Why Coloradans are supporting Proposition 120?

Proposition 120 would prohibit abortion after 22 weeks gestation except to save the life of the mother.  Five thousand petitions are now circulating throughout Colorado to place Proposition 120 on the ballot in 2020.  A very diverse group of Coloradans is embracing the effort.  Women and men are equally supportive.  Members of every ethnicity and race are represented.  The coalition includes Democrats, Unaffiliated, and Republican voters.  People of every religious persuasion, as well as, atheists are signing on.       

What is driving the consensus?  A young woman in her 20’s signed a petition I was circulating in downtown Denver last week.  She provided the simple answer – “it’s a baby.”  She explained that she was “pro-choice,” but she could not contemplate killing a 22-week old fetus.  She added that she “was born (premature) at 6 months”.  How could anyone not recognize the humanity of the 22-week fetus?  One would have to be willfully ignorant or driven by an extreme abortion rights ideology. 

Indeed, a 22-week old fetus is a vital human being.  A mother can feel her 22-week fetus “kick.”  The fetus can respond to her mother’s voice and touch.  She can undergo curative surgery as an independent patient.  She can feel pain, including, the likely excruciating pain of the abortion procedure.  A 22-week fetus now commonly survives when born prematurely. 

In recent Gallup polling, 60% of Americans feel that abortion should be either legal in only a few circumstances or illegal all together.  Only 28% of Americans feel that abortion should be legal in the second trimester and a mere 13% feel abortion should be legal in the third trimester.  Coloradans recognize that it is time that Colorado law reflects this broad bipartisan consensus – late abortion should be limited to situations where the life of the mother is in jeopardy. 

Although data is very limited in late abortion, most experts and a handful of studies suggest women pursue late abortions for similar reasons that they seek earlier abortions.   Only a minority of abortions are performed for fetal anomalies.  In the tragic case of a fatal fetal anomaly, perinatal hospice offers a loving, compassionate alternative to late abortion.  For women who have suffered the violence of rape/incest, abortion will continue to be an option during the first five months of pregnancy. 

This sordid irony is not lost on Coloradans – a viable 22-week fetus enjoys all the protections of state and federal laws when born but can be arbitrarily killed as long as she remains in the uterus.  Coloradans feel It is time we correct this gross inequity.  We should also redouble our efforts in Colorado and throughout the US to support pregnant women and their families so that contemplating late abortion becomes a relic of the past. 

Thomas J. Perille MD

Coalition for Women and Children

President, Colorado Chapter, Democrats for Life of America

The End-of-Life Option Act Black Hole – Is it time to shed more light?

Do you ever wonder what happened since the Colorado End of Life Options Act passed – Colorado’s version of physician-assisted suicide? The ballot initiative was heralded as providing a safe, compassionate option for those faced with suffering from a terminal disease. The promoters of the initiative claimed that there would be safety and transparency in its execution. It would be the impetus to make great strides in improving end-of-life care for everyone. It would not “normalize” suicide for vulnerable youth with severe emotional pain. Given the findings from the 2018 End-of-Life Options Act report (published by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment), the reality may be quite different.

Between 2017 and 2018 there was a 74% increase in patients who chose assisted suicide. What is driving the increase? We will never know since patients are never asked why they resorted to assisted suicide as part of the requirements of the bill. Is it because they had uncontrolled pain – physical or emotional? Is there subtle financial coercion because of inadequate health care coverage or the inability to utilize family/medical leave? Is it because they feel a burden to their family? Do family members influence their decision? Is it because of their fear of disability? Is it because they are anxious or depressed about dying? If we had answers to these questions, we could devise solutions to reduce the demand for assisted suicide. We could explore new palliative options to address uncontrolled symptoms that the patients identified. We could pursue legislation to improve health care coverage and family/medical leave policies. We could enhance in-home hospice support services. We could make mental health services more readily available near the end of life. Even supporters of assisted suicide need to acknowledge that choosing suicide is a failure of end-of-life care at some level. Without insight into the system failures, we don’t have the knowledge or the motivation to make these improvements.

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