Letter: New CO bill requiring abortion providers to report data could achieve a common goal – fewer abortions

The most difficult part of the campaign for Prop 115 was the disinformation disseminated by our opponents. It was frustrating to see abortion rights advocates convince many Coloradans that late abortion was only pursued for medical indications and horrible fetal anomalies. They even suggested that a late abortion restriction would significantly impact rape/incest victims. It was hard to refute their claims since the state maintains a woefully inadequate/incomplete abortion surveillance database. I believe their misinformation cost us the winning margin. 

It became clear to me that Coloradoans are more likely to have a change of heart if they understood the true magnitude of the issue in Colorado and the reasons women cite to pursue abortion. The current abortion surveillance data is dramatically underreported. The pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute places the true number of abortions 40% higher. The deficiencies of the current data are glaringly apparent for late abortions (since the largest late-term abortion practice in Colorado, the Boulder Abortion Clinic, does not report their data). Furthermore, it does not address the reasons women have abortions or the complications of the procedure which is critical information from a public health perspective. 

Fortunately, Representative Stephanie Luck has introduced a bill that promises to shed a bright light on abortion practice in Colorado. HB21-1183 is an abortion surveillance bill that gives the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) additional tools to obtain reliable abortion data from Colorado’s abortion providers and expands the information that is required to be submitted. 

The new bill would increase the information provided by abortionists and make it unprofessional conduct if they don’t report their data. I anticipate that it will reveal that most abortions, including those after 22 weeks, are performed on normal fetuses. It will highlight the tragedy of abortion for fetuses with Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, and Klinefelter syndrome. It will demonstrate that women very rarely pursue abortion for medical indications, rape or incest. It will give us information on the frequency of abortion complications in the totally unregulated Colorado abortion industry and identify the funding sources for abortion. 

I believe that HB21-1183 will be an important source of information for all Coloradans and inform their views on abortion. It can serve as an impetus for robust research on abortion in our state. I believe it can lead to the development of private/public policies and programs that address abortion demand and refine our services to women to reduce their perceived need for abortion. 

In my mind, knowledge is power. This bill is the first step in our effort to regroup and educate the people of Colorado after the failure of Prop 115. The bill has been referred to the Health and Insurance Committee (https://leg.colorado.gov/committees/health-insurance/2021-regular-session) for a hearing on March 24. The bill will be killed in committee unless the people of Colorado demand accurate and actionable abortion data. I would encourage Catholics to contact the members of the Health and Insurance committee, as well as their state representative and senator, and let their views be known. Please encourage them to vote YES. Together we can guarantee more transparency in our state and pull back the curtain on the ugly truth about abortion. 

Tom Perille, MD

COMING UP: Sin, suicide and the perfect mercy of God

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

I love my hair stylist. 

She’s a devoted Christian. So, when I see her, we tend to have much deeper discussions than the usual gossipy hair stylist sessions. And, because it’s a small shop, the discussions often branch out to the other people within earshot, waiting for their appointments or waiting for their color to process. Because she tends to attract a smart and faithful clientele, the discussion is always interesting. 

Yesterday, at my bimonthly appointment, we somehow got onto the topic of suicide — specifically, the insidious way that it spreads among teenagers. One suicide often leads to another, which leads to another. I made the comment “It is demonic.” 

At that point, a woman in the waiting area chimed in. “I disagree. I’m Catholic. It used to be a mortal sin, but they changed it. It’s not any more. It’s mental illness.” 

If a nice Catholic lady at my hair salon could be confused about this, I figured perhaps some of you out there may be as well. Which made me think perhaps it’s time for a little review on the nature of sin — both in general, and specifically as it applies to suicide. 

First, sin in general. The fundamental point here is that the Catholic Church has no power to decide what is a sin and what isn’t. It’s not like there’s a committee that meets periodically to review the list of sins, and decide if any need to be promoted from venial to mortal, or demoted from mortal to venial, or dropped from the list entirely. 

Sins are sins because they are outside of God’s will. And they are outside of God’s will because they have the potential to do tremendous damage to people created in His image and likeness, whom He loves. We know they are sins because it was revealed to us in Scripture, or it has been handed down from the time of Christ in sacred tradition. Sometimes the Church must apply these timeless, God-given principles to new situations, to determine the morality of technologies undreamt of in ancient times. 

The Church has the authority to do that because she received it from Christ, her bridegroom. And once she does declare on a subject, we believe it is done through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So the Church isn’t going to change her mind. Something can’t be a sin, and then suddenly NOT be a sin. 

“But,” you ask. “What about eating meat on Friday? That was a sin, and now it isn’t.” This is an example of a discipline of the Church. Eating meat has never, in itself, been an objectively sinful behavior — on Fridays or any other day. But the Church was calling us, as Jesus calls us, to do penance. And the Church selected that penance as something we could all, as a Church, do together. The sin was never in the ingestion of the meat. It was in disobeying the Church in this matter. This particular discipline has been dropped. But it doesn’t change our obligation to in some way do penance for our sins and the sins of the world. 

Now, on to suicide. It is obvious that something must have changed in the teachings of the Church. Because, in the olden days, a person who committed suicide couldn’t be buried with a Catholic funeral Mass. And now they can. So what gives? 

Here’s the situation. Taking innocent human life is always a grave evil. (I add the “innocent” qualifier to distinguish this discussion from one about self defense, or about the death penalty — which in a sense is self defense. But those are separate discussions.) God is the author of life, and it is He who decides when our lives will end. To usurp that power always has been, and always will be, a grave moral evil. 

But there is an important distinction we must understand. There is the objective gravity of the sin — the nature of it, and the great damage done by it. Then there is the question of the individual’s moral culpability of that sin. In other words: a great evil was done. But is the person who did it liable to judgment for it? Or were there extenuating circumstances that mean that, while the evil was indeed done, the person who did it was somehow functioning in a diminished capacity that reduces or eliminates their moral responsibility? 

For a person to be culpable for a mortal sin, three conditions must be met. First, the objective act must be gravely sinful. Second and third, the person committing the sin must do so with full knowledge of the sinfulness of the act, and full consent of the will. In the question of suicide, we have learned to much about the psychological condition of a person driven to such a horrible deed. The instinct to self preservation is strong. In order to overcome it, the mental and/or physical suffering is frequently very intense. There may even be, as my friend at the salon mentioned, mental illness involved. All of this can drastically reduce a person’s mental and intellectual capacity to make rational decisions. 

And so, while an objectively horrifying act has occurred, God may very well have tremendous mercy on that person’s soul, given the extreme states of agitation and pain that led up to the act. 

Know that I write all of this as someone who has lost one beloved relative and several friends to suicide. And I am tremendously optimistic in my hope that they are with God. Not because they didn’t do something terrible, or that what they did was somehow justified. But because the God who loves them sees their hearts, and knows that pain and suffering can drive people to acts they wouldn’t possibly consider while in their “right” minds. 

And this is why the Church offers the Rite of Christian Burial to those who die by suicide. Because they need the prayers. And their families need the comfort. And because the Church, too, believes in that the God who embodies perfect justice also embodies perfect mercy. 

And we live in great hope that they are with Him.