House panel delays vote on anti-abortion bill

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DENVER | A Colorado House committee heard hours of testimony on a bill that would make performing an abortion a Class 3 felony but decided to delay a vote on the proposal until Feb. 5.

The committee postponed voting because the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Stephen Humphrey, R-Severence, wanted to make some additional amendments to the bill.

Supporters of the bill testified that abortion should be outlawed statewide because killing an unborn child is a crime and it causes adverse mental health effects for the mother. Opponents said a ban on abortion would cause more unwanted children to grow up impoverished and in foster homes, and that illegal abortions would still be performed by health care providers looking for  extra cash. One attorney even suggested the proposal is unconstitutional.

House Bill 1033 would ban all abortions and emergency contraception known as the “morning after pill,” though it would allow preventative birth control. Doctors who perform abortions would be subject to a Class 3 felony under the bill, which is the same punishment for second-degree murder and sexual assault, and carries an approximate prison sentence of between four and 12 years.

State Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, who sits on the House Health, Insurance and Environment committee, said she plans on voting against the abortion ban next Tuesday.

“I’m kind of disappointed that we’re still having to debate and defend a woman’s right to choose as it relates to her reproductive rights,” Fields said. She said it will likely not pass out of the 11-member House committee.

The three-hour long testimony was heated at times, with opponents of the bill saying abortions would still be performed illegally even if the bill passed, causing potential life-threatening harm to pregnant women.

“We don’t want to go back to the days of having illegal abortions,” said Dr. Stuart Gottesfeld, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist.

Lorena Garcia, executive director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity & Reproductive Rights, said an abortion ban would “throw more children into a foster care system that’s already overrun.”

Supporters of the bill, including Cynthia Regardie, a Littleton-based mental health counselor, said women who have had abortions suffer from a variety of mental health problems including panic attacks, depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, problems with their partners, and suicidal thoughts.

Lauren Martinez, a senior at Regis University and a supporter of the bill, said she is 21 years old and currently expecting her first child. She said she still plans on finishing college, getting a job, and providing for her child with the help of community services like the Lighthouse Women’s Center.

“If I had been younger or older, married or unmarried, no circumstance (would) change my perspective on having my baby,” she said.

Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or [email protected]