CO Dems Abandon Abortion Bill After Archbishop Leads Rally at Statehouse

Lauretta Brown | April 18, 2014 | 3:33pm EDT
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Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila (left) embraces Fr. Ambrose Omayas, assistant administrator for the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver, at an April 15, 2014 rally at the Colorado statehouse. (AP)

( – Democrats in the Colorado state Senate abandoned a NARAL-supported bill that would have banned “interference with an individual’s reproductive health care decisions” after Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila led a rally of more than a thousand pro-life activists on the steps of the statehouse Tuesday.

SB 175, also known as the “Reproductive Health Freedom Act,” would have helped in “strengthening the precedent that was established under Roe v. Wade,” and prevent legislators from enacting further restrictions on abortion, according to Think Progress.

But the bill was hastily withdrawn Wednesday before it could come to a vote.

“Lift up your hearts in gratitude to God, SB 175 died today. Blessings on everyone who prayed & contacted legislators! Stay involved!” Aquila tweeted after hearing that the bill had been abandoned.

Although Democrats have a one-seat majority in the state Senate, fears arose that the bill would not pass after Senator John Kefalas (D-Fort Collins) - who had initially cast the deciding vote for the legislation in committee - expressed his misgivings, citing the huge public outcry.

Kefalas, a Catholic, says that he supports “a woman's right to make a decision,” but that he “had concerns about the outpouring that I heard from folks.”

“I'm not sure if it's the best tool for conveying the message which we wish to convey, which is that as Democrats, as with many people, [think] government should stay out of these things," Kefalas said in an interview with a local news station adding, “I'm also listening to folks that are reaching out to me.”

The Senate had planned to vote on the bill Tuesday during the rally but the vote was delayed when Kefalas went home sick. However, after he voiced his concerns publicly, the vote was postponed until May 8th. That effectively killed the bill because the legislative session ends on May 7th.

The bill stated that: “The state, its agencies, institutions, or political subdivisions, or any unit of local government shall not enact any policy that denies or interferes with an individual’s reproductive health care decisions.” It would also have forbidden interference with an individual’s access to “current evidence-based scientific data and medical consensus.”

However, after passing by just a one-vote margin (4-3) in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the bill stirred enormous opposition from pro-lifers, who said that it would block any future attempts to regulate abortion clinics, require parental notification before abortions were performed on minors, or force abortionists to show women ultrasound images of their babies so they could make an informed decision on whether to abort.

Susan Sutherland, vice president of Colorado Right to Life, told that while the aim of the bill was “horrific,” it was the broad language of the legislation that made it “probably the worst written bill we’ve ever seen.”

She added that it was “frightening to think that it could have had an opportunity to pass.”

Pro-life demonstrators attend  rally at Colorado statehouse led by Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila. (AP photo)

Archbishop Aquila responded to the bill's introduction with an open letter calling for public opposition, media coverage, and prayers to defeat it.

“This over-reaching piece of legislation would essentially shut down any attempt to pass life-affirming legislation in Colorado ever again. More than that, it enshrines the 'right to abortion' into Colorado law. It’s being praised by anti-life organizations such as NARAL and ThinkProgress as 'the first of its kind' in the country and 'ambi­tious.' It enshrines the culture of death into law and ignores science,” the archbishop wrote.

“We’re so thankful that Archbishop Aquila put this call out to the faithful and to the people of Colorado to participate in showing up at the capitol and voicing their opposition to this horrible bill,” Sutherland said.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, tweeted her excitement Monday about “NARAL CO going on offense with this bill to protect reproductive freedom.”

She was also quoted in a NARAL press release saying, “While many anti-choice bills passed in other states are in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution, Colorado is taking the extra precaution to make sure that they don’t see the light of day. This measure is an important protection for women so that their access to comprehensive-health care is not limited because of their zip code."

State Sen. Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood), the sponsor of the bill, said Wednesday that Democrats shelved the measure to avoid gridlock by minority Republicans. “We weren’t ready to let this session be overshadowed by the abortion measure."

But Colorado Senate Republican leader Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) called Kerr’s explanation “ridiculous,” noting that “what they ran into was a firestorm of public dissent.”

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