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Opinion: Columnists

Colorado abortion bill would block new safety rules for clinics

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Opinion,David Freddoso,Columnists,Colorado,Abortion,Roe v. Wade

Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila sounded the alarm this week about a new bill in Colorado's state legislature. The measure, known as SB 175, is designed to prevent any future restrictions on abortion whatsoever - apparently including basic measures to protect the health and safety of patients.

According to its text, SB 175 would prevent the state and its localities from “enact[ing] any policy that denies or interferes with an individual's reproductive health care decisions.”

It isn't difficult to see the intent here. Colorado Democrats are pushing back against a national trend of “Gosnell laws,” passed in various states to raise awareness of abortion's uglier side and to police the industry for unscrupulous providers who hurt and kill their patients.

Before the horrific mass murder trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell had even ended last year, a number of states moved to enact common-sense rules to remedy the problems that the grand jury in his case had identified. You've probably heard of some of these rules, which regulate things as simple as proximity to hospitals and the width of clinic hallways.

Abortionists in Texas and Virginia, among others, have complained that they cannot operate with such rules in effect. Yet as Gosnell's grand jury noted, emergency personnel cannot carry injured or dying patients on stretchers through cluttered, narrow hallways. The report details how something that simple prevented one of Gosnell's victims from receiving timely, potentially life-saving treatment at a nearby hospital.

For the most extreme elements of the abortion-rights movement, it has long been an article of faith that any state regulation of or interference with abortion is just the camel's nose under the tent. The Gosnell grand jury pointed to this very attitude -- now manifesting itself in Colorado's SB 175 -- allowing Gosnell's clinic to go uninspected for years, so that it could continue to operate despite gruesome, unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Two consecutive pro-choice governors of Pennsylvania, the grand jury pointed out, had changed policy, making a legal determination that even routine inspections of clinics like Gosnell's would be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions.

“Putting up barriers” — or as the Colorado bill puts it, “denying or interfering.”

This political context validates the fears expressed by Archbishop Aquila. Hostile courts, backed up by a statute like this one, could easily interpret even the most common-sense curbs or inspection regimens as illegal policies infringing an inviolable right.

There is considerable disagreement as to precisely what lasting effect this Colorado bill will have if it becomes law. Many have pointed out that if passed, it could be repealed as easily as any new statewide restrictions could be passed.

But at the very least, SB 175 seems like a symbolic anachronism. Just in the last decade, federal courts have finally accepted that some restrictions on abortion are okay. States have finally begun moving back into the empty space left when the Roe decision turned abortion into the new Wild West. And the public, though not broadly supportive of a ban on abortion, it views the procedure with increasing aversion, as something that clearly takes a human life - at best sad and regrettable; at worst murder; at the very least in need of more legal limits than currently exist.

Countless studies show fewer American women having abortions, fewer clinics and doctors providing abortions, fewer medical students wanting anything to do with abortion.

That's why this particular statement seems like an odd one for Colorado's Democratic legislators, facing the loss of power this fall, to make now. It is a triumphalist statement by an ideological movement that is trying to tell the incoming tide to stop.

DAVID FREDDOSO, a Washington Examiner columnist, is the former Editorial Page Editor for the Examiner and the New York Times-bestselling author of "Spin Masters: How the Media Ignored the Real News and Helped Re-elect Barack Obama." He has also written two other books, "The Case Against Barack Obama" (2008) and "Gangster Government" (2011).
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