DENVER — Colorado's Republican Senate approved a bill Monday creating a new crime of fetal homicide, a measure proposed in response to an attack on a pregnant woman last month in Longmont.
The bill passed after an impassioned debate about when life begins and whether causing the death of a fetus should be considered murder.
In the Longmont attack, in which the mother survived but the baby did not, prosecutors have been unable to bring murder charges. Republicans say the case highlighted the need to upgrade the current crime of unlawfully terminating a pregnancy to murder.
"This is about justice," said Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs.
Cadman also cited accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, whose trial began Monday. Holmes is charged with killing 12 people, but it should have been 13, Cadman argued, because a woman who survived the 2012 attack had a miscarriage.
But Democrats oppose the fetal homicide bill, likely dooming its chances in the House.
Democrats say the crime of fetal homicide could put pregnant women themselves at risk for charges. A pregnant woman who ignores medical advice and then miscarries was a hypothetical case posed by Democrats.
"It makes me and many others extremely nervous to go into this territory," said Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora.
Democrats argued Monday that the charge of "unlawful termination of a pregnancy" offers adequate protection.
"I believe the law we have on the books does offer justice to crime victims," said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver.
But Republicans insisted the Longmont case shows that a lengthy jail sentence isn't sufficient.
"It's about the acknowledgment that there were two victims of a crime," said Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango.
Senate Bill 268: http://bit.ly/1QBF6Bq