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Denver Archbishop leads protest of Dems’ abortion rights bill

DENVER — A few hundred Catholics and other pro-life Coloradans gathered on the Capitol’s west steps Tuesday afternoon in a protest organized by Archbishop Samuel Aquila, who denounced a Democratic bill being heard upstairs on the Senate floor that seeks to protect abortion rights from any and all future challenges.

“I believe the intention of this bill is to make abortion legal in every circumstance, in every place, with no regulation on it whatsoever,” Aquila told reporters after addressing the crowd.

The Senate, meanwhile, was scheduled to debate Senate Bill 175, the so-called “Reproductive Health Freedom Act”, which prohibits state or local government entities from enacting any policy that denies or interferes with an individual’s reproductive health care decisions, or an individual’s access to current evidence-based, scientific information on the topic.

But the debate was postponed by Senate Democrats, who control the calendar, because one lawmaker was sick — and Democrats  need every one of their 18 votes to advance the bill, which is a proactive attempt to stave off the kind of legislation aimed at limiting access to abortion that’s passed in other states where Republicans hold legislative majorities.

“A lot of people are tired of being on the defensive and want to stand up and say, ‘this is a freedom that fits with our values and beliefs’,” said Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Kerr referenced a North Carolina law forcing women to get an ultrasound before going ahead with an abortion, and the difficult-to-meet clinic regulations that have shuttered many an abortion clinic in Texas.

“They’ve gone against the values and freedoms of people to make their own choices in very personal matters, matters that should be between a woman and her doctor,” Kerr said. “And we want to stave that off.”

Republicans, along with the Archdiocese and other Catholic groups, believe the proposal, were it to become law, wouldn’t work — that it could be nullified simply by lawmakers passing another bill overruling it.

“The legislature has the ability to pass any statute and when they do, it overrides the first statute,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud.

While questioning the effectiveness of the proposal, Aquila still worries about the potential impact, should it become law in a state where Republicans aren’t likely to control both legislative chambers for some time.

In a letter to parishioners, he called S.B. 175 an “over-reaching piece of legislation that would essentially shut down any attempt to pass life-affirming legislation in Colorado ever again.”

So is it a thinly-veiled attempt by Democrats to highlight the abortion issue heading into campaign season?

Kerr says no.

“I don’t believe in passing a bill just to make a statement, but I do believe we are aligned with the values and beliefs of the people in Colorado,” he said.

The proposal, which cleared committee last week, may be debated by the Senate on Wednesday. A final vote would still be needed before the bill can head to the House.