by Alex Marsland
On April 16th, amidst strong pro-life opposition and declining popular support, Colorado Senate Democrats backed off from a controversial bill that would effectively prevent any regulations concerning abortion.
The bill in question (SB 175) came under heavy criticism from Republicans and pro-life advocates for being both overly ambiguous and wide ranging. Sen. Bernie Herpin, (R-Colorado Springs), for example, pointed to the fact that the bill was reactionary and paranoid in sentiment: "It's a solution in search of a problem… There is no one, no evidence that has said there's a denial of things like contraception to women in Colorado."
The biggest issue of SB 175, as expressed by Colorado Republicans, is the vague terminology regarding “reproductive health care” and in what cases regulations could be imposed. One section reads that the "state, its agencies, institutions, political subdivisions and units of local government shall not enact a policy regarding reproductive health care that is inconsistent with or interferes with access to information based on current evidence based scientific data and medical consensus." This bill would not only prevent democratic opposition to abortion, but could come at the cost of common sense regulations for women’s safety.
The wide ranging nature of the bill sparked much concern among pro-life voters and advocates. Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila helped publicized the issues of SB 175, and his leadership formed the greatest opposition to it. He remarked that the bill was “both ambiguous and extremely dangerous,” and, to a crowd of hundreds attending the assembly and prayer vigil, drew attention to its undemocratic nature: "Coloradans are not against common sense regulations on abortions, and they should have the opportunity to be able to debate and pass those regulations."
The Archbishop of Denver highlighted the importance of the Catholic voice in the political process, "Too many times we have taken a back seat. Catholics, Christians and people of good will can no longer take a back seat. We are called to work for the good and for the true." This has been a position invoked recently by Pope Francis, who, at a meeting with Italy's Pro-Life Movement remarked upon the importance of defending innocent life, "It is necessary to reiterate the strongest opposition to any direct attack on life, especially innocent and defenseless life, and the unborn child in the womb is the archetype (antonomasia) of innocence."
Perhaps indicating a connection with the Pope’s words, Archbishop Aquila published an open letter which called upon the faithful to call their senators, contact the media and pray to defeat the bill, opposition to SB 175 grew quickly. In addition to the public assembly and prayer vigil, citizens expressed their views in more overtly political ways. In Senator David Balmer’s case, this included 100 calls to his office and 1,400 e-mails to stop the bill. Republican Senator Owen Hill said an online petition he posted in opposition to SB 175 gathered 5,000 signatures in just 10 hours.
Under such public pressure, Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood withdrew the bill he had sponsored, citing the possibility that “D.C.-style politics,” such as filibustering, “were going to be happening in the last three weeks of session here.” The withdrawal of the bill could also have been affected by the indecision of Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, who did not know if the bill was worth the public outcry, and whose absence on April 15th delayed the voting for a day.
The Archbishop expressed his thanks to the faithful via a tweet on April 17th: “Lift up your hearts in gratitude to God, SB 175 died today. Blessings on everyone who prayed & contacted legislators! Stay involved!”
The Colorado Catholic Conference joined in appreciation: “It was your witness that made it possible to kill this horrible piece of legislation. It is because of your willingness to engage the public square that we were able to defeat SB 175.”