Senate anti-abortion ‘ultrasound bill’ generates heat in committee, advances for now
Author: John Tomasic - April 5, 2017 - Updated: May 8, 2017
State Senate Republicans introduced a sweeping bill on Monday adapted from similar efforts across the country that would establish new rules around abortion services in Colorado with an eye to lowering the number of abortions performed in the state. The bill sped into committee Wednesday, leaving opponents playing catch up.
NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado called a hasty tele-press conference before the hearing, sounding warnings against the bill.
“This is literally ten elements of anti-choice legislation pushed by national groups like Americans United for Life all jammed into one bill,” said executive director Karen Middleton.
Witnesses who lined up to testify in support of the bill included pastors, women who regretted their abortions, staffers at pro-life health clinics, a member of the Democrats for Life group and a representative of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University.
Senate Bill 284 is sponsored by Republican Sens. Kevin Lundberg from Berthoud and Vicki Marble from Fort Collins.
Mainly, it would require that women are given the opportunity to view ultrasounds before undergoing an abortion; require doctors to provide specific information to patients seeking an abortion, including information about “all relevant features of the ultrasound,” about “alternatives to abortion” and about the “availability of potential [medical] abortion reversals”; and put in place a 24-hour waiting period between the required informational appointment and the procedure itself.
The bill will be opposed adamantly in the Democratic-controlled House and so has very little chance of passing this legislative session.
Still, testimony extended for more than two hours — all of it deeply felt, some of it emotional and much of it inflected with references to scripture.
Supporters lamented the “retail mentality” that they said characterizes abortion in the country. They said abortion should be treated differently than other consumer interactions, that the state should intervene to make sure women are more fully informed about the procedure and possible after-effects. They told stories of “post-abortion” women wrestling with regrets, of women who planned to have an abortion but then changed their minds after viewing an ultrasound of the fetus.
Opponents saw the bill as government overreach in which lawmakers were meddling in medicine and using the power of the law to advance unscientific practice and promote the use of pro-life health clinics with questionable medical credentials and purpose. 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.
“Coloradans, regardless of political party affiliation, vote against personhood,” said Middleton. “We defeat those proposals, and we know politicians don’t want to go on record in favor of personhood in election years. Just look at the way Republican Cory Gardner — when he was running for the U.S. Senate — look at the way he danced around the issue.
“This bill is not seeking to solve any health problem in Colorado,” she said.
After a few charged exchanges between committee members, the bill passed in the Republican-controlled committee on a party line 3-2 vote.
Before voting, Sen. Owen Hill, a Colorado Springs Republican, said he didn’t at all see the bill as overreaching.
“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.”
Sen. Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, moved straight to the heart of the matter.
“This is a political bill — and that’s OK, we’re a political body,” he said. “My sense is that it does one thing, and that is, it makes it more difficult for women to get an abortion — and for that reason I oppose it. If it were more about scientific health and medical concerns, it wouldn’t be heard in this [state affairs] committee, it would be heard in a health committee.”
The bill advanced to the Senate Appropriations Committee.