregnant woman either to get an abortion or protect her fetus, as she chooses.

Ari Armstrong blogs at and is the coauthor of the paper, “The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life.”


Scott Evans commented March 15, 2011 at 9:50 AM
If a woman can have her unwanted preborn child killed, why can’t she have her unwanted already born child killed?

Ari commented March 15, 2011 at 10:12 AM
Scott, There’s a reason why I linked to the paper. Please feel free to leave another comment only after you seriously consider those arguments and have something intelligent to say about them. Thanks, -Ari

‘Unlawful Termination of a Pregnancy’

An odd Associated Press story published by today’s Denver Post discusses a new bill to make the “unlawful termination of a pregnancy” a felony. What is odd about it is that Colorado statutes already make that a felony. Given the AP reporter didn’t review the differences between existing statutes and the new bill, I’ll go ahead and do it.

Linked through the Colorado legislature page are the Colorado Revised Statutes. Following are the relevant statutes already on the books:

18-3.5-101. Unlawful termination of pregnancy.

(1) A person commits the offense of unlawful termination of a pregnancy if, with intent to terminate unlawfully the pregnancy of another person, the person unlawfully terminates the other person’s pregnancy.

(2) Unlawful termination of a pregnancy is a class 4 felony.

18-3.5-102. Exclusions.

Nothing in this article shall permit the prosecution of a person for providing medical treatment, including but not limited to an abortion, in utero treatment, or treatment resulting in live birth, to a pregnant woman for which the consent of the pregnant woman, or a person authorized by law to act on her behalf, has been obtained or for which consent is implied by law.

Last year a Mesa County court sentenced a man to five years in prison for this crime, the Daily Sentinel reported.

So how is the new bill, 1256, introduced February 11, different? Mainly, it is much more complicated. It defines “unlawful termination of a pregnancy” from the first through fourth degrees. It also defines “vehicular unlawful termination of a pregnancy, and aggravated vehicular unlawful termination of a pregnancy.”

While the bill improperly refers to “unborn children,” thereby obscuring the very large difference between a born child and a fetus, it “does not confer the status of ‘person’ upon a human embryo, fetus, or unborn child at any stage of development prior to live birth.”

It does make sense to increase the criminal penalties for deliberation and intent, as well as to criminalize reckless acts that cause the death of a fetus.

However, the sections pertaining to vehicles — which constitute the bulk of the bill — seem redundant; it shouldn’t matter in law whether somebody kills a woman’s fetus by recklessly driving a vehicle or through some other means. Notably, the sections pertaining to vehicles also include a lot of detail about driving under the influence of various substances, also unnecessary for this law. Obviously if someone is driving drunk, that is an instance of the broader category of reckless behavior.

In sum, this is a good bill overall that needs some amending. Specifically, the ambiguous, non-objective language about an “unborn child” should be removed, as should all the material specific to vehicles and operating vehicles under the influence of drugs. The legislature should strive to keep bills as short and simple as possible. However, because existing statutes on the matter are imprecise and don’t allow for varying degrees of offense, the new bill (unlike most of the bills floating through the legislature) serves a legitimate purpose of protecting the rights of pregnant women.