Birth control bill passes Colorado House, moves on to governor’s desk

Efforts to block a contraception bill shriveled today in the Colorado House after a series of weird and contentious legislative hearings and an unsuccessful attempt during a House floor debate Friday to add a poison pill amendment to insert the religious definition of pregnancy as at the moment of conception.

The Birth Control Protection Act passed on a largely party-line roll call vote of 39 to 25, with House Minority Leader Paul Weissman excused. Western Slope moderate Reps. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, and Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, voted with the Democrats.

State Rep. Anne McGihon and state Sen. Betty Boyd, both Denver Democrats, crafted SB 225 to thwart future legal or constitutional challenges similar to Amendment 48 (pdf) — the failed 2008 ballot measure that sought to grant constitutional rights to fertilized eggs. The bill codifies “contraception or a contraceptive device as a medically acceptable drug, device, or procedure used to prevent pregnancy.” The lawmakers reasoned that having a clear-cut definition that complements current state law defining pregnancy will eliminate a debate over whether contraception induces abortions.

Prior to the floor vote, Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Colorado Springs, inexplicably related her personal experience with in-vitro fertilization and opposition to Amendment 48. Stephens urged House members to defeat the bill using the same logic of the failed poison pill amendment that provisions defining conception and contraception should be “married together.” The decades-old state legal definition of pregnancy is implantation of a fertilized egg, the commonly accepted scientific and medical description.

Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, reassured her colleagues that she “isn’t going to talk about myself, so guys you can quit squirming over there.” Gerou also rehashed her Friday talking points by opposing the bill over what she perceives as a freedom of choice limitation — though she never explained how defining contraception creates a chilling effect.

The bill passed the Senate March 5 and now moves to Gov. Bill Ritter’s office.

At the behest of Ritter and Catholic hospital representatives, Boyd amended the bill to exclude mifespristone, also known as RU-486, and other federally approved pharmaceuticals that induce abortion, from the proposed legal definition of contraception. With that provision added, it is believed Ritter will sign the bill.

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Wendy Norris

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