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Legislative Year: 2018 Change

Colorado Eyes & Ears »

The "don't touch my rights" argument appeared in the state Senate today in the debate over where one person's religion encroaches on another person's right to health care services. Many senators apparently wished the memorial didn't get as far as the Senate floor, but, as Senator Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, said, "it is what it is." The memorial went down in a 15-20 party line vote.

SM12-003, the Respect For Rights Of Conscience Act Of 2011 sponsored by Senator Tim Neville, R-SoJeffco, would send a message to the US Congress that the Colorado legislature wants health care providers to be able to opt out of offering services that violate religious or moral beliefs.

For all Senate Republicans, men and women, religious rights begin with the 1st amendment and the free exercise of religion.  For all Democrats, women and men, a violation of rights begins when a woman's health care is denied because of someone else's expression of religion.

As usual in these debates, some Senators were emotional and personal. But Senator Ellen Roberts apparently told the men in her caucus to stay seated and shut up.  She warned her colleagues, "Unless you think we are a prop, we have put superglue on their (GOP male senators) seats."  She apparently wanted to tone down the biblical citations in play in Thursday's SB12-002 arguments over civil unions. 

Roberts made a strong case against the idea of SBM-003 as a "war on women."  She's a pro-choice Republican whose mother and grandmother went through that war in the last century.  She made the constitutional argument that the freedom of religion is a fundamental, unassailable right.  It's the reason her Quaker forebears came to the United States in the first place.  Turning tables on Democrats, she cited her vote in support of SB-002 as demonstration of her commitment to individual rights, and in her view, SM-003 holds the same status.

Senator Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, agreed with Roberts that religious freedom is unassailable, as long as it remains within the personal realm.  As soon as one person's religion crosses a line into another person's realm, religious freedom turns into religion establishment, violating the constitutional premise that the state may not impose any religion on any person.  Carroll also cited the many privacy concerns as people seeking reproductive health care would have to ask doctors, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals, and any other health care provider whether they will be able to receive all health care services.

Senator Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, "called out" the Catholic church for pushing the issue.  "Our bodies are being used as political pawns," said Giron.  "That all male hierarchy in the church is being leveraged against us... It's a cheap trick to prevent women from having basic health care."

Senator Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, offered an interesting take.  Her mother told her, as a Catholic, that God wouldn't give her any more children than she could handle.  After four children in roughly four years, she had a discussion with her non-Catholic husband about "what the lord had in mind for us."  They didn't have any more children, but Spence cited the need for the Obama administration to keep to its promise to find a way for health care providers to exercise their religious freedoms in the health care system.

After the vote, Senator Roberts provided acetone to her male Republican colleagues so they could peel away from their chairs for committee business.  PEN, CCW



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