Colorado anti-abortion ‘ultrasound’ bill defeated in bipartisan Senate vote

Author: John Tomasic - April 13, 2017 - Updated: April 13, 2017

(AP Photo/James MacPherson, File)
(AP Photo/James MacPherson, File)

All of the Colorado Senate Democrats and two Republicans joined forces to defeat a closely watched anti-abortion bill in the Republican-controlled chamber on Thursday.

Senate Bill 284 might have passed had Democrats not forced the one-seat majority caucus members to go on record for or against the bill.

Swing-seat Republican Sens. Don Coram from Durango and Beth Martinez Humenik from Thornton joined the 17 Democrats on the floor of the chamber to defeat the bill.

Sponsored by strong pro-life Republicans Kevin Lundberg from Berthoud and Vicki Marble from Fort Collins, the bill mirrored proposals introduced by conservative lawmakers around the country in recent years. It would have required doctors to provide specific information to patients seeking an abortion, including information about “all relevant features of an ultrasound” of the fetus and about “alternatives to abortion” and the “availability of potential [medical] abortion reversals.” Patients could opt out of receiving the information. The bill also would have put in place a 24-hour waiting period between the required informational appointment and the procedure itself.

Opponents saw the bill as government overreach, in which lawmakers were meddling in medicine — using the power of the law to advance unscientific practices and promote the use of pro-life health clinics with what they characterized as questionable medical credentials and intentions. They said the procedures and waiting periods were simply “speed bumps” that did nothing to improve the health or safety of women undergoing abortions. They also described the bill as a roundabout “personhood” proposal, which in statute would define a fertilized human ovum at any stage as an “unborn child” with rights of its own.

“This bill was silent on the whether or not abortion should be legal — that is a debate and discussion for another day,” wrote Lundberg at his Facebook page. “This bill would have required the abortion provider to give full information to the woman before the abortion is to be performed… I regret that the abortion industry is so resolute in their opposition to anything that gives the child a chance to live. I regret that the abortion industry is so resolute in their opposition to anything that gives the child a chance to live. The good news is that more and more Americans are coming to realize that unborn children should be protected.”

Sen. Irene Aguilar, a practicing medical doctor and Denver Democrat, called the recorded vote that ended in the bill’s defeat.

“Politicians should not be in the business of dictating to women what type of care they should or should not be receiving, especially in such personal decisions like deciding whether or not to have an abortion,” she said in a statement after the vote. “That is a conversation that needs to remain solely between women and their doctors. Today, Democrats stood up for women’s legal rights to make their own healthcare decisions… I am very proud of my colleagues for standing united today.”

The bill passed through two Republican-controlled committees before coming to the floor during Christian Holy Week, the day before the Easter holidays are set to begin.

Sarah Taylor-Nanista, with Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, called the bill the “ultimate in government over-regulation.”

“Planned Parenthood is glad to see the measure defeated, but the fact that it got to the Senate floor shows there is still an extreme faction in the Senate that is out of step with everyday Coloradans’ lives.”

Supporters of the bill, including Marble, argued passionately on the floor before the vote that the bill was about providing more information to patients on a significant medical procedure. The arguments echoed those made in favor of the bill earlier in committee.

Sen. Owen Hill, a Colorado Springs Republican, said he didn’t see the bill as overreaching during a State Affairs Committee hearing last week.

“It’s not my job as a lawmaker to tell people what decisions to make,” he said,
“but it is my role to make more information available to people when they’re making decisions.”

Note: This story has been updated to include with additional quotes.

John Tomasic

John Tomasic

John Tomasic is a senior political reporter for The Colorado Statesman covering the Colorado Legislature.

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