In keeping with his staunch anti-abortion stance, longtime U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) of Colorado Springs is pushing two pieces of anti-abortion legislation into Congress.
Lamborn’s first proposal, the Recognizing the Unborn Act, seeks to grant personhood rights to fetuses by reclassifying them as “unborn babies” in federal statutes.
“Everywhere in the federal code where it says ‘fetus,’ we’re going to change that to ‘unborn baby’ to give humanity and dignity and respect to the unborn,” Lamborn said on KVOR’s Richard Randall Show Thursday, the day before the March for Life was set to take place in Washington, D.C.
Second, Lamborn continued, he and some colleagues are introducing a Child Tax Credit for Pregnant Moms Act. This proposed bill would extend existing child tax credits to expectant mothers.
“There are these benefits that are going out, especially for COVID, in these times that we’re in, to help with child-raising,” Lamborn said. “Well, we want to make that available to those who are expecting children. People incur expenses even before the child comes into the world. So there would be a pro-rated tax credit that is given for living children, for the unborn children as well.”
Lamborn’s desire to recategorize fetuses as “unborn children” is in line with his own ardent anti-abortion beliefs.
His bill defines an “unborn child” as “a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”
Essentially, Lamborn wants to legally define a child’s life as beginning at conception, which could ban abortion. To date, there’s no scientific consensus that life begins at the moment of fertilization, although he espouses this view on his website.
Prominent health care organizations do not recognize fetuses as babies. The Cleveland Clinic’s website states that a fertilized egg begins its journey as an embryo; by around eight weeks post-conception, it develops into a fetus, and medically, it’s considered a fetus until the moment it’s born. Fetuses are not believed to be viable – or capable of surviving outside the womb – until they’re about 22 to 24 weeks old.
Treating a fetus as a separate entity from its mother – and giving it the rights associated with personhood – is not only scientifically unfounded; it can also jeopardize pregnant people’s rights. According to the ACLU, protecting fetal rights is a tactic advanced by pro-life advocates such as Lamborn to delegitimize abortions and further restrict access to them.
“Passage of fetal protection laws gives anti-choice forces a propaganda coup and a launching pad for arguments to restrict abortion,” the ACLU’s website reads.
The ACLU has also said that passing fetal protection laws could make all abortions illegal in certain states if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, as many advocates fear it could be. Certain forms of birth control could also be made illegal. In that case, pregnant people would be forced to resort to illegal or dangerous means of obtaining abortions, and those who do could be prosecuted for serious charges such as manslaughter or murder.
Historically, a sizable majority of voters in Colorado, Lamborn’s home state, have opposed attempts to define life in the Colorado Constitution as beginning at conception. Over 70% of voters rejected propositions put forth in 2008 and 2010. In 2012, a proposed personhood measure didn’t even make it onto the ballot, and nearly 65% of voters cast ballots against another similar initiative in 2014.
Child Tax Credit for Pregnant Moms Act
Lamborn’s other proposal seeks to grant tax credits to pregnant mothers. Such tax credits could benefit expecting mothers, who may face increased medical expenses for prenatal care, although it’s not clear if the new law would be contingent on fetuses being redefined as “unborn babies.”
Although Lamborn has not yet formally introduced the Child Tax Credit for Pregnant Moms Act, his press secretary, Cassandra Sebastian, said she anticipates that it will be introduced today. Sebastian declined to provide further details on the proposed policy until it’s been made public.
Lamborn co-sponsored a bill with the same name in 2018, which sought to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to say that “unborn children” were considered “qualifying children” for tax purposes, and again, that an “unborn child” meant “a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.” Sebastian indicated that Lamborn’s new proposal may not be the same as the 2018 bill.
Whether Lamborn favors refundable tax credits for pregnant people, which would entail monthly payments from the government, is unclear. Liberal congresspeople such as Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) have been championing refundable tax credits for years, and they finally became law when the American Rescue Plan was passed in 2021.
By some estimates, these refundable child tax credits could reduce child poverty by half. Non-refundable child tax credits, which have largely been the norm since child tax credits first began in 1997, are solely based on earned income, so poorer parents – those who don’t net enough income to pay income taxes – do not see any benefits under this system.
Lamborn may favor tax cuts for families and pregnant people, but it seems unlikely that he would support refundable tax credits given his history as a deeply conservative politician who strongly opposes increased government spending. In November, he voted against President Biden’s Build Back Better Act — which included a provision for extended refundable child tax credits – and issued a statement calling it a “big government socialism bill.”
It’s not clear whether, under Lamborn’s bill, pregnant people would still benefit from Lamborn’s proposed tax credits even if fetuses are not legally redefined as “unborn babies.”
Lamborn’s statements, which come amid ongoing challenges to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that made abortions legal nationwide, aren’t surprising given his staunchly conservative voting record. As a representative for Colorado’s 5th Congressional District, which includes the Colorado Springs metro area, Lamborn has voted in lockstep with former President Trump 92.5% of the time, according to Five Thirty-Eight. He voted against impeaching Trump in 2019 and 2021.
Over the course of his career, Lamborn has also voted against increasing environmental regulations, expanding voting rights, combating police brutality and racial discrimination, and raising the federal minimum wage.
Lamborn’s full radio interview with Randall can be found here (His interview segment appears on the 1-20-22 recording and begins around the 47:15 mark.)
This article initially had the wrong byline.