Colorado’s abortion laws

Legislation on life issues a

The following story is a reprint from the Sept. 11, 2013, Denver Catholic Register (“Awareness alert: knowing Colorado’s abortion laws may help change them”) to aid Catholics in understanding current laws related to abortion in the state  in the wake of proposed, and recently defeated,  abortion rights legislation, Senate Bill 175.

Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion at the federal level, states have responded with legislation regulating abortion in their jurisdictions.

When compared to other states, Colorado’s abortion laws are considered middle-of-the-road. Colorado was ranked 25th among the 50 states by the country’s oldest pro-life legal and policy organization, Americans United for Life—and received a “C+” average from NARAL Pro-Choice America for “choice-related laws.”

“We have some good things mixed in with the bad,” explained attorney Jenny Kraska, who heads up the Colorado Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Church in Colorado.

Mixed bag

Among the bad: there is no gestational limit to abortion in Colorado—although the vast majority of states, 41, prohibit abortions except when necessary to protect the woman’s life or health after a certain point in pregnancy, most often fetal viability.

“We don’t live in 1973 anymore,” Kraska said. “Babies can be viable at 20 weeks.”

Normal pregnancy gestation is 40 weeks. Late-term abortions are generally defined as after 24 weeks or the third trimester. Colorado is home to one of only four providers in the country who perform late-term abortions, Warren Hern, M.D.

“Patients are seen at any time during pregnancy,” according to the clinic’s website.

In contrast, there are two significant protections when it comes to abortion laws in Colorado in the form of constitutional amendments: one that prevents state tax dollars from being used for abortions except to preserve a woman’s life, and another that requires minors under the age of 18 to provide written notice to parents at least 48 hours prior to an abortion.

While Colorado prohibits state funding of abortions, the amendment regularly gets called into question because of a lack of transparency.

“Money goes to Planned Parenthood… who claims it’s used for everything but abortion,” Kraska said. “But you can’t really know that.”

Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortion in the United States, performing 333,964 abortions in 2011 according to its annual report. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains at 7155 E. 38th Ave. in Denver is the organization’s second largest facility.

To relay the seriousness of Colorado’s parental consent laws, Lynn Grandon, program director of Respect Life Resources of Catholic Charities, and director of Lighthouse Women’s Center, described a scenario. It’s one she’s seen firsthand in her experience counseling women and girls in crisis pregnancies.

“A mother gets a call from a hospital that her signature’s needed for emergency surgery for her daughter,” she relayed. “’What are you talking about? My child’s at school,’ the mother responds.”

The caller then states matter-of-factly: “Your daughter was at an abortion clinic and has to have reparative surgery” following a botched abortion. This is just one consequence of abuse of the law, Grandon said.

“We have to make sure the laws that are in place are being followed, upheld and enforced,” Kraska said.

Industry regulation

The trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia last spring raised awareness about enforcement in the abortion industry. Gosnell was charged with eight counts of murder alleging he killed seven babies born alive by severing their spinal cords, as well as killed a patient from a lethal dose of painkillers.

Following weeks gruesome testimony, he was convicted in May on three counts of first degree murder for killing the babies, and one count of involuntary manslaughter for the woman’s death.

“Nine states introduced legislation as a direct result of seeing the Gosnell trial and wanting to make sure that didn’t happen in their state,” Kraska said.

Many of the Gosnell atrocities were attributed to a lack of enforcement. According to Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, no state agency regulates abortion clinics in Colorado.

“However abortions may occur in other licensed facility types such as hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers that are regulated (or) inspected by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment,” he wrote in an email response.

Colorado is one of 39 states that require an abortion be performed by a licensed physician.

“The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies that licenses physicians would investigate any complaints against persons who provide abortions,” Salley wrote, “if they are a licensed professional.”

Regulation is a huge issue, Kraska said: “Restaurants, hair salons and nail salons are better regulated.

“Women insist on the best healthcare; they push for better healthcare,” she continued, “yet have no problem having an invasive medical procedure (at an unregulated facility).”

Changing the dialogue can help educate a broader population and encourage people “to think for themselves.”

“It’s not only about being pro-life, it’s about being pro-women,” Kraska said. “We should look out for the health and safety of all women, it’s common sense health-care we would demand in any medical procedure.”

She encouraged people to read and understand abortion laws, and remain vigilant in pro-life efforts.

“We didn’t get here overnight,” she said, “and we can’t change it overnight.”

For more information, contact the Colorado Catholic Conference at 303-894-8808, visit Respect Life Resources at www.ccdenver.org/respectlife or contact your parish Respect Life committee.

Summary of Colorado’s abortion laws
– No gestational limit on abortions.
– Minors under the age of 18 must provide written notice to parents at least 48 hours prior to abortions.
– Public funding for abortion is limited to life, endangerment, rape and incest.
– No state mandated counseling or fetal ultrasound required prior to abortion.
– No waiting period required prior to abortion.
– Abortions must be performed by a licensed physician.

COMING UP: Father and son, deacon and priest: Deacon dads and priest sons share special bond as both serve God’s people

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The bond between a father and son is one of God’s greatest designs; however, when father and son are both called to serve the Church as deacon and priest, that bond takes on a whole new meaning. Just ask these two dads and their sons, all of whom answered the call to serve the people of God at the altar.

Deacon Michael Magee serves at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield, while his son Father Matthew Magee has worked as the priest secretary to Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for the past several years and will soon be moved to a new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder. Deacon Darrell Nepil serves at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver, and his son, Father John Nepil, served at several parishes within the archdiocese before his current assignment as a professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

However different their journeys may have been, all four have something in common; mainly, that far from seeing their vocations as a reward from God, they have received them as an uncommon gift of grace that has blessed their families and individual relationships with each other abundantly, knowing that God acts in different ways to help us all get to Heaven.

Interwoven journeys

Deacon Michael Magee was ordained in May 2009, at the end of Father Matt’s first year of seminary. Little did they know that God would use both of their callings to encourage each other along the journey.

Deacon Michael’s journey began when a man from his parish was ordained a deacon.

“I simply felt like God was calling me to do something more than I was doing at the present time,” he said. “I had been volunteering for a number of different things and was involved in some ministry activities and in the Knights of Columbus. And I thought the idea of being a deacon would be simply another activity for which I could volunteer.”

He didn’t know what it entailed at the time. In fact, he believed it was something a man could simply sign up for. To his surprise, the diaconate was more serious – and it required five years of formation and discernment. Yet he was so drawn to it, that he decided to do it anyway. But as he learned more about the nature of the diaconate during his formation, he became more nervous and unsure about whether God was really calling him to that vocation. 

While his doubts remained all the way up to his ordination, Deacon Michael was faithful to his studies, trusting that God would lead him in the right path. 

And God did — through the calling of his own son to the priesthood.

Deacon Michael didn’t realize that his son Matthew had paid close attention to his father’s faith journey and had found in it a light that gave him courage to discern the priesthood.

Father Matthew Magee (left) and his dad, Deacon Michael Magee (right), were both encouraging to one another as they each pursued their respective vocations. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

“Seeing my dad, as a father, growing in his relationship with the Lord was really influential for me on my own desire to follow Christ,” said Father Matt. “Looking at his courage to discern his own vocation and follow God’s plan in his life gave me the strength and courage to be open to the same thing in my life… He played a very important role, whether he knew it or not at the time, and whether I knew it or not at the time.”

On the other hand, Father Matt didn’t know that his dad was in turn encouraged by his own response to God’s calling. 

“As I went through all those doubts, I watched Matthew’s journey in seminary and listened to how he was dealing with that in his life. And, as he just articulated very well, I also saw those same qualities in him,” Deacon Michael said. “Seeing a young man in his 20s willing to consider following God for the rest of his life also gave me the courage to continue on in my own journey, to see it through.”

God’s way of uplifting them in their vocations through each other’s journey is something they are very grateful for. 

This unusual grace impacted Father Matt during his first Mass, when his dad, as deacon, approached him before the Gospel reading and asked for the traditional blessing by calling him “father.”

“It was a really special moment for me. He’s certainly my biological father and raised me. But then there’s something different when we’re at the altar in a clerical capacity — there’s a strange reversal of roles when we’re giving spiritual nourishment to the people — a father asks the new father for the blessing,” he said.

In both of their vocations, Deacon Michael and Father Matt see God’s Providence and the unique plan he has for all of us.

“We all have a vocation, even if it’s something we may not expect,” Deacon Michael concluded. “You may feel anxiety or worry about what it’s going to look like, but trust in God. He will take care of things as he always does.”

A bribe for Heaven

For Deacon Darell and Father John Nepil, the journey was different, but not any less providential.

While he grew up Catholic, Father John wasn’t interested in setting foot on any Church activity during his teenage years. His saving grace was perhaps what many parents have to do to get their teenagers to Church: bribe them.

“His mom and I basically bribed him to go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference,” Deacon Darell said with a laugh. “He didn’t want to go, but we’d heard so many good things about it, that we said, ‘We’re going to make this happen, whatever it takes.’”

So the Nepils came up with a creative idea.

“He owed me some money for a uniform that he had needed for a job in the summer. So, I said, ‘Listen, if you go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference, I’ll forgive your debt. And he did, he and his brother went. And John especially came back a different boy. He literally was converted with a lightning bolt at that retreat.”

To this day, Father John marks his conversion to Christ from the summer before his senior year in high school when he attended that conference. 

As it happens with stories worth telling, the details of how much money he owed his father have varied over the years, and it’s a matter of debate among them, but Father John remembers it was close to $500.

“That’s subject to each one,” Father John said laughingly. “But what matters is that they offered to forgive my debt if I went to this retreat – it was money well spent.”

Besides this important event, Father John said that his dad influenced him in many ways by the simple fact of who he was as a father.

“My dad’s faith and moral character were a rock for me during some difficult teenage years,” he said. “He’s a great example of a man who was always faithful and lived a really outstanding moral life, but then as he deepened in love with Christ, he decided to give of himself in a more profound service.”

Father John Nepil (left) and Deacon Darrell Nepil (right) both had rather roundabout ways to their respective vocations, but they both say serving God’s people together as brothers in Holy Orders is a great joy. (Photo provided)

Besides his desire to serve and follow God, the seed that would eventually lead Deacon Darell to the diaconate was planted by a coworker, who would also take holy orders: Deacon Joe Donohoe.

“One day he said to me, ‘You should be a deacon.’ And, of course, I laughed at him and said, ‘I don’t have time for that. My life is too busy.’ But it only took him to suggest it for the idea to keep coming back to my head, and God kept nudging me. Eventually I decided I really wanted to do that,” Deacon Darell said.

The ability to share at the altar during the Mass has deepened the natural relationship of father and son and given Deacon Darell and Father John new opportunities to grow closer to God. 

One of the most meaningful times came when Deacon Darell had a massive stroke in 2018. While he was in the hospital, Father John was able to visit and celebrate Mass at his bed and pray the rosary with him every day, as he had come back from Rome and was working on his dissertation.

“It was probably the most privileged and intimate time I’ve ever had with my father,” Father John said. “It was an amazing gift that really changed our relationship.”

“I feel like that’s a huge reason why I healed and why I am here today,” Deacon Darell added.

“It’s a real gift to have my dad as a deacon and a brother. It’s a tremendous honor. It’s one of the great joys of my life.” Father John concluded. “That’s really what has bonded our relationship together: the sheer desire to serve Jesus, especially in holy orders.”