A bill that would define unborn fetuses as human lives in Colorado was defeated this week by the state's Senate Judiciary Committee. It is the third time a so-called "personhood" amendment has been struck down in four years in the state.
Senate Bill 125, sponsored by Sen. Ted Harvey, sought to charge those who are responsible for inflicting enough damage on a pregnant woman to kill the fetus with the death of a human life. Opponents (and the committee) decided the bill was too broad and could hold penalties for Coloradans who choose abortion.
The vagueness with which the bill was worded ultimately contributed to its demise, experts say. About two-thirds of states have enacted similar personhood laws, but those bills were written succinctly with the intention to apply the rule only to people whose actions toward pregnant women result in the death of the fetus; that is, abortion is excluded in those bills.
After S.B. 125 was defeated, Harvey told reporters his intentions with the bill were only to protect pregnant women who unwillingly lose their fetus as a result of outside trauma.
"This bill would have provided justice for the families of unborn children who are killed during a criminal act," Harvey told reporters. "District attorneys should have the tools to prosecute these tragic crimes."
A similar bill introduced by a coalition of bipartisan Colorado congressmen last year did not seek to define life, drawing the ire of several pro-life groups.
"The bill does not confer the status of 'person' upon a human embryo, fetus, or unborn child at any stage of development prior to live birth," the bill proposal read.
That bill was drawn up in a response to the case of a Denver woman who was 34 weeks pregnant and whose fetus was lost after a hit-and-run driver struck her. There were no rules in Colorado to convict the driver of murder and after S.B. 125's defeat on Wednesday, there will continue to be no laws for such cases.
The failed predecessors of S.B. 125 were both voted down by committees in 2008 and 2010. Those bills attempted to define life as beginning at conception and ban emergency contraception, abortion and embryonic stem cell research.