OUR VIEW: Legislators should pass a law to protect unborn from violent crimes

Staff reports Updated: January 6, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: January 6, 2013

Democrats who control the Colorado Legislature have an opportunity to fix a barbaric omission in our state statutes this session, which begins this week. Success would bolster their party’s claim that government should even the playing field for the small and defenseless.

Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino visited with The Gazette’s editorial board Thursday and, after discussing an array of topics ranging from marijuana to the death penalty, kindly took questions about something more important but more obscure: Crimes against the unborn.

Ferrandino expressed confidence that his colleagues in the Legislature might succeed this year where legislators have failed in previous sessions. He believes an unborn victims bill will pass if proponents don’t craft something designed to also outlaw abortion and

or establish personhood for the unborn.

The issue has no legitimate nexus to abortion and personhood. We ask that proponents of a fetal homicide bill refrain from distorting its intent. We also ask advocates of abortion rights to avoid characterizing honest efforts at a fetal homicide law as threats to their cause.

“It’s not a pro-abortion issue, it’s not an anti-abortion issue. It’s a criminal justice issue,” said House Minority Leader Mark Waller, of Colorado Springs, who ran an unsuccessful fetal homicide bill in 2011.

Colorado remains among only 14 states that have no law to protect unborn babies from violent crimes, such as drunken driving and domestic abuse of women.

Year after year, we hear stories of pregnant women losing their babies to crimes, only to learn that prosecutors have no appropriate law to punish the criminals who caused their loss. Waller, a former prosecutor, introduced his bill after a hit-and-run driver ran over a pregnant medical student in Denver and killed her nearly full-term baby. The mother lived. If found, the perpetrator will face no charges having anything to do with killing.

Attorney General John Suthers, expressed concern about omission of protections for the unborn after Logan Lage drove drunk and crashed into a car driven by Shea Lehnen in 2007 in Grand Junction. The criminal killed Lehnen’s nearly 9-month-old unborn girl. Lehnen survived. Lage was charged with nothing appropriate for the death of Lehnen’s daughter. In court, Lehnen explained that Lage’s crime would change lives forever.

Most Americans have heard about sociopath Scott Peterson, who murdered his wife and unborn child in California. That progressive state protects unborn children from homicide with a law that states, simply: “murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus...”

The law is carefully crafted, for better or worse, to protect abortion rights. None of the 36 states that protect unborn babies from violence have seen their laws interfere with abortion. The federal government protects unborn infants from crimes on federal property, and the District of Columbia also protects unborn infants from violence.

People who lose unborn babies to criminal acts of violence can never recover what they lose. Yet, in Colorado survivors get little more justice than if someone had killed their cat.

We can’t single out Republicans, Democrats, abortion rights advocates or opponents. We can only blame them all for this.

Each year, when a law is proposed, abortion rights activists immediately attack it with slippery-slope arguments. If we protect a fetus from drunken drivers, they tell us, we’ll protect them from abortion. On the other side, abortion opponents manipulate fetal protection proposals in such a manner as to establish personhood or outlaw abortion. In doing this, each side eliminates protection for the unborn.

Take abortion out of this debate. Regardless of abortion politics, reasonable people agree that pregnant women deserve protection from criminals who would kill their babies.

Democrats, be a party of compassion and pass a reasonable fetal homicide law this year.

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