DENVER, CO – The Obama administration’s free contraceptive mandate gave birth this week to two raucous rallies at the Colorado Capitol – Republicans defending freedom of religion and Democrats advocating for abortion rights.
The controversy won’t die anytime soon as the House is slated to consider legislation that would criminalize the death of an unborn child as a result of assault or killing of the mother.
The reaction to President Obama’s edict requiring employers to provide free contraception sparked a religious rebellion led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Last month, Obama accused unnamed entities of trying to turn the issue “into a political football,” and announced a compromise to require insurance companies – not religious employers – to provide free contraception.
During the pro-choice rally Monday, Democrat Reps. Crisanta Duran of Denver and Andy Kerr of Lakewood demanded the defeat of House Bill 1130 that would establish criminal penalties for the murder of an unborn infant as a result of assault or death of the mother, including vehicular homicide.
Several hundred supporters turned out for back-to-back rallies on Monday, waving signs and boisterously applauding speeches on the West steps of the Capitol.
At the pro-choice rally, abortion advocates waved Planned Parenthood and “Stop the War on Women – NARAL” professional printed placards and handwritten posters as “Birth control, not bans” and “Pro-Choice is Pro-life.”
Demanding free contraceptives and defending legalized abortion, Colorado Opportunity & Reproductive Rights (COLOR) Executive Director Lorena Garcia yelled angrily, “Any of you who think you should be telling me what to do – back off!”
Shortly before noon, conservatives kicked off their rally with prayer and pumped homemade posters that read, “Religious Liberty!! I have a say!!” and “Health Care for Pre Born Women.” Several folks wore shirts that quoted Bible verses and the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “Christ Our Hope.”
“We are gathered here today to push back against the unprecedented aggression of the federal government against religious freedom in America,” said Sen. Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield). “We have a federal government that is not only designing a mandated federal health care plan, but what it’s trying to do is crack religious organizations into obedience.”
“It is not just about contraceptives, it’s about abortion pills, it’s about end of life issues, it’s about assisted suicide,” declared Mitchell, noting that all of those conflict with moral and religious beliefs of private, religious hospitals.
“You can preach whatever you want from the pulpit as long as you pay what we demand from your treasury,” he said of the government’s intrusion on religious freedom.
“The right to privacy in family planning doesn’t involve the right to force someone else to pay for your decisions,” Mitchell told the crowd that roared in agreement.
He debunked the government’s argument that people need access to free contraceptives. Mitchell said that anyone can walk into any pharmacy, grocery store or clinic to purchase contraceptives for about $9 a month.
Mitchell, several legislators and former 6th District Congressman Tom Tancredo spoke in defense of the religious freedom accorded by the First Amendment and blasted government intrusion that threatens the fundamental principle of the United States Constitution.
Compounding Republicans’ frustration with Obama’s contraceptive mandate is a bill, sponsored by Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), and Rep. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver), which would require hospitals to post public notice of what services they do not offer because of religious beliefs and moral convictions.
“This bill is an aggressive step in the culture war,” declared Mitchell.
The culture war will continue today when the House considers HB 1130, sponsored by Rep. Janak Joshi (R-Colorado Springs), and Sen. Mitchell, that establishes felony crimes for the murder of an unborn child.
Democrat legislators have opposed the bill because it establishes “fetal personhood by creating a new class of victim” – a central point in ballot initiatives for a personhood amendment, one currently proposed and two previously rejected by voters.
The bill exempts medical care authorized by the mother from the definition of unlawful termination of a pregnancy.
The language is based on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2004, and defines an unborn child as “a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”
Known as “Laci and Conner’s law,” the act was passed after Scott Peterson killed his wife Laci Peterson and their unborn son in California in December 2002. It is only applicable to federal crimes; at least 36 states have passed similar laws.
“It is inescapable that you’ve created personhood,” declared Rep. Daniel Kagan (D-Greenwood Village), during the House Judicial Committee meeting.
“It’s a notion that has been rejected time and time again by the people of Colorado. The bill goes too far.”
“Under certain circumstances, this bill criminalizes abortion,” asserted Kagan. “It would render it a homicide.”
“I don’t think in any way this bill criminalizes abortion. It’s neutral on the subject,” argued Assistant Majority Leader Mark Waller of Colorado Springs. “In regards to personhood, it’s silent on the subject.”