News Abortion

Controversial Colorado Legislator Requests Moment of Silence to ‘Remember’ Fetuses

Jason Salzman

The speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives rejected a request by Colorado Springs Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt for a “moment of silence” to remember fetuses aborted since the Roe v. Wade decision.

About 27 minutes into today’s Colorado legislative session, Republican Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt of Colorado Springs walked slowly to the front of the house chamber and asked his fellow state representatives to join him in a “moment of silence to remember the 57 million American citizens that have been lost since the Roe v. Wade decision.”

Colorado House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, the second woman to hold the speaker position, told Klingenschmitt that his request was “out of order.”

“I am sorry,” Hullinghorst told Klingenschmitt. “We can talk about it. That should have been a point of personal privilege, which requires the OK of the speaker in advance to do a moment of silence. So come and visit with me, and we’ll talk about it perhaps for tomorrow.”

Klingenschmitt, who once said “left-wing politicians want [women] to kill their babies,” prefaced his request by saying he hoped his suggestion of a moment of silence would be seen as a “bipartisan effort.”

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“I would like to offer, maybe a reminder, and today is the March for Life in Washington, D.C.,” Klingenschmitt said on the house floor. “And this Saturday, I marched with thousands of Colorado citizens here with [Colorado Springs] Bishop Sheridanand remembering the anniversary of the decision that is Roe v. Wade, and also remembering President Obama’s positive remarks during the State of the Union Address that perhaps there is a reduction in the number of abortions across America.”

A call to Klingenschmitt for comment on if he’d continue to push for a moment of silence was not immediately returned.

Attempts to determine whether Hullinghorst will allow the moment of silence were also unsuccessful.

A former army chaplain who goes by Dr. Chaps, Klingenschmitt has generated national media attention for his controversial comments about abortion, women, and gay people, many of them aired on his “Pray in Jesus’ Name” podcast.

The progressive organization, Right Wing Watch, has chronicled Klingenschmitt’s past, including his widely publicized claim that he performed an exorcism on a lesbian soldier, during which he said, “you foul spirit of lesbianism, this woman has renounced you, come out of her in Jesus’ name.”

Klingenschmitt has referred numerous times to the presence of demonic spirits related to sexuality and abortion.

Klingenschmitt was elected to the Colorado house in November, after squeaking by a fellow Republican in a very conservative Colorado Springs district. He began his first term this month.

Klingenschmitt’s request for a moment of silence came as pro-choice groups around Colorado were marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado held a legislative briefing and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains issued a statement saying, in part, that “decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child must be left to a woman with the counsel of her health care provider, her family, and her faith.”

News Abortion

Iowa GOP Legislator: Ending Legal Abortion ‘Impossible’ Without ‘Personhood’ Laws

Teddy Wilson

GOP-backed "personhood" laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.

An Iowa Republican plans to introduce a measure defining life as beginning at conception in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down an anti-choice Texas law, which has limited states’ ability to restrict abortion care access.

State Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) told IowaWatch that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt proves that the anti-choice movement’s attack on abortion rights is not working.

“The Supreme Court decision reinforced that incrementally ending abortion is impossible,” Schultz said. “You either have it or you don’t.”

So-called personhood laws seek to classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as people, and to grant them full legal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

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GOP-backed “personhood” laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.

Personhood bills were introduced this year by Republican lawmakers in Alabama, Colorado, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, and Rhode Island.

Rachel Lopez, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told IowaWatch that personhood measures are routinely introduced in Iowa but have failed to gain traction in the GOP-dominated legislature.

“Although we have not yet seen the details of this impending effort, we are confident that it also will fail to advance,” Lopez said. “Personhood bills are a waste of both time and taxpayer dollars, as they have failed time and again in Iowa and other states.”

Iowa lawmakers this year introduced SJR 2001, a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution specifying that the document does not secure or protect a fundamental right to abortion care.

SJR 2001 was referred to the senate rules and administration committee, but never received a hearing or a vote.

Schultz, who was elected to the state senate in 2014 after serving in the house, has sponsored or co-sponsored several anti-choice bills while in the state legislature, including personhood measures.

SF 478, sponsored by Schultz during the 2015 legislative session, would have defined “person” when referring to the victim of a murder, to mean “an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception, when a zygote is formed, until natural death.”

Mark Kende, director of Drake University’s Constitutional Law Center, told IowaWatch that Schultz’s proposal would not survive in the courts.

“He can try to pass that legislation but it certainly wouldn’t trump the federal Constitution,” Kende said. “Even if that language got into the state constitution it can’t defy three Supreme Court decisions in the last 40 years.”

Gov. Terry Branstad (R) told IowaWatch that he could not support Schultz’s proposal.

“I’m pro-life and I want to do what I can to encourage things that can protect the lives of unborn children,” Branstad said. “Yet I also recognize that we have to live with the restrictions that have been placed on the states by the courts.”

Branstad signed many of the state’s laws restricting abortion access that came up during the latter part of his first term as governor.

News Law and Policy

Colorado Law Requires ‘Reasonable Accommodations’ for Pregnant Workers

Jason Salzman

In signing this bill into law Wednesday, Gov. John Hickenlooper added Colorado to a growing list of states that have passed laws requiring worker protections for employees who are pregnant or have related conditions.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law a bill Wednesday requiring “reasonable accommodations” for workers who are pregnant, recovering from childbirth, or suffer from pregnancy related medical conditions.

The accommodations may include: longer or more frequent breaks for food or water, modified schedules, adjusted seating arrangements, assistance with manual labor, “light duty,” and more. But the law specifically states that an employer is not required to hire, transfer, or fire an employee to make such accommodations on behalf of a pregnant person, unless such actions were already planned or would be reasonable.

The bill, HB 1438, garnered bipartisan support in Colorado’s divided legislature, drawing “no” votes only from Republicans, such as state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (Colorado Springs), state Rep. Stephen Humphrey (Severance), and Sen. Randy Baumgardner (Hot Sulphur Springs).

All house and senate Democrats backed HB 1438.

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The intent of the general assembly, the bill states, is “to combat pregnancy discrimination, promote public health, and ensure full and equal protection for women in the labor force by requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition.”

Pro-choice advocates see HB 1438 as advancing reproductive justice in the state.

“Our mission is advocating for reproductive justice and ensuring every woman has the right and the ability make her own health care choices,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, in a news release. “And when women do choose to have children, workplaces should respect that choice, not discriminate, and accommodate their needs on the job.”

Opponents of the bill worry that the law will have a negative effect on businesses and jobs.

“I didn’t have a tenacious opposition to the bill,” state Sen. Chris Holbert (R-Parker) told Rewire. “But I’m concerned that this is another requirement for employers, making it more difficult for them to hire or keep people employed.”

At least 17 states, including California, New York, and Texas, have passed similar laws providing different levels of protection.

However, a bill this year to provide pregnancy accommodations in Washington state cleared the Republican-controlled senate but died in the hands of GOP house members.

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 clarified that it’s sex discrimination to discriminate based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling held that employers are in violation of the PDA if they don’t accommodate pregnant workers as they would accommodate their non-pregnant employees.

Federal legislation with expanded protections and accommodations, called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, has stalled in Congress, even though it has some bipartisan support.

In 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a non-binding guidance on pregnancy discrimination, stating that in the years since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed, charges “alleging pregnancy discrimination have increased substantially.”