Legislation that’s seen by reproductive health advocates as an attack on later abortion care was defeated at Colorado’s Capitol yesterday.
The bill concerns the extremely unlikely scenario in which a baby is born alive after a failed abortion attempt, and would make it a felony for doctors to not offer medical care to that baby.
“This is not an abstract theoretical concept, but rather a real-life event that really happens,” said Sen. Rob Woodward (R-Loveland), the prime sponsor of the bill.
Woodward asked the committee to focus on the moment “when there is a newborn baby girl crying and dying alone on a cold steel table.”
“These decisions take place in the offices you drive by every day,” Woodward added.
On the contrary, numerous physicians testified before the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, stressing that the scenario that the bill addresses is not one that actually occurs.
“I have never in my entire career either experienced or heard of a situation where this bill would be necessary,” said OBGYN Sabrina Holmquist. “This is simply not how abortion care works.”
She added that it “perpetuates a dangerous myth” that abortion is an unsafe procedure, and that it “suggests the deeply offensive notion that my skill, diligence, and care must be legislated.”
Dr. Kristina Tocce, Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said the bill has “no grounding in reality” and simply aims to “create misinformation” and “shame and stigmatize those seeking abortion care.”
Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) aggressively questioned the panel of physicians, at one point saying, “I actually don’t know how abortion works,” and asking them to describe a third-trimester abortion procedure.
The physicians refused to describe such a procedure, instead emphasizing that the specific health needs of third-trimester abortion patients vary, and that each patient is treated based on their unique circumstances.
Sonnenberg also questioned them on what they would do in the event of an infant born alive after a failed abortion, which they also refused to answer, again emphasizing that the bill addresses an event that doesn’t occur.
“You’re asking them to respond to something that would never happen,” said state Sen. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora), who serves as vice-chair of the committee. “For them to speculate on a hypothetical question would not be scientific, it would not be evidence-based, because they have no history associated with it.”
State Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins) also questioned, and even criticized, the physicians.
“I’m just really confused by what you’re saying and the way you look just now even,” she said.
Addressing Holmquist’s statement that she’d never seen or heard of a born-alive scenario like that addressed in the bill, Marble said, “I’ve never had a heart attack, but I know they exist. But for me they don’t exist in my reality, but they do exist.”
“Abortion is one of the most violent acts toward an innocent human being that is recorded,” Marble said prior to voting in favor of the bill, which failed on a party-line vote.
The bill is apparently based on model legislation from Americans United for Life, a national bill mill that aims to ban abortion across the U.S. “Born alive” legislation has also been repeatedly pushed by Republicans in Congress.
“Born alive” legislation comes as conservatives, including President Trump, have escalated rhetoric and misinformation around the very small percentage of abortions that occur later in pregnancy.
By doing so, they aim to convince the public to oppose abortion broadly.
“The mother meets with the doctor, they take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby,” Trump said without evidence at a rally in April.
In Colorado, conservative activists are pushing a potential 2020 ballot initiative to ban abortion after 22-weeks.