Advancing justice for unborn victims

In Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

Acknowledging the humanity of an unborn child is always the right thing to do, and it shouldn’t always have to be discussed in the context of abortion.  That’s why the recently introduced “Offenses Against Unborn Children Act” is a worthy cause. 

Senate Bill 268 was introduced by Senate President Bill Cadman in response to the brutal attack on Michelle Wilkins of Longmont, who was seven months pregnant when her unborn child was cut from her womb and subsequently died.

District Attorney Stan Garnett, whose office is prosecuting the case, announced that he could not charge the assailant with the murder of Wilkins’ unborn daughter because they would be unable to prove, as the law requires, that she could have lived outside of her mother’s womb.  Instead, Garnett’s office filed seven charges for the attack on Michelle Wilkins, plus the charge of unlawful termination of a pregnancy which carries a prison sentence of 10-32 years.

Cadman and 14 other senators saw this as an opportunity to emphasize the dignity of unborn children.  They propose changing state law so prosecutors can treat crimes against an unborn child, from first-degree murder to vehicular assault, just as they would treat crimes against any other living, breathing boy or girl.

Sponsors recognize that a bill that implicates abortion would go nowhere in Democrat-controlled House of Representatives nor would it be signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.  Instead they focused on existing criminal law, specifically excluding abortion.

In 2003 following the murder of Laci Peterson and her unborn child, bipartisan majorities (57-6 in the House, 29-6 in the Senate) passed another measure to allow prosecution of crimes in which the mother and unborn child are killed.  That bill, too, focused solely on giving the unborn child protection from criminal acts.

To sensible Coloradans, whether “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” it’s obvious that our state laws would be more just if they recognized that the criminal act that killed Michelle Wilkins’ daughter is no less an offense to humanity because it occurred two months prior to birth.

Even so, the bill has raised cries of indignation from both the abortion lobby and from one voice in the pro-life camp.

Colorado Right to Life (CRTL), proponents of three failed ballot initiatives to confer legal personhood status at conception, says the bill “reaffirms abortion.”  Of course, it does not.

Avoiding a fight that’s doomed to fail while instead building on public consensus that unborn children deserve greater respect is a positive step.  CRTL seems to believe that if you can’t pass a law to protect every unborn child, then you shouldn’t pass a law to protect any unborn child.  That strategy drives me to despair.

As much as I respect the personal dedication of many CRTL members who work to save the unborn and help their mothers, CRTL’s political strategy has failed.  In fact, the resounding defeat of three personhood initiatives that received just 26, 29 and 35 percent support has been a terrible setback to the cause of the unborn.

Pro-life groups elsewhere focus debate on abortion’s cruel realities – for example, that an unborn child experiences severe pain during a gruesome late-term abortion.  Meanwhile, the conversation in Colorado has regressed to debates about contraception.

Nationally, public opinion is shifting toward the cause of life.  A recent Gallup survey found more Americans identifying as pro-life (48%) than pro-choice (45%); twice in the last six years, the pro-life response has eclipsed 50%.  Yet another poll found that 64% of Coloradans take a “pro-choice” position.

The all-or-nothing strategy gives the abortion industry a pass on its most indefensible practices and ignores opportunities to increase protections for the unborn.

Protecting those lives that can be saved seems like a far better strategy than sacrificing them all for ideological purity.