Law protecting   pregnant women sidesteps abortion





Another new law went into effect last week that is designed to protect raped women who become pregnant by their attackers.

That new law, which was sponsored by Democrats and Republicans alike, forces convicted rapists to forfeit their parental rights to any child conceived as a result of their crime.

With the new law, Colorado joins 31 other states in closing that so-called loophole in the state’s parental rights statutes.

“I was shocked to learn a convicted rapist could sue the woman he attacked for parental custody,” said Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain. “That shouldn’t happen in Colorado, or anywhere else. This bill corrects a serious oversight within our criminal justice system and puts the law on the side of victims, not violent criminals.”

While the new law strips rapists of parental rights, it doesn’t forgive them their parental responsibilities. Under it, they could still be forced to pay child support unless their victims waive that requirement.

After several years of trying, new laws went into effect this week that create additional crimes for harming pregnant women.

The law, from a bill approved by the Colorado Legislature earlier this year, creates a new category of laws partly designed to protect women from being targeted because they are pregnant.

The laws focus on termination of a pregnancy short of an abortion, and center primarily on vehicular termination of an unborn child.

Democrats who introduced the bill said they tried to be careful in drafting it so as not to get into the abortion issue.

“The new laws achieve a simple, practical solution to the problem without going down the road toward personhood,” said Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, one of the sponsors of the measure.

Previous attempts to enact such laws, including from former Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, failed to pass because of concerns they could be used to declare an unborn child a person.

That has been the subject of two ballot questions that overwhelmingly have been rejected by Colorado voters.

Regardless of those ballot failures, Republicans criticized Democratic lawmakers for including wording to make it clear that the crimes that district attorneys could file focus on the pregnant woman, and not the unborn child.

While Republicans repeatedly tried to get such a measure passed, they highly objected when Democrats added this wording: “Nothing in this act shall be construed to confer personhood, or any rights associated with that status, on a human being at any time prior to live birth.”

Except for that personhood wording, the only real difference between the new law and Bradford’s measure was that her bill focused on crimes against unborn children, rather than crimes against the pregnant woman.

Republicans said Democrats purposely politicized the abortion issue by trying to draw too distinct a line on the personhood question.

House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, who co-sponsored that 2011 bill with Bradford, said the wording was enough to make it a separate subject, and therefore in violation of the state’s single-subject rules on legislation.

Democrats accused Republicans of trying to use the new law as a political football, and in doing so, were ignoring the will of the Colorado voters when they rejected the personhood ballot measure in 2008 by 73 percent and again in 2010, when it failed by nearly 71 percent of the vote.

“Personhood is really nothing more than an abortion ban, and the people have rejected it,” said Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder.

“But we needed to recognize the special circumstances of pregnant women and impose appropriate penalties on those who cause them to miscarry. These new laws gets the job done.”


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