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"Fetal Homicide" Bill Critics Warn of Unintended Consequences

PHOTO: A so-called fetal homicide law cleared a Colorado Senate committee last week and will be heard on Monday by the full state Senate. Opponents say it could lead to the criminalization of pregnant women. Photo credit: Eric Galatas.
PHOTO: A so-called fetal homicide law cleared a Colorado Senate committee last week and will be heard on Monday by the full state Senate. Opponents say it could lead to the criminalization of pregnant women. Photo credit: Eric Galatas.
April 27, 2015

DENVER – A so-called fetal homicide bill that supporters say would help to protect pregnant women and their unborn babies cleared a Colorado Senate committee last week and will be heard by the full Senate today.

Senate Bill 268 followed an attack on a woman in Longmont in which her eight-month-old fetus was removed.

Opponents fear the bill could lead to the criminalization of pregnant women. They say similar laws in other states have been used to arrest, incarcerate and prosecute pregnant women.

Corrine Rivera-Fowler, deputy director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), says since the bill defines personhood as beginning at conception, there could be serious negative consequences.

"Women could be arrested for having a miscarriage, failing to get a cesarean section, or for having a stillbirth of their baby," she points out.

Proponents of the bill say it has nothing to do with the abortion debate, and that language in the proposal could exempt women from prosecution.

Fowler points out that anti-abortion strategists have long supported state legislation to extend or maximize protection of the unborn as key to overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision of 1973.

She says studies show fetal homicide laws have led to more women being arrested on charges that include child endangerment, reckless driving and drug delivery.

Sponsors of the bill say it mandates greater protection for women and unborn children, and that they could still choose to end a pregnancy lawfully.

"We've heard that before,” Fowler responds. “Women are not protected by bills like this – they are harmed. Women are criminalized by bills like this, and it is women of color who are most vulnerable to this situation."

She adds Colorado already has the Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act, and the alleged assailant in Longmont could face more than 100 years in prison if convicted.

Colorado voters have rejected a number of ballot measures to define a fetus as a person, most recently in 2014.



Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO