Proponents of two ill-fated pieces of legislation on restricting abortion rights hope voters are outraged enough to sign petitions to get a measure on the November ballot.
The House State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee killed two Republican bills on party-line votes, after more than seven hours of testimony Tuesday.
Testimony covered wrenching personal stories and graphic descriptions of abortions around an issue that featured impassioned advocates on both sides.
"It's not an abortion bill," said Rep. Shane Sandridge, R-Colorado Springs, the sponsor of a bill to hold doctors liable for failing to render aid in a live birth during an abortion. "It's a murder bill."
House Bill 1068 would have required physicians to "exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence" in the case of a live birth during an abortion. A violation would have carried a civil fine of $100,000 plus constitute a class 3 felony that could come to bear as "unprofessional conduct" on a medical' license.
Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, who chairs the committee, said no one wants to see a child killed or neglected, but he spoke to the effect of making a medical decision a crime.
"I do believe the effect of this bill to create a new felony for this kind of action would have the effect of limiting access to abortion in this state," he said. "I think that is a legitimate concern and a real problem."
Kristi Burton Brown, a public policy lawyer and vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party, who led Colorado's first personhood amendment when she was a teenager in 2008 (which failed decisively), argued that Sandridge's bill was not about abortion.
"We are talking about children born alive," she told the committee.
House Bill 1098 sought to ban abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy.
Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, the bill's sponsor, said its fate was spelled out with the Democratic votes against it.
"It's unfortunate, because there is a large population of Coloradans that support this common-sense restriction, so that we can protect life and ensure the right to life is upheld," he said before the hearing.
A group of Republican lawmakers joined with Catholic leaders and other abortion opponents at the Capitol on Tuesday at least partly to promote Initiative 120, the proposed ballot measure that would let voters statewide decide on the ban.
They need 124,632 valid signatures of registered voters by March 4 to qualify for the ballot.
Lauren Castillo, representing the Initiative 120 committee, said the organization should easily clear the hurdle to get on the ballot.
"The majority of Coloradans believe late-term abortion is extreme by any measure and should be prohibited to protect the health of the mother and the life of her children," Castillo said.
The Due Date Too Late Committee is making a public push to collect petition signatures across the state Saturday. A list of locations to sign is available on its website.
"Here at the Capitol, these bills never get a fair hearing," said House Republican leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock. "They're sent straight to the kill committee. They're given orders to be killed in that kill committee. The only way we're going to get a fair hearing is with the public at the ballot box."
Three ballot measures to define a fetus as a person failed in 2008, 2010 and 2014. An initiative in 2012 did not get enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Fawn Bolak, the communications director for the liberal advocacy group ProgressNow Colorado, pushed back on the abortion opponents.
"Let’s be clear—there is nothing remotely 'reasonable' about medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion care and access," she said in an email. "The folks pushing this ban clearly don’t understand the unique, often devastating, circumstances that would lead someone to seek an abortion later in their pregnancy.
"Voters in Colorado have turned down abortion bans at the ballot box three times over, there is no evidence to suggest that the majority of Coloradans would support a ban like this.”
Both sides had doctors to testify on the two bills. Some noted that there are medical reasons why a women would need to end a pregnancy beyond 22 weeks, and it's a decision that belongs between a doctor and a patient, not policymakers.
Iman Jodeh, representing the Women's Lobby of Colorado, spoke against the bill.
"As a woman, I do not believe we can pass such sweeping legislation that assumes what is happening between a doctor and their patient could be incorporated into one law," said Jodeh, who is running for a House seat this year. "Every pregnancy is different, because this legislation doesn't recognize that, we cannot have one size fits all."
Eric Banner, an associate minister at Jefferson Unitarian Church between Golden and Wheat Ridge, opposed the late-term abortion bill.
He sits on the board of the Women's Freedom Fund, which supports abortion rights.
"The decision to choose when or if to have a child is not the decision of any government official or agency," he told the committee. "Our faith, arising out of the Christian tradition, has always stood for the freedom of people to make their own decisions on the matters that are most important to them."