Last week, two anti-abortion bills, one that would have banned abortion outright and another that would have imposed extra barriers on the procedure, were defeated by Democrats at Colorado’s Capitol.
But this week Republicans pushed two more medically and scientifically questionable bills concerning abortion, which, once again, did not advance past the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
The first bill, which was sponsored by state Sens. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) and Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins) and state Rep. Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock), would have banned a widely used method of abortion that constitutes 95 percent of those performed during the second trimester.
Denver OB/GYN Dr. Rebecca Cohen said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday that the bill is “extremely concerning” and could pose “major adverse health and safety consequences for women.”
Cohen explained that the method in question, which involves dilation of the cervix and removal of the fetus, is widely recommended by doctors for use after 12 weeks because it’s the safest and quickest method at that point in a pregnancy.
The bill could have required that doctors instead use the method of labor induction, which, according to Cohen, is a longer, more expensive, and more unpredictable process that doctors rarely recommend.
The bill banning the “dilation and evacuation” method makes its case not with scientific evidence, but by using emotional framing. It contains highly graphic terminology to describe the procedure, which doctors and pro-choice leaders have argued isn’t rooted in medical language and attempts to stoke moral outrage about abortion rather than focusing on the health of the woman.
On the same conference call, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Elizabeth Hinkley explained her belief that the bill violates the constitutional right to abortion enshrined in Roe v. Wade by placing an undue burden on the procedure.
Unlike the anti-abortion legislation that failed last week, which has been pushed by state Republicans for the past few years, this particular bill had never before been introduced in Colorado’s legislature.
However, nearly identical bills have been introduced in statehouses nationwide over the past few years, and have become law in eight states. But the courts have blocked the law in five states so far, most recently in Texas.
Another anti-abortion bill might be more familiar to Coloradans.
Also sponsored by Tim Neville and Vicki Marble, in addition to state Rep. Tim Leonard (R-Evergreen), the bill would punish universities that use aborted fetal tissue for scientific research by barring them from receiving state funding.
Fetal tissue has been essential for life-saving medical research, including in the development of numerous vaccines.
Republicans nationwide have attempted to ban or restrict the use of aborted fetal tissue following a series of highly edited videos appearing to show Planned Parenthood doctors engaging in the illegal sale of fetal organs. But those allegations remain unsubstantiated, despite multiple investigations. Planned Parenthood has explained that it facilitates the legal donation of fetal tissue at the desire of its patients.
Karla Gonzales Garcia of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) issued the following statement explaining the bill’s impact on Latinx communities:
The research that is conducted with fetal tissue has created incredible, lifesaving medical breakthroughs to treat disease like Diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease. This is important research for people in my community. Diabetes is an urgent health problem in the Latino community. Latinas are 17 times more likely to die from diabetes. We are also more likely to face gestational diabetes while pregnant, which can have negative health outcomes for the mother and for her child. Latinos also have a higher rate of Alzheimer’s and dementia likely linked to cardiovascular conditions and a lack of information and services to manage chronic health problems.
The people who donate tissue or those who are working hard to do research to help address these diseases should be respected and appreciated instead of being demeaned or dragged into this kind of sensationalism just to push someone else’s politics.
We are troubled not just by the way that tissue donation is being portrayed, but also the fact that these attacks could prevent important scientific research that has very real benefits for Latinas and our families. We should not let myths, rhetoric, and misguided agendas derail important and lifesaving research.
Both bills failed as of Wednesday evening.