Feb 19, 2013 2:23 PM by Patricia Collier
DENVER (AP) - Crimes against pregnant women would be punished with a new statute that Colorado Democrats are proposing Tuesday, a counter to Republican measures they have previously rejected.
The debate over punishment for killing a pregnant woman's child has sparked fervent discussion from both sides of the abortion debate. Lawmakers say they're trying to avoid a fight over abortion, and focus on creating a new law to properly punish crimes against pregnant women.
Democrats have argued the Republican proposals create a route to ban or restrict abortions, but GOP lawmakers insist that's not the case.
The Democratic-sponsored bill is up for a vote in the House Judiciary committee on Tuesday. It would create new felony charges for unlawful termination of a pregnancy.
Most states have laws specifically dealing with how to punish people who harm pregnant women, resulting in the loss of a fetus. Currently in Colorado, crimes against pregnant women can trigger an enhanced sentence, and it can also be used as an aggravating factor in deciding whether to sentence someone for life or to death row.
But lawmakers want there to be a separate charge. How to accomplish that is where it gets tricky.
"If we continue to deadlock with this bill, and don't pass anything, then we're not protecting women," said Boulder Rep. Claire Levy, a sponsor of the bill.
Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Bob Gardner said the GOP's bill was a workable proposal, but Democrats refused to work with his party. Gardner is on the committee that will take a vote on the bill.
"Rather than cooperating with us, rather than trying to create some consensus around that bill, it was killed outright. And now they're bringing their bill, and I suspect they'll not want to cooperate with me," he said.
Levy said previous Republican measures that failed, including one this year, "are pretty blatantly backdoor routes to personhood," meaning recognizing an embryo or fetus as a person. Levy said the Democrats' bill focuses on punishing the crime against the woman, and treating her as the victim.