GUEST COLUMN: We wanted an abortion-neutral crime bill

By: Leslie Hanks
March 25, 2011

A Gazette editorial (“Abortion foes sell out the unborn,” Mar. 11) reports that Rep. Mark Waller pulled his fetal crimes bill because “the opposition was insurmountable,” in that “Colorado Right to Life and American Right to Life opposed the bill.”

For months Colorado RTL vigorously urged our legislators to pass an abortion-neutral fetal crimes bill to bring justice to the unborn victims of criminals. The media in Colorado has suggested the opposite, that the personhood movement opposes justice for such unborn victims unless abortion is also immediately banned. This is false.

Rep. Waller proposed a 16-page bill replete with abortion politics that we think should have been replaced with this neutral, single-sentence bill written for Colorado RTL by a county prosecutor:

“If the commission of any crime codified in Title 18 of the Colorado Criminal Code is the proximate cause of death or injury to an unborn member of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development, the respective homicide and assault charges for that death or injury may be brought contemporaneously with the underlying charges.”

When Planned Parenthood dismembers an unborn child, sadly, Colorado’s criminal code does not define that as a crime. Therefore this proposed legislation is strictly abortion neutral. It only empowers prosecutors to bring charges when a Title 18 crime is committed.

But rather than introduce abortion-neutral legislation, Rep. Waller’s HB 1256 had significant support for legalized abortion. It seems that Waller was confused about who his constituency was. He became more eager to please the abortion industry than those fighting to protect unborn children. In a bill designed to bring justice for fetal victims, unlike our neutral wording above, Waller’s bill explicitly stated that it is lawful to kill the unborn child by a medical procedure. And with the recent media reports of gross malpractice by some abortionists, Waller’s bill is so supportive of abortion that it could even aid those selling back-alley abortions who could then not be charged with “unlawful termination of pregnancy,” as long as “the pregnant woman’s consent is implied.”

So far from being abortion neutral, HB 1256 would even have put an anti-personhood precedent into Colorado law. Waller’s bill stated, “Nothing in this article 3.5 shall be construed to confer the status of ‘person’ upon a human embryo, fetus, or unborn child at any stage of development prior to live birth.” Of course Colorado’s “pro-choice” Supreme Court justices would use this as a “sense of the legislature” precedent to rule against personhood whenever convenient.

Rep. Waller squandered the tremendous political capital of the millions of Coloradans who want to enable prosecutors to charge criminals who also hurt unborn children. Eventually Focus on the Family, the Christian Family Alliance, and Colorado’s Catholic Bishops, like Colorado RTL, all worked to stop Waller’s bill. Waller should have put the onus on the abortionists.

If this pro-life representative had introduced an abortion-neutral bill, he would have brought enormous pressure to bear against the abortion industry, which would have opposed a bill that didn’t include abortion guarantees. Instead they even got a bonus in the anti-personhood wording.

The practical outcome of Rep. Waller’s effort was for him to make the pro-life community look unreasonable and for Planned Parenthood to look moderate, even though we supported a neutral bill and they did not.

The lesson to learn from this for pro-life politicians is that they should remember which constituency they’re most trying to help, and that should be the unborn child.

Leslie Hanks is the Vice President of Colorado Right to Life. Readers can email Hanks at

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