News Abortion

Colorado Republicans Use Discredited Anti-Choice Smear Campaign in Pushing Failed Bill

Jason Salzman

The bill's vague language could have prevented public universities from buying fetal tissue from suppliers who obtain it from those who donated it after having abortions, even if the researchers paid only a processing fee.

Colorado Democrats on Wednesday killed GOP legislation aimed at curtailing fetal tissue research at state-funded universities, as Republicans repeated language deployed in an anti-choice campaign that used deceptively edited footage to attack Planned Parenthood.

The bill, voted down in a 6-3 party line vote in the house committee on state, veterans, and military affairs, would have required Colorado to halt state funding for any public university that engaged “directly or indirectly, in the purchase or trafficking of aborted human body parts.”

Federal law prohibits the sale of fetal tissue for profit, and people who have an abortion must consent to have their fetal tissue be donated for research.

The Colorado bill’s vague language could have prevented public universities from buying fetal tissue from suppliers who obtain it from those who donated it after having abortions, even if the researchers paid only a processing fee.

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The bill refers to fetal tissue as “human body parts.” That phrase, along with “baby body parts,” has been used by Republican lawmakers on the state and federal level in a coordinated smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. The man who allegedly killed three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015 also spoke of “baby parts” when he was arrested.

Legislation to curb or ban the use of fetal tissue has emerged in legislatures across the country after the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released discredited videos in 2015 attacking Planned Parenthood and its programs in some states—though not Colorado—that supply fetal tissue to medical researchers. Planned Parenthood was the subject of numerous GOP-led investigations and was found to have broken no laws.

Medical research utilizing fetal tissue has led to the development of vaccines for polio, measles, and other diseases, as well breakthroughs relating to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

“I can’t support a bill that undermines efforts to find a cure for Zika virus, which is causing a world health crisis,” state Rep. Susan Lontine (D-Denver), who voted against the bill, said in a statement.

Shortly after the CMP videos were released in 2015, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) called on the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Colorado State University (CSU) to stop using fetal tissue from two suppliers. CSU suspended fetal-tissue purchases from some vendors, but the University of Colorado School of Medicine rejected the demand.

Last year, after Colorado’s Republican attorney general claimed not to have the authority to investigate whether public universities were breaking state or federal laws relating to fetal-tissue research, Republican lawmakers introduced a bill explicitly giving the state attorney general authority to conduct such investigations. Democrats killed the bill last year in a house committee.

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