Prop 115, Colorado’s proposed late-term abortion ban, fails

In a tough loss for Colorado’s pro-life community, Proposition 115, a proposed ban on late-term abortion in Colorado, failed on election night.

Proposition 115 would have banned abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy, changing the current Colorado law that allows babies to be aborted for any reason up to birth. The proposition would have allowed for an exception if the mother’s life is at risk. Under the proposed statutory change, a physician performing a prohibited abortion would have been subject to a three-year license suspension, but it would not have imposed any penalty on a woman receiving an abortion.

“Despite the disappointing result, the campaign to pass Proposition 115 has demonstrated that support for human life at every stage is widespread across our state,” Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila told the Denver Catholic. “I am deeply grateful to the thousands of people who worked tirelessly to pass this measure, and for all those who care for mothers, fathers and children in need, including many Catholic institutions and individuals. I pray that we will soon see the day when Colorado embraces a culture of life and recognizes the dignity of every human life at every stage of life, from conception to natural death.”

Propelled by an enthusiastic grassroots campaign that was carried out largely in the middle of a global pandemic, Prop 115 would have been a huge pro-life victory in the state that was the first to liberalize its abortion laws in 1967. Today, it remains a destination for late-term abortions. Colorado is one of only seven states that currently has no restrictions on abortion.

In order to get Proposition 115 on the ballot, petitioners had to gather a minimum of 124,632 signatures over a period of six months, beginning in December 2019. All told, they ended up delivering upwards of 150,000 signatures to the Secretary of State, securing its place on the ballot.

“Volunteers gathering petition signatures were utterly heroic in spite of the pandemic” Lynn Grandon, Program Director for Respect Life Denver, told the Denver Catholic earlier this year. “We were charged with gathering 10,000 more signatures during the stay at home orders from the Colorado governor in only a two-week time frame. The totals were nothing short of miraculous – 48,000 signatures were added.”

Prop 115 marks the fourth time petitioners were successful at getting a pro-life initiative on the ballot. In 2008, 2010 and 2014, Colorado voters rejected attempts to introduce a personhood amendment into the Colorado state constitution. There were also various efforts to enact similar laws before 2000.

Despite the loss, the Colorado pro-life community wants women to know that abortion is not the only option, and that they will continue to advocate for the dignity of both moms and babies.

“While Proposition 115 was defeated at the ballot, we’re grateful that more than 1.1 million Coloradans voted to end late-term abortion,” Grandon said. “Most important is that women vulnerable to abortion know that there are life-giving options available. The ongoing need to educate and advocate continues. Every day that passes means more lives are lost. The mobilization to help moms and save babies will continue to be our top priority.” 

For those women who are experiencing an unwanted or crisis pregnancy, you are not alone. Marisol Health and Bella Health + Wellness are two women’s clinics that work to uphold the dignity inherent in every human person with a sincere compassion for life, and they can help you. Contact Marisol Health at 303-320-8352 (Denver) or 303-665-2341 (Lafayette), and contact Bella Health + Wellness at 303-789-4968.

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

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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.