Recap of 2002 Colorado Born Alive Infant Protection Act

GANDY DANCING IN THE SENATE

By Tom Longua

In the railroad industry, a "gandy dancer" is laborer who works on a section gang, laying track. Indeed, some of us remember a famous song that began, "A gandy dancer is a railroad man; his work is never done."

Just so. On May 3, in the Health, Environment, Children and Families committee of the Colorado Senate, the gandy dancers were busy railroading HB 1317, the "Born Alive Infant Protection Act" that had earlier passed the House with a vote of 43-19.

The past two sessions of the state Senate have been one railroad job after another. In the 2000 elections, the Libertarian Party ran a candidate in several statehouse races, including Senate District 19. The Democrat in that district was Sue Windels, who was running against incumbent Jim Congrove, whose voting record accorded perfectly with the Libertarian platform, so why they ran a candidate against him is puzzling. Anyway, the Windels won with 23,482 votes to Congrove's 22,585; but the Libertarian garnered 1,517 votes, almost all of which would certainly have gone to Congrove had the Libertarian not been in the race. That is, if the Libertarian had not been in the race, Congrove would have won.

But Congrove lost, resulting in the Democrats' gaining control (18-17) of the Senate for the first time in decades. That means that they also have a majority on every Senate committee. Well, said the new gandy-dancer masters of that chamber, "Now we'll show the world what we can do." And they have been railroading bills ever since.

Certainly all Republicans are not pro-life, while some -- a few -- Democrats are. In the Colorado House of Representatives, ten Democrats voted for HB 1317.

As most observers of the legislature know, the fate of most bills is determined long before the public hearing on them. That's not necessarily a bad thing: Sometimes it just shows that concerned citizens contact their legislators early and that some lawmakers take their business seriously and actually study bills that they have to vote on. It's a rare occasion when something that is said in a hearing actually causes a lawmaker to change his mind on a measure that he has already decided on. But that fact is often frustrating. It often seems that the hearings are just a way of paying lip service to the democratic ideal of letting the people have their say.

That was the case with HB 1317. The railroad job was predetermined. Although a few pro-aborts were in the room, none of the usual suspects testified against the bill. In fact, only one person did so. From that fact alone, it was clear that the pro-aborts knew that their minions on the committee were ready to do their bidding. The only question was whether the vote would be a party-line vote of 4-3, or whether GOP Senator Mary Ellen Epps, who was an "honorary chairman" of NARAL fundraisers, would vote against it also, making the vote 5-2.

Nevertheless, the hearing provided for some interesting moments, not the least of which was the testimony by members of the adopted family of Tawné Pepper -- and Tawné herself -- who was born alive almost 16 years ago after her mother had tried to have her aborted. They even played a three-minute video of her from a Channel 9 news feature.

Also testifying was nurse Jill Stanek of Chicago, who had testified on the federal Born-alive Act before two Congressional committees in Washington. CRLC brought Jill to Colorado twice to speak before both the House and Senate committees.

When he was presenting the bill, Senator Doug Lamborn, the Senate sponsor pointed out that in the packet given to the committee members was a page from the NARAL website, saying, "NARAL does not oppose passage of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act." This statement bewildered Committee chairman Senator Rob Hernandez, who read the page and then, clearly flustered, toyed with the laptop computer in front of him, obviously looking at input he had received in opposition to the bill from Colorado NARAL. One could fairly read his dazed thoughts: "National NARAL doesn't oppose it, but Colorado NARAL does? Huh?"

Astute observers might have seen from this reaction, which came even before the meager opposition testimony, that the bill was DOA. Here was someone whose predetermined vote was being jeopardized by confusion in the NARAL ranks. The handwriting was on the wall.

Another exercise in befuddlement came from Senator Deanna Hanna, but this time it was the audience who was who confused. Senator Hanna, who identified herself as a nurse, listened to Jill's testimony about doctors and nurses treating babies that survived abortion as if they were some kind of waste. She said, "I'm alarmed to hear that some of these things happen." Sound good? Well, that was one reason she voted against the bill -- she didn't want the legislators to practice medicine. She then said, "We need to be concerned about all children, not just children that are aborted." That, too, was a reason for voting against it.

Senator Epps asked Senator Lamborn if he believes life begins at conception. This question was reminiscent of hearings in past years when former Senator Dottie Wham used to question pro-life witnesses on the whole abortion issue, regardless of what the actual bill under consideration was about. Apparently Senator Epps liked that tactic: Never mind what the bill says; if it's being promoted by a pro-lifer, then, like the babies themselves, it's a goner.

Finally, the committee voted. Senators Jim Dyer and John Evans voted to pass the measure on; Senators Epps, Hagedorn, Hanna, Hernandez, and Linkhart voted to kill it.

Once again, this action points out the need for all pro-lifers to get active in the political arena and get pro-life candidates elected to office