The adage “absolute power corrupts absolutely” went on full display Wednesday, when a powerful Colorado Democrat played games with a life-saving bill.
Senate Bill 25, introduced by Republican State Sen. Jim Smallwood, requires public schools to include basic information in sex education classes about Colorado’s safe abandonment of newborns law. The law allows any adult parent to abandon a newborn within 72 hours of birth at a fire station or hospital with no questions asked. Firefighters and hospital personnel are prepared to immediately tend to the needs of abandoned newborns, initiating a series of events that ends with finding safe permanent homes for babies.
The abandonment law has helped at least 60 newborns and their parents since taking effect 19 years ago.
Too often we hear of traumatized parents, including young women suffering postpartum trauma, abandoning newborns in dumpsters.
Among those testifying in favor of SB 25 on Wednesday was Colorado teenager Halle Burke. Her mother abandoned her safely at a Westminster fire station two days after she was born.
“This law is important to me because without it I’m not even sure where I’d be now,” Burke told members of the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee.
Burke explained the law cannot work for other newborns if young mothers don’t know about it. Therefore, she said, schools should teach them.
“We can’t know which woman will feel desperate or frightened enough to leave an infant to die,” said Linda Prudhomme, executive director of Colorado Safe Haven for Newborns. “Clearly, no girl plans to grow up and find herself in that position. That’s why every woman of child-bearing age needs to know.”
The bill has bipartisan support. It is the kind of legislation decent politicians can agree upon without regard for party affiliation. It helps teenagers, could save infants, and deserves swift passage.
It seems none of that matters much to Democratic Sen. Mike Foote, the committee chairman. He’s in power, and that means making demands for the sake of it. Even unreasonable demands that put a commonsense, life-saving bill at risk.
Foote, at the last moment Wednesday, choose to amend the bill and hold it hostage. His wants passage of SB 25 contingent on adoption of a more controversial bill in the House. He wants SB 25 to fail unless the legislature agrees to a law that forbids teaching any “sectarian tenets or doctrines” in sex education.
The House bill may sound reasonable, but poses multiple unintended consequences. It could, for example, render teachers unable to inform children of about religious traditions of female genital mutilation. Children should probably know about the 200 million girls and women living with mutilated genitals, and the reasons for it. They should learn how ancient religious beliefs led to widespread circumcision, if they are to make educated decisions about future baby boys.
The Democratic-led sex education bill also forbids teaching of “gender norms.” An educated person should know about norms, regardless of supporting or opposing them, to fully understand the history of human sexuality. The bill understandably forbids exclusion of coursework about sex practices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. An easily laudable element of the bill forbids “shame-based or stigmatizing language.”
Democrats control both chambers of the legislature and the executive branch. They can pass whatever they want. They don’t need to flex their muscles just to show off.
SB 25 is an above-average idea that could unify Democrats and Republicans around teaching a proven, life-saving parenting option.
Foote chose to divide at the potential expense of teenaged mothers and infants. He abused his power, just because he could.