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April 23, 2015 11:46 AM UTC

"Fetal Homicide" Bill Uses Anti-Abortion Group's Model Language

  • by: Colorado Pols

UPDATE: Credit where due–in a report broadcast today, Colorado Public Radio’s Megan Verlee becomes the first local reporter to correctly identify the origin of the language in Senate President Bill Cadman’s “fetal homicide” bill–a national anti-abortion group.

University of Colorado law professor Jennifer Hendricks testified that similar laws in other states have led to pregnant women being prosecuted for having miscarriages or taking drugs, in spite of similar protections.

“My concern that it will be interpreted much more broadly is not hypothetical. It is exactly how an Alabama Supreme Court interpreted a similar law,” Hendricks said.

Abortion rights supporters say a fetal homicide law could also have a chilling effect on access to abortion. The bill was modeled after legislation written by an anti-abortion group, [Pols emphasis] although the organization says it is not attempting to limit the procedure with this policy.

As we detail below, Americans United for Life most certainly is attempting to limit abortions as part of this legislative strategy–just a little over the horizon. Original post follows.


Senate President Bill Cadman.
Senate President Bill Cadman.

As the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports, Senate Bill 15-268, the so-called “fetal homicide” bill introduced by GOP Senate President Bill Cadman last week as a “response” to the horrific attack on a pregnant Longmont women last month, passed its first hearing in the GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee:

After a nearly five-hour hearing, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee backed the bill on a 3-2 party-line vote, with support from Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango.

“This bill, I don’t see it about abortion,” Roberts said. “I see it as criminal justice.”

Senate Bill 268 was introduced by Republican leaders in the waning days of the legislative session in reaction to a recent horrific event in Longmont in which a woman suffered as her 7-month-old fetus was cut from her womb by another woman. The fetus died.

The issue is mired in controversy, as pro-choice advocates say that the legislation would create so-called “personhood” in the state, which they fear would lead to arresting and charging women for murder simply for having an abortion…

“I support a woman’s right to choose, and for nine years in this building, my voting record shows that,” Roberts said. “It does not create personhood, and I’m very disappointed in those who have perpetuated that myth.”

Although the legislation contains vaguely-worded exemptions for “medical procedures” and acts “performed by the mother of her unborn child,” the fact remains that the bill grants legal rights to fetuses “at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth.” That provision, say opponents, is functionally identical to the Personhood ballot measures, and sets a dangerous precedent that could be used to undermine abortion rights in the future.

And there’s another problem that was pointed out in debate over this legislation yesterday by Democratic Sen. Andy Kerr: despite insistence from Cadman and other GOP supporters that this legislation is not meant to undermine abortion rights, Senate Bill 15-268 in fact uses verbatim model language supplied by Americans United for Life–one of the nation’s foremost anti-abortion advocacy groups. Here’s the model language from AUL in its entirety. And here’s the part that matters:


Compared to the relevant portion of Colorado Senate Bill 15-268:


For their part, Americans United for Life proudly noted in a press release yesterday that Senate Bill 15-268 is “based on AUL model legislation.” So it’s not like they’re being secretive about this. Despite that, we have yet to see any of the extensive press this issue is receiving note that Cadman’s bill is cribbed directly from “the nation’s premier pro-life legal team.” That’s how AUL describes themselves on their About Us page:

At the state, federal and international levels, AUL works to advance life issues through the law and does so through measures that can withstand judicial obstacles so that pro-life laws will be enforced. AUL knows that reversing Roe v. Wade can be accomplished through deliberate, legal strategies that accumulate victories, build momentum, and restore a culture of life. [Pols emphasis]

But AUL’s distinction extends beyond federal measures. AUL works at the state level to craft tailored strategies and legislative tools that will assist state and local officials as they defend and protect life…

[AUL] has been unparalleled in pointing the way to protecting women now, to limiting the abortion license created by the Supreme Court, and to preparing the ground to overturn Roe. [Pols emphasis]

This legislation is, by the explicit admission of its true authors, part of a much broader strategy to chip away at Roe v. Wade. What happens when the rights this legislation confers on unborn fetuses today are interpreted tomorrow to be “unjust” since they contain exemptions? Once you legitimize these legal rights from the moment of conception, you’ve set down exactly the path AUL wants you to be on as part of their long-term objective of overturning Roe v. Wade–and curtailing or eliminating abortion rights nationwide.

Bottom line: if you’re wondering why pro-choice advocates and their Democratic allies are suspicious of ulterior motives at work here, you can stop wondering. Beneath the veneer of a “response” to last month’s horrific crime, a longstanding agenda to attack abortion rights is what this whole debate is about.


18 thoughts on ““Fetal Homicide” Bill Uses Anti-Abortion Group’s Model Language

  1. Cogent analysis. This bill may not be “anti-abortion”, as Sen. Roberts says, but it certainly is a bill designed to get the language of anti-abortion inserted into Colorado law with an eye toward acceptance of “Personhood”. The goal at this time isn’t to outlaw abortion, it’s to change the legal definition of “human being”.

  2. Well, so much for saying nice things about Ellen Roberts.  Just another grubby Republican politician who has thrown over her alleged beliefs for the opportunity for higher office.  Ellen, it won’t even help you in a Republican Primary.  Those people know that you’re not a true believer.  disgusting.  Remember Ellen, the citizen of Colorado and especially in your moderate southwest Colorado district have rejected this language numerous times at the polls by very wide margins.  Another politician who has sold her soul for a chance at higher office.  And there’s no way she can win it. She’s a woman and supposedly pro-choice.  Either alone is enough to disqualify her from a Republican nomination for state-wide office. Sorry Ellen, you should join the rest of us who have given up on the Republican party.  Aren’t you tired of being held up as the paragon of moderation for a party that simply is not?  I was, that’s why I’m an unaffiliated now, because I was tired of being the nice moderate Chris O’Dell who used to be Jeffco Republican Party.  You’re being used.  Can you even look yourself in the mirror?  This is just another Lucy pulling the ball away from the well meaning Charlie Brown.

    1. Agreed……she was the sole surviving RINO and now she is just as bad as the rest of ’em. Or worse. I think the rest of them actually believe half the crap they sprew. She’s faking it to advance her political career.

    2. Ellen’s also on board with the ALEC-inspired Koch wetdream of stealing Americans’ public lands, although she feins ignorance that that is the motivation and inspiration behind it. 

      Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, supported the bill, which passed on a party-line vote of 18-16. It now faces an uphill climb in the Democratic-controlled House.The measure has been mired in controversy, with some hunters and anglers and conservationists – many from Southwest Colorado – suggesting that the measure is a step toward the state taking control of federal lands, which they worry could lead to shutting down precious recreational areas because of costs associated with management.

      1. Roberts has gone full whackadoo to appease…somebody. For something in the future.

        We’ll see, but she’s gone way too far this year to claim moderate ever again.

        1. I wouldn’t jump so quick to condemn Roberts. She is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan HB 1225 which provides state grants to local governments to better enable them to participate in federal land management decisions as cooperating agencies. That bill was up for 3rd reading in the Senate this week. This is the good bill among Conservation Colorado’s designation of “the good, the bad, the ugly” among lands bills in this session.

          Regards,   C.H.B.

  3. The Dems are at risk of loosing the perception war, and that is what this whole thing is about. The woman who committed the crimes in the case is already facing an aggregate of 96 years in prison if sentenced consecutively. 

    When the bill gets to the House, the Dems need to amend it so that it is makes clear that it is illegal to non-consensually remove (or force the expulsion of) a fetus from a pregnant woman. Then send it back to the Senate.

    1. Correct. The anti-choicers clearly mean to arrive at personhood by the backdoor. In other states where this same language has been adopted it has been used to prosecute women who have had miscarriages. They very definitely hope that once the word “person” is included some court challenge will result in interpreting that word to mean just what what it says. Mission accomplished without those personhood amendments they can’t manage to pass here or even in solid red Alabama.

      Under current the law, viable or not, you aren’t a person until you are born.  Or incorporated, I guess, but that’s another issue.  Either way, until then, whether the anti-choicers like it or not, you are a fetus (if we’re dealing with human persons) and pro-choice forces will fight any law that doesn’t keep it that way. If their intent is what they say it is, harsher penalties for unlawful killing of a wanted fetus, that should be fine. 

      1. I took Frank’s comment to mean pretty much that. That it be amended to be clear we’re talking about a fetus without the injection of the word person and concept of defining human personhood under the law as starting at conception.

    1. That would require that thing called compromise. And it would certainly make more sense.  And not ensuring the rights of women could cause one hell of a mess.  A pregnant woman falling down the stairs, having a car accident, or a spontaneous abortion resulting in the end of the pregnancy shouldn’t be a reason to find oneself in jail or handcuffed to the hospital bed. That is what they will want next.  

      What is wrong with these people?  Are they all authoritarian misogynists or, do they just go along to enhance political careers?  I’m guessing for many it’s a bit of both in varying amounts. 

      People who have caused the deaths of living, viable children go to jail for less time than this woman will.

    2. As it happens, the old country Jewish view of my grandparents’ generation was that abortion was permissible until quickening meaning when you can feel the baby move. I have no idea if that comes from the Bible, Jewish teachings or folk traditions but that was their view. Just as a point of interest, mind you. Naturally I don’t believe that in a state forbidden to meddle in religious matters one way or the other my Bubby’s traditions as an Ashkenazi Jew from Ukraine are relevant to determining what the law ought to be.

      1. Many, if not most, spontaneous abortions, otherwise known as miscarriages, happen before, if  not at, three months of pregnancy. Since quickening is around four months, that makes logical sense for the Jewish, biblical view.   But, you are right.  This has no precedent over constitutional law. Government has no say in this. It is a religious or a philosophical choice. The sticking point seems to be the life and well being of the individual woman.  And the authoritarians, the religious wingnuts, and the opportunists just don’t give a damn. They are soulless, and have turned away from god.

        No one gets pregnant to lose the pregnancy or to have an abortion.

      2. ‘Quickening’ is the term used essentially for when a baby achieves life or soul. It is the very word around which the abortion debate revolves – except that we don’t use the word in US legal terminology. ‘Quickening’ has many meanings depending on who you talk to; it is not simply the point at which you can feel the baby move.

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