Colorado bills aim to change abortion rules; one would make performing abortion a class 1 felony

DENVER – A handful of bills introduced in Colorado’s House of Representatives aim to affect abortion laws in the state, but they will first have to clear a House committee chaired by a doctor who specializes in reproduction.

ABORTION-RELATED BILLS FILED

One bill, House Bill 1108, would make it a class 1 felony for practitioners to perform an abortion unless it is intended to save the mother’s life or unless the unborn child dies as a result of medical treatment, such as chemotherapy.

That would put practitioners who perform abortions in the same category as first-degree murderers, child abusers who cause a child’s death and people charged with treason.

The bill is sponsored by Reps. Stephen Humphrey and Kim Ransom, as well as Sen. Tim Neville.

Another bill, House Bill 1086, would require practitioners to tell a woman about a process that can be used to reverse “abortion pills” 24 hours before giving a woman the pill, and would require the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to post information on its website about the process.

Though the process is not widely-used at this time, researchers at the University of California-San Diego published a paper on it in 2012. The bill says that as of May 2016, the process had been successfully utilized in 175 pregnancies.

But others have warned of dangers linked to the process.

The process works by using a hormone-based drug that utilizes progesterone, which is a necessary hormone in women's bodies, to reverse the effects of the main compound in “abortion pills,” mifepristone.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Justin Everett and Dan Nordberg and Sen. Vicki Marble, says it aims to “reduce ‘the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed.’”

A third bill (House Bill 1085), titled the “Women’s Health Protection Act” and sponsored by Rep. Patrick Neville, a Douglas County Republican, would require any clinics that provide abortions to register with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, which would have to inspect each registered clinic at least once a year to be sure it is using sanitary equipment and is adhering to special rules also outlined in the bill for abortions performed after 20 weeks of gestation.

But currently, first and second-trimester abortions (up to 26 weeks’ gestation) are allowed in Colorado, as are “late-term” abortions that are most often performed because a fetus as developed complications.

The bill would require clinics to report the number of abortions it performed and the trimester it was performed in, among many other things, in its registration with the attorney general.

CLEARING COMMITTEE AND HOUSE COULD PROVE DIFFICULT

The three bills face a difficult course in Colorado’s Legislature.

They are all scheduled for their first committee hearing Feb. 9 in the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee, in which Democrats outnumber Republicans 6-5.

The committee is chaired by Rep. Joann Ginal, Ph.D., a Democrat from Fort Collins who is also a reproductive endocrinologist by trade. Its vice chair is Rep. Daneya Esgar, a Pueblo Democrat who is also the majority caucus chair.

Esgar told Denver7 in an interview this week that the three bills would get “a fair hearing,” but that she and her fellow Democrats would “stand up for all women’s rights.”

But she expressed concern over some of the aforementioned bills the committee is set to hear Feb. 9.

“We just passed the 44th anniversary of Roe v Wade, and I share the same frustrations that the millions of women exhibited on Saturday across the country [in the Women’s March events nationwide] – instead of being able to focus on how to make health care for everyone more affordable and more accessible, we are still fighting for basic reproductive rights,” she told Denver7.

Ginal told the Coloradoan that the bills wouldn’t pass the House, which is also controlled by Democrats, should they make it out of committee.

She said House Bill 1085 contained “impossible regulations,” according to the Coloradoan.

Esgar expressed concern over House Bill 1108, saying it was “a very dangerous idea to target doctors and health providers” by making them class 1 felons.

“They are providing a medical service and should never be singled out. Abortion is not a crime, it’s a safe and legal procedure,” she told Denver7. “History has shown that banning abortion, or stopping access to safe abortions, is dangerous for women’s lives.”

But she stopped short of saying such bills further divide the Legislature, in which Democrats control the House and Republicans control the Senate.

“There are definitely issues, like this one, that we do not agree on and that can cause tension at times. However, we do have more in common than divides us, and here in Colorado we actually work really well together,” Esgar said. “Our work is to come together and find out how to bring the state forward even with divergent ideas.”

Still, abortion remains among the most hot-button issues in Colorado politics, as Colorado Republicans have fought to restrict abortion access for years on both the state and federal levels and Democrats fight to keep women’s reproductive rights already on the law books in place.

Many of the state’s counties do not have abortion clinics, but the state does require only licensed physicians perform abortions, parental consent for women under age 18 to obtain an abortion, and that taxpayer funding for abortions is only provided to preserve a woman’s life or in the case of rape or incest.

The peer-reviewed research group Guttmacher Institute, which researches sexual and reproductive health and rights, found the number of abortions declined by 14 percent between 2011 and 2014, but that there was also a 14 percent decline over that time period in the number of Colorado facilities that provided abortions.

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