DENVER — Democrats concerned about interference on abortion rights on Monday rejected a Republican measure to create a new crime of fetal homicide, legislation that was crafted in response to an attack last month on a pregnant woman in Longmont.
The suspect in the attack is accused of cutting into the belly of a woman who was 8-months pregnant to claim the baby. The expectant mother survived, but her child died.
Prosecutors said that under state law they can't file murder charges because a medical examiner found no evidence the infant was alive outside the womb.
The Republican-sponsored bill would've allowed prosecutors to file murder charges for the killing of a fetus, although it wouldn't apply to the Longmont case. About three dozen states have fetal homicide laws.
Democrats, however, said the measure's language could be broadly interpreted to infringe on reproductive rights because legal protections would be extended to unborn children. A Democratic-controlled House committee rejected the bill on a 6-5 party-line vote Monday.
While saying what happened in Longmont was tragic, Democrats insisted that the state's criminal charge of unlawful termination of a pregnancy, which passed two years ago, addressed the crime. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 32 years in prison. That, along with other charges the suspect in the case faces will send her to prison for more than 100 if convicted.
"I think our laws currently on the books do address these crimes," said Rep. Su Ryden, an Aurora Democrat who voted no on the bill.
The suspect, Dynel Lane, is due in court Tuesday for a judge to determine whether she will stand trial. She has not entered a plea.
Republicans say the punishment Lane faces doesn't do justice to the crimes of which she's accused.
"Members, again, this has nothing to do with abortion," said Littleton Rep. Polly Lawrence, the Republican sponsor of the bill. She noted that the measure wouldn't apply to requested medical procedures by a pregnant woman or legal prescriptions she obtained.
"This is about justice for two victims of violent crimes," Lawrence said.
The bill had cleared the GOP-controlled Senate with unanimous opposition from Democrats.
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