Colorado lawmakers in the U.S. House on Wednesday split along party lines on a bill that would ban nearly all late-term abortions across the country. The bill passed solidly, 242 yeas to 184 nays.
In the final tally, four Republicans voted against the bill and four Democrats voted in favor.
Colorado House Republicans Scott Tipton, Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman all voted with the majority for the bill and against an amendment that would have added wording to specifically protect the health and life of the mother first in any decision about whether to terminate the pregnancy.
Colorado Democrats Diana DeGette, who is co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter all voted with the minority against the bill and in favor of the amendment.
The bill, HR36, called the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” is sponsored by Arizona Republican Trent Franks. It is this year’s version of a bill that House Republicans have pushed in the past but that has never made it out of Congress.
DeGette gave an impassioned speech on the House floor before the vote, arguing that Franks’ bill was merely about political messaging. She said the bill demonstrated a lack of understanding about the complex psychological and medical realities that lead women to undergo late-term abortions: semi-viable pregnancies, the risk of a mother dying during delivery, deformed or ill fetuses and pregnancies that result from incest and rape. DeGette said the bill also showed little respect for women and that it treats them as suspect and unable to make their own best decisions. She added that the bill was unconstitutional and that, in the unlikely event it passed the Senate, it would be either vetoed by the president or struck down by the courts.
“So I suggest that we vote ‘no’ now and that we respect women’s ability to make their own health decisions,” she said.
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Doug Lamborn, from Colorado Springs, argued on the floor that “science has demonstrated that by 20 weeks unborn babies are able to feel pain… Every life at this stage is a precious gift from god, and we as Americans should continue to protect life.”
But the science on when exactly fetuses can feel pain is murky. Top medical research suggests fetuses cannot feel what we think of as pain until well after 20 weeks, more like 24 weeks, a stage more in line with a fetus’ ability to live outside the womb.
The video Lamborn has posted of his floor speech and that is reposted below oddly cuts off the phrase “by 20 weeks” where he said “science has demonstrated that by 20 weeks unborn babies are able to feel pain.” (Between the 8- and 11-second marks.)
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Republican leaders pulled an earlier version of the bill in January when House Republican women said they would vote against it.
All of the Colorado Republicans, including now-Senator Cory Gardner, voted for the 2013 version of the bill, which critics say was a more hardline version of what the House passed yesterday.
In Colorado’s 2014 midterm elections, Republican pundits said claims that party candidates were seeking to outlaw abortion were overblown. But this year, state and national Republicans have placed anti-abortion laws at the top of their policy agenda.
Most of the official and unofficial Republican candidates for president have said they support the late-term abortion ban.
*Correction: The original version of this post reported that Rep. DeGette was co-chair of the House pro-life caucus. She is not. She is co-chair of the pro-choice caucus.
Photo by Elvert Barnes.