Emergency Contraception for Rape Victims

Override attempt falls flat

By Bill Scanlon, Rocky Mountain News
May 3, 2005

An effort to revive a bill to give rape victims information about emergency contraception died Monday when Democrats failed to override a gubernatorial veto.

Despite moving testimony from two assault victims, Republicans united behind Gov. Bill Owens to make sure his veto stood.

On Jan. 31, 11 GOP House members joined with Democrats to approve House Bill 1042, which would have required all Colorado hospitals to provide information and options to rape victims, including information about emergency contraception. But Owens vetoed the bill.

Monday, all 30 Republicans voted against overriding the veto, while all 35 Democrats voted in favor. The 35-30 vote fell far short of the two-thirds (44 votes) the Democrats needed to override.

Catholic Hospitals had urged Owens to veto the bill, saying that emergency contraception can be considered abortion, and that it's against their religious values to provide information about it.

Monday's debate was heated and often poignant, with two lawmakers talking about being raped or nearly raped when they were young.

Bill sponsor Rep. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, said she has no regrets about attempting the override."I felt I owed it to all the people who called me and were outraged by the governor's veto," she said.

Afterward, she said, "Politics trumped policy today. We have denied rape victims an opportunity to achieve wholeness after being raped."

But Boyd added that she really wasn't surprised that the 11 Republicans sided with Owens this time.

"Gov. (Roy) Romer expected the same kind of loyalty from Democrats when he was governor," she said. "It's very difficult to override a veto."

Owens said he appreciated his party's "strong support on the floor today."

"The only power that the minority sometimes holds is through the governor's veto," Owens said.

Boyd said she'd be back with a slightly altered version of the bill next year. Democrats argued that emergency contraception isn't abortion, and that all hospitals have an obligation to provide all options to women who've been raped.

On the House floor, Majority Leader Alice Madden talked about being nearly raped when she was 14. "There is no God who wouldn't say that you should do everything you can to stop becoming pregnant from an attack," she said.

Rep. Fran Coleman, D-Denver, was equally candid. "I was raped," she said. "To expect me to become pregnant with my attacker's sperm, or to expect an abortion to take care of it - that's a worse option for me as a Catholic woman."

Rep. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, said killing the bill would "put the vague rights of a corporate religion over the religious and human rights of women."

Democrats urged Republicans to vote their consciences, rather than just voting for their governor.

Republicans castigated the Democrats, especially Boyd, for insisting on an override vote even though it seemed doomed.