Colorado State Archives
Executive Orders from the Administration of Governor Bill Owens 1999-2005
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
The Honorable Colorado House of Representatives
Sixty-Fifth General Assembly
First Regular Session
Denver, CO 80203
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am returning to the House of Representatives House Bill 05-1042, "Concerning the Availability of Emergency Contraception to a Survivor of a Sexual Assault." I vetoed this bill as of 2:30 p.m. today and this letter sets forth my reasons for doing so.
Without question, House Bill 1042 is well intentioned. The crime of rape is a violent, heinous act. We all want each and every rape victim to be provided with compassionate and comprehensive treatment.
As part of that treatment, House Bill 1042 would require all hospitals to provide victims information about the availability of emergency contraception -- very broadly defined. While, on the surface, this bill seems simple and almost non-controversial, deeper reading and consideration show that it falls far short on two important fronts.
First, it does not provide victims with the full, balanced and detailed array of information they deserve to make this deeply personal decision about emergency contraception. Secondly, it does not protect the right of institutions, founded on deeply held moral and religious values, to decline to provide treatment options that violate those values.
It is regrettable that three amendments were defeated that would have provided the bill with appropriate balance, and would have safeguarded basic freedom of conscience. Had these amendments been adopted, this bill might well have earned my signature.
Yet I must consider the bill that is before me, not the one I wish was sent to me.
My first concern is a technical but essential difference in the forms of emergency contraception that are offered. One method that is covered by this legislation would prevent a fertilized egg from imbedding in the uterine wall. This raises serious concerns for those whose conscience tells them that a fertilized egg is a human life.
Yet the Legislature, regrettably, voted down an amendment that would have informed the victim fully about the effect of this form of contraception. Without informed consent, a woman could innocently violate her personal, moral and religious beliefs about when life begins. The provision of information is not a denial of treatment. Yet House Bill 1042 will not trust a woman with this extremely significant information.
My second concern centers on freedom of conscience.
It is one of central tenets of a free society that individuals and institutions should not be coerced by government to engage in activities that violate their moral or religious beliefs. While this bill did offer health care professionals the right to decline to offer emergency contraception due to religious or moral beliefs, it did not offer those same protections to health care institutions. This is wrong. And it is unconstitutional.
This bill would violate fundamental constitutional principles by forcing an institution to say things to patients that it explicitly does not believe to be morally or ethically valid. Allowing such a provision to become law would cross a constitutional line that we must not cross.
In addition, House Bill 1042 requires health care institutions to use a definition of pregnancy provided by government, not one that comports with an institution's moral or religious tenets. An amendment that would have safeguarded this freedom for institutions was likewise defeated.
Throughout Colorado – and our country – citizens benefit from the extra dimensions of care offered by hospitals founded by faith communities. These institutions, rooted in deeply held religious and moral values, have the right to provide comprehensive care in keeping with those values. This bill would unfairly and inappropriately infringe on the freedom of these institutions and diminish the free exercise of religion that is one of the bedrock rights Americans hold dear.
This bill does not give patients all the information that they deserve, nor does it safeguard basic freedom of conscience. Accordingly, I have vetoed this bill.
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