March 16, 2012

(Denver) – After nearly two hours of bitter floor debate, House Republicans pushed through a bill today to confer “personhood” rights on human embryos in Colorado.

Women legislators in the House Democratic caucus led the fight against HB12-1130, sponsored by Rep. Janak Joshi (R-Colorado Springs). It would create a new class of crime victim – “an unborn member of the species homo sapiens.”

Not once but twice, Colorado voters have overwhelmingly rejected proposed constitutional amendments that would confer “personhood” rights on fetuses.

“This is personhood, plain and simple,” Rep. Lois Court (D-Denver) told the House. “The people of Colorado have rejected it twice. We need to reject it and respect what they have said.”

“It creates huge problems, huge constitutional issues that Colorado voters understood was a really big problem,” said Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder).

Statutes already exist in Colorado imposing additional penalties on perpetrators who knew, or should have known, that their victims were pregnant women. “If this is to protect women, this bill is not necessary,” said Rep. Cherylin Peniston (D-Westminster).

But the Joshi bill would go further. It would allow murder charges to be filed against someone who causes a miscarriage.

“You could be involved in an ordinary, plain old fender-bender with somebody you’ve never laid eyes on, and that accident could cause the woman to lose the child and you are thereby at risk of being charged with homicide,” said Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder). “This is a dangerous step to take.”

Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) was one of several Democratic lawmakers who asked Rep. Joshi to explain whether he had intended such consequences when he introduced the bill. He did not respond to their questions.

Rep. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) put today’s argument in the context of the broader argument now raging over women’s rights.

“There has been an attack on women,” Rep. Duran said. “We should not be allowing Rush Limbaugh to get between a woman and her doctor.”

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