Every year, Colorado’s most socially conservative lawmakers run an extreme anti-abortion bill that would make abortion illegal under essentially any circumstances. Every year, the bill fails.
This year is no different, so far, despite Colorado voters’ recent rejection of an anti-abortion ballot measure and the legislature’s heavy task of addressing the urgent public health and financial needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill, called the Protect Human Life at Conception Act, would define human life as beginning at conception in Colorado law and make it a class 1 felony, punishable by life imprisonment, to perform an abortion under essentially any circumstances. The legislation contains no exceptions for rape, incest, or to preserve the patient’s health, allowing abortion only in cases where it’s necessary to save the patient’s life. Medical and legal professionals have argued that similar “exceptions” for the patient’s life are too vague to provide any meaningful protection for those who may experience life-threatening pregnancy complications.
The legislation is one of the most extreme anti-abortion proposals in the country, but routinely gets a stamp of approval from Republican lawmakers as votes fall among party lines.
The bill’s lead sponsor this year is state Rep. Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock), who formerly served as the House Minority Leader, and has additional sponsorship from state Reps. Kim Ransom (R-Douglas County), Shane Sandridge (R-Colorado Springs), Kevin Van Winkle (R-Highlands Ranch), and Dave Williams (R-Colorado Springs).
Neville did not respond to a request for comment seeking insight as to why he decided to introduce the ill-fated legislation during a year when Coloradans are facing serious hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic and after voters recently rejected an anti-abortion ballot proposal.
On Nov. 3, Proposition 115 became the fourth anti-abortion ballot initiative to be rejected by Colorado voters in just a 12-year span. The initiative, which would have banned abortion after 22 weeks, lost by 18 percentage points, and even failed in some counties that voted to reelect Donald Trump as president. That includes Douglas County, where Neville’s district is located.
During his floor speech on the first day of the 2021 legislative session Tuesday, House Minority Leader Hugh McKean (R-Loveland) emphasized the need to listen to the will of Colorado voters.
“The conversation in the last election was the latest in a series of questions that give us insight into the minds of the Colorado voters, voters who sent each of us here today,” McKean said. “We have seen for the past several years that voters want to have a say in taxes and fees, less of a burden from income tax and we have seen that they have had a good understanding of the complex relationship between Gallagher and TABOR. We trust our voters and we have an absolute necessity to have our voters trust us.”
McKean didn’t respond to a request for comment seeking to know how he reconciles his party’s push for extreme abortion restrictions with his desire to heed the will of Colorado voters.