Despite losses, pro-life Coloradans put up a fight
In Colorado, passage of an “abortion rights” law has discouraged pro-lifers, but they hope it will also energize their cause
In early March, Coloradans packed into a state legislative committee room to offer testimony on a pro-abortion bill. The meeting convened at 2 p.m. and continued until almost 4 a.m. the next morning. According to one pro-life leader who attended the hearing, more than 350 people testified against the bill. At about 3:30 a.m., exhausted representatives in stumbling words made their final comments on the legislation before voting 7-4 in favor of advancing it to the full House, as expected from the Democratic-controlled committee.
House lawmakers had another late night a few days later, when the bill’s pro-life opponents staged a nearly 24-hour filibuster — a new “modern record” in the state, according to news outlets. But the filibuster didn’t stop the pro-abortion majority in the House, and Gov. Jared Polis on April 4 signed the bill into law, declaring a right to abortion in Colorado and denying that unborn babies have rights.
Colorado has experienced a decades-long pro-abortion trend, and pro-lifers weren’t surprised that the bill passed. Still, the loss disappointed activists in the state who have worked for years to enact protections for unborn babies. And some hope that the strong opposition from citizens and lawmakers has energized pro-lifers to combat future efforts to expand abortion.
“The morale is not great in Colorado right now, that’s the sad thing,” said Jeff Hunt, director of the pro-life Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University. In recent years, his group has supported ballot initiatives to amend the state constitution to guarantee the rights of unborn babies, but it has not succeeded. “We have lost a lot,” he said. “And the abortion side has poured in a lot of money in order to get their victories.”
Supporters of the bill in the Legislature argued that it wouldn’t change Colorado’s current situation on the abortion issue: Abortion was already legal in the state at any gestational age. But Hunt said the language is so broad that pro-lifers worry it could abolish the state’s existing parental notification law or require medical professionals to participate in abortions against their consciences.
The law also prohibits public entities from interfering with or discriminating against “an individual’s fundamental right … to have an abortion,” which has already put a damper on local efforts to protect unborn babies.
Park County, Colo., resident Deedee Fisher heard the news of the latest pro-abortion bill in March. She drafted a resolution to declare the county a sanctuary for the unborn and presented it to the three-person Board of County Commissioners. Fisher had an abortion in her 20s and, after becoming a Christian, felt convicted to speak out against the practice. Since then, she and her husband have been involved in pro-life activism, including by collecting signatures for personhood amendments and supporting last year’s proposed late-term abortion ban. Like those efforts, her recent proposed county resolution failed.
One of the county commissioners, Amy Mitchell, is also pro-life and worked with Fisher to propose a less binding proclamation. But the other two commissioners voted the matter off the agenda of an April 5 board meeting., saying they were concerned it would attract lawsuits.
Fisher said all of Colorado’s pro-life losses have been discouraging. But for her and other pro-lifers, it’s almost an expected outcome.
“We have a long, dark history of abortion in our state,” said Richard Bennett, president of the Life Network pregnancy centers in Colorado. Six years before Roe v. Wade, Colorado’s then–Gov. John Love, a Republican, signed a law allowing abortions in cases other than rape or threat to a woman’s life, making his state the first to take that step. Bennett said the latest legislation “really codifies into law what has been true in Colorado for some time, which is abortion at any point in a pregnancy up until birth.”
The new law could cement Colorado’s role as an abortion destination. After Texas’ heartbeat law went into effect in September, he said, his pregnancy centers saw an increase in calls from Texas women who thought they were calling Colorado abortion facilities.
Despite the discouragements, Hunt is hopeful for the future. He said a new coalition of pro-life groups formed in November and mobilized against the pro-abortion bill as it made its way through the Legislature. They led thousands of pro-lifers to write to their legislators and rallied hundreds of people to testify against the bill—a level of pro-life organization and support he’d never seen before in Colorado.
He hopes to help continue that momentum, fighting any future abortion rights amendment. And he expects the pro-life leanings of younger generations to fuel the cause. “We definitely lost the battle, but I think we’ll ultimately win the war on this,” said Hunt. “And we’ll change directions in this state.”
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