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Letter: Colorado deserves a better bill than RHEA

It is my hope that our Democratic Legislators and Governor Polis take a moment to consider the gravity of the actions they have recently taken. By signing the Reproductive Health Equity Act into law, with a sweep of the pen they have deprived a whole class of human beings of their fundamental rights. Our founding fathers said it best in their declaration that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is not hyperbole to say that they have aligned themselves with other notorious figures in history that have systematically dehumanized and then sanctioned the killing of vast numbers of marginalized human beings.

The Reproductive Health Equity Act is a misnomer. It is not about health or equity. It goes well beyond the abortion jurisprudence status quo in Colorado by ratifying the right to kill a vulnerable human being anytime in pregnancy for any reason. It is lightyears away from “safe, legal, and rare”. The intentional killing of a human is the antithesis of health care. It was proscribed in the Hippocratic Oath, the foundation of modern medical ethics. And how does killing two to three times more Black preborn babies than White preborn babies achieve equity? You don’t end racial inequities by killing people of color. Just like you don’t end poverty by killing the poor.

RHEA supporters argue that the majority in Colorado favor access to abortion. However, it is abundantly clear that the majority don’t favor the unrestricted access to abortion promoted in RHEA. There is no country in the world that contemplates abortion in healthy women with healthy fetuses in the third trimester for social and economic reasons.

Based on published scientific surveys, we know that sex selection abortion is a reality, mostly in the diaspora of southeast Asia, but in other communities as well. Sex selection abortion is the ultimate form of sexism and perfectly OK according to RHEA. Democrats are fond of portraying themselves as the champion of disability rights, but they turn a blind eye to abortion for anticipated disability encouraged by RHEA. It won’t be long before DNA segments associated with being gay or those associated with other diverse, but not “normal,” physical/cognitive traits will be used as the basis for abortion.

Democrat legislators and the governor profess to be people of reason, but they embraced the cognitive dissonance embodied in RHEA. A 22-week baby born prematurely enjoys all the rights of any other Colorado citizen but a 36-week fetus in utero, enjoys no rights. RHEA establishes the moment of birth as the defining moment of “personhood”. This bears no relation to fetal development or functional milestones. With modern neonatology, birth can occur anywhere between 21 weeks and 42 weeks gestation with excellent neurodevelopmental outcomes. The birth standard is much more arbitrary than the viability standard advanced by Roe/Casey. The irony is even more dramatic when one considers the advances in fetal surgery. A fetus can be removed from the uterus, undergo curative surgery, and then be returned to the uterus. Was the fetus a person while she was undergoing surgery outside the uterus, protected by the human rights enjoyed by all Coloradans, but a non-person when she returned to the uterus “with no independent or derivative rights” according to RHEA?

And what about these “non-person” fetuses during the late second and third trimester? These human beings can hear and respond to their mother’s voice. They can feel her touch. They can express emotions through grimacing, smiling, and crying. They can acquire preferences for certain ethnic foods by tasting flavors from their mother’s diet circulating in the amniotic fluid. These fetuses can retain acoustical memories acquired in utero for weeks after birth. They are indistinguishable from newborns except for location.

These reasons weren’t enough to persuade Democratic legislators and the governor to pause their rush to pass and sign this ill-conceived bill into law. The unintended consequences should alarm everyone. Despite the governor’s signing statement, there is good reason to believe that RHEA will nullify parental notification, the only existing restriction on abortion access in Colorado. Under RHEA, our teenage daughters might face an unplanned pregnancy and abortion on their own without love and guidance offered by their family. Furthermore, if parental notification is abandoned, the chance to stop the cycle of sex trafficking will be lost for many vulnerable teens. RHEA will also challenge existing conscience protections for medical providers morally opposed to providing abortion services.

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The language of RHEA will discourage the implementation of regulations and oversight of abortion providers to ensure the health and safety of women. In the name of unrestricted abortion access, RHEA will be putting women at significant risk, especially for women seeking abortion late in pregnancy.

As Democratic legislators and the governor bask in their “accomplishment,” I hope they take time to reflect on the procedure that they are promoting. Remarkably, I find that many abortion advocates are often ignorant when it comes to the features of the abortion procedure itself. The reality of abortion as it is practiced in our state might temper their enthusiasm for the unrestricted abortion they enshrined into law through RHEA.

There is no humane way to kill an innocent preborn baby, however, the current practice is particularly egregious. In the second trimester the cervix is dilated, and instruments are used to disarticulate/dismember the fetus and crush her head before she is removed in a piecemeal fashion. Most contemporary researchers now believe that these same fetuses can feel the excruciating pain associated with the abortion procedure as early as 12 weeks. Late in the second trimester and into the third trimester the fetus is too big, and it is too dangerous to kill by dismemberment. So, the abortionist kills the fetus first, usually by injecting digoxin into the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus or directly into the fetus. The digoxin poisoning causes intense nausea, retching, abdominal pain, and delirium. The fetus is left to die an agonizing death writhing in pain for up to 24 hours after intra-amniotic injection and up to four hours after intra-fetal injection. The procedure must be repeated a second time if the fetus survives the first injection. When the fetus is confirmed to be dead, she is forcefully extracted through the mechanically dilated cervix. This abuse would be deemed “cruel and unusual” in any other context.

Let’s all pray that Governor Polis and Democratic legislators reconsider the RHEA bill in the coming months and renounce its most extreme features. It is radical and out of step with the sensibilities of most Coloradans. I challenge them to work as hard on creating policies and programs that support pregnant women faced with unplanned pregnancies as they do trying to ensure unfettered access to abortion.

Abortion advocates hope we forget how radical this bill is and how negatively it will impact our culture. For those of us who believe in fundamental human rights, that isn’t a choice. We must decry this bill every chance we get, in every forum possible. For those in the prolife community, silence is acquiescence. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents need to be ready to hold legislators and the governor accountable at the ballot box for conceiving, passing, and signing this extreme bill into law.

The state of Colorado deserves a better bill than RHEA.

Thomas J. Perille MD
President, Democrats for Life of Colorado


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