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GUEST COLUMN: SB175 was based on sound policy to protect individual rights

By: Michael Merrifield
April 23, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2014 at 9:45 am
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The extremism and unsubstantiated assertions contained in The Gazette's editorial concerning Senate Bill 175, "The Reproductive Health Freedom Act," necessitates a more reasoned response.

"The Reproductive Health Freedom Act" guarantees every individual the fundamental right of privacy and freedom to make their own decisions about contraception and abortion. The title: "Reproductive Health Freedom Act" for a bill that protects against government decision-making for women's bodies is certainly not "deceptive."

It is particularly ironic this charge comes from the anti-choice advocates whose "personhood" bills carry subtle implicit criminal sanctions for rape victims who choose not to carry their offender's offspring.

The decision to have an abortion is a difficult one. It should be based on personal and individual circumstances in consultation with a woman's family, her physician and her faith, not politicians. A woman's right to make decisions about her body is a subject on which Colorado voters have clearly voiced their stance - in 2008, personhood was defeated 73 percent to 27 percent. In 2010 it was defeated 71 percent to 29 percent. A third personhood initiative failed to gather enough signatures to make the ballot in 2012.

This "zombie-esque" resurrection of personhood amendments is the exact reason Colorado needs to pass a bill like the Reproductive Health Freedom Act.

The bill is needed in law to acknowledge that medical decisions are best made with sound medical advice and that personal decisions should be made outside the political debate. State legislatures across the nation have passed more bills in the last two years that limit abortion and contraception options than in the last decade, so there is significant urgency to stop this assault on individual rights.

Logic that uses criticisms against legislation from last year to bolster the argument "I didn't like last year's legislation and this bill is bad too" is simply unsound and illogical. Jon Caldara's illegal escapades are indicative only of his willingness to break the law - not of an ineffective byproduct of the legislature.

Calling Colorado "a political test lab for the left" is ridiculous when discussing popular and sound policy to ensure voters' access to the ballot and a woman's right to make her own health care decisions.

If indeed the reproductive health act was broad or "poorly worded," legislators ought to work to improve the bill so it accomplishes the policy goal of their constituents, but not abandon the concept in perpetuity. Many policies take years to pass. The legislature tweaks, educates the public and tries again on many substantial pieces of legislation. It doesn't make the entire concept bad, it makes it better when it finally is successful.

The Gazette's editorial is another example of how the Republican party continues to fail women. This bill was based on good policy and was an attempt to protect women's reproductive rights and victims of sexual abuse. Not either/or. It is the complete lack of understanding exemplified by this editorial that motivates me to work to ensure my election to the Colorado State Senate in November.

As senator, I will always represent women and their freedom to choose what is right for their bodies.


Michael Merrifield is a Colorado Springs Democrat.

After retiring from School District 11, he was elected to serve as representative for Colorado House District 18. He is now running for the state Senate in Colorado's District 11.

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