Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, who has carefully skirted the abortion issue for the past year, found herself front and center today on the issue during a committee hearing on a Texas-style bill that would ostensibly ban abortions.
According to a witness who testified in favor of House Bill 16-1203, the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” it was Coffman’s idea to take jurisdiction on abortion clinics away from the state Department of Public Health and Environment and put it under her office.
Christy Rodriguez of Colorado Campaign for Life dropped that bombshell during the hearing Thursday.
The bill would put all regulation of abortion clinics under the Attorney General. According to Rodriguez, that’s exactly what Coffman wants.
Spokesman Roger Hudson of the Attorney General’s office told The Colorado Independent that Coffman has not taken a position on the bill.
As to whether Coffman spoke to Rodriguez, as she claims, Hudson did not address that question. He said, “The Attorney General has not advocated on either side of this bill… Our historic role is to offer legal advice to the state’s regulators rather than serve as regulators ourselves.”
The Colorado bill is based on Texas HB2, which resulted in the closure of more than half of the state’s abortion clinics.
A lawsuit challenging the Texas law is currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
HB 1203 would require the Attorney General to come up with rules regarding the clinic’s physical facilities, that an abortion doctor must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, and offer minimum recovery room standards and follow-up care.
Clinics would be treated the same as ambulatory surgical centers. But most abortions occur in the first trimester and are induced rather than performed through a surgical procedure, according to witnesses including doctors.
The bill also would put personhood — the anti-abortion concept that says life begins at conception — into state law.
The hearing featured political theater from Republican Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt of Colorado Springs. To most of the witnesses who testified, both for and against, Klingenschmitt held up a photograph of an ultrasound of an unborn fetus and asked the witness if the photograph was “an unborn child.”
According to Klingenschmitt, the ultrasound is of an unborn child due soon to the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, who gave him the photograph to use in today’s hearing.
Many replied, yes, the fetus was an unborn child.
Dr. Inger Fedde, who practices at Denver Health but was testifying on her own behalf, was more specific: She said the photograph is of a 28-week-old fetus. And if the woman carrying that fetus is happy about her pregnancy, the doctor said, she would tell her, “Congratulations!”
Another doctor referred to the photograph as that of a 3-D ultrasound of a fetus.
Coffman told 9News last year she would not investigate the Center for Medical Progress videos. Such an investigation would fall under the jurisdiction of the public health department, not her office, Coffman said.
Coffman opposes abortion, and her decision not to investigate the videos disappointed those who hoped she would look into whether Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains was engaging in fetal tissue sales for profit, which is illegal under federal law.
At least 12 states and numerous congressional hearings have found no evidence of illegal activity related to the Center for Medical Progress allegations.
The bill died on a party-line vote, the same fate that has fallen on every anti-abortion bill introduced in the 2016 session.
Neville, who has carried this bill the last two legislative sessions, told The Independent he won’t give up on the issue. “Between now and the next time I’ll be able to push anything like this, we’ll have an election. We need to persuade the voters to vote for the right people.”
Sarah Taylor-Nanista of Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado said today that conservative Republican lawmakers and Coffman who say they are anti-government and anti-regulation, “suddenly support medically unnecessary regulations of abortion clinics that will only disproportionately punish minority, low-income women. That’s hypocrisy, pure and simple.”