DENVER - A bill making abortion a felony beginning at the moment of conception put two Colorado Springs Republicans in tough positions Tuesday because they oppose abortion but say the bill is unconstitutional.
Rep. Mark Waller and Rep. Bob Gardner both voted against House Bill 1133, joining seven Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee to defeat the bill in a 9-2 vote.
HB 1133 was introduced by Rep. Stephen Humphrey, who said his bill defines conception as the moment an egg is fertilized and would make abortions after that point a Class 3 felony for the health care provider, not for the woman seeking the procedure.
"A vote for this bill is a vote for something that is not constitutional," Waller said.
Gardner voted against the bill for the same reason.
It's been 41 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that abortion is a fundamental right and the state can only intervene after the fetus is viable, and only if exceptions are made for the health of the mother.
Both Gardner and Waller made it clear they would rather have voted on a bill that banned abortion after viability - an issue they said was constitutional.
Gardner proposed an amendment to change the bill to a ban on late-term abortions.
Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Denver, said that amendment could not be voted on because it didn't fit under the bill's title a requirement under legislative rules.
Humphrey's bill was titled "protecting human life beginning at conception."
And Humphrey said he wouldn't support an amendment that changed the focus of the bill to late-term abortions.
Waller asked Kagan to reconsider his decision about not allowing a vote on Gardner's late term abortion amendment.
"When the majority hides behind the rules, it shows their weaknesses," Waller said.
Gardner called it the "tyranny of the majority."
Kagan said Humphrey's bill clearly was not about late-term abortions, but rather defined life as beginning at fertilization and that he denied the amendment so the bill that was brought forward could be discussed before voting.
Humphrey's bill would have made abortions a felony with the exception being when the life of a mother was at risk. It didn't include exemptions for cases of rape or incest.
That made it an easy bill for Democrats to oppose.
Voters in Colorado have twice defeated ballot measures that would have defined life as occurring at conception, a movement known as personhood.
Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, said voters in Colorado have left little doubt about where they stand on the issue of personhood.
"I think the clear message from the voters of the state of Colorado is that they do not want to have laws such as this. They don't want to define personhood," said Lee, who was among the Democrats voting against the bill.
Had the discussion been about late-term abortions, something that is banned or highly regulated in most other states, the issue becomes more politically charged and controversial.
Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, voted in favor of HB 1133 saying that, like slavery and polygamy, abortion is a moral issue and there is a clear right or wrong.
Rep. Polly Lawrence, R-Littleton, also voted for the bill.
Contact Megan Schrader