Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver has voiced his gratitude to all those who spoke out against proposed Colorado legislation that could have put an end to life-affirming laws in the state.
“Congratulations to the people of good will throughout Colorado who listened to God's call to be active in politics and to defend life at every stage,” he said in a statement on the evening of April 16. “You are the ones who made a difference!”
“Our hope lies not in the powers of government, nor the laws of man, but in the Resurrected God-Man who conquers the grave and never ceases to be present among us, His followers,” the archbishop stated.
He told the faithful that rather than “the end of a political battle,” this is “the beginning of a journey together in the Archdiocese of Denver.”
“Let us continue to be people of hope,” he urged. “Let us continue to be a leaven in society. Let us continue to seek the Kingdom of God, helping one another, particularly those who are most vulnerable.”
Archbishop Aquila’s statement came in response to the defeat of a controversial bill – S.B. 175 – which would have established as a “fundamental right” anything defined as “reproductive health care.” It would have barred state agencies and local government from having any policy that “denies or interferes with an individual’s reproductive health care decisions.”
Opponents had argued that the bill was vaguely worded and could have had far-reaching effects, potentially banning any pro-life laws and abortion regulations, including those aimed at protecting the health and safety of women and children.
The legislation could have prevented laws requiring parental involvement or notification for a minor who is seeking an abortion, requirements for pre-abortion ultrasound and restrictions on the RU-486 abortion drug, as well as conscience protection laws and requirements that only licensed physicians can perform abortions, opponents cautioned.
They also warned that it could have affected school health clinics, abstinence education policies, and government programs or facilities that pay for or promote childbirth without subsidizing abortion.
Pro-abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America, which backed the bill, had said that if it became law, it would have been the first of its kind in the country.
Archbishop Aquila had worked to quickly raise awareness about the bill, calling for prayer and action. Within days, complaints were pouring into the state legislature. Hundreds of Coloradans attended a prayer vigil and assembly outside the state capitol on April 15, where the archbishop told demonstrators that some state Senators said they had never been contacted by so many people and had to shut off their phones.
Amid mounting pressure, the Senate debate and vote on the legislation was initially delayed by one day following a Democratic State Senator falling ill and leaving. The Democrats control the Senate in the state by a single seat, and a missing Senator could have jeopardized the outcome of the vote.
However, the following day, April 16, reports began to circulate that two Senators who previously voiced support for the bill – including the Senator who had left sick the day before – had changed their stance to undecided.
Subsequently, the Democratic leadership of the Colorado Senate chose to lay over the bill until May 8. The legislative session ends May 7, so this move effectively killed the legislation.
In his statement, Archbishop Aquila thanked all those who had made their voices heard in support of life, including mothers with young children, seminarian and priests, women religious and members of various faith backgrounds.
“I also want to extend my deep gratitude to Father Ambrose Omayas of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver, who joined me in a particularly moving way on the steps of the State Capitol to pray and bless the people present,” he said.
The archbishop thanked Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs and Bishop Stephen Berg of Pueblo, who joined in writing letters to state legislators, as well as Regis University president Fr. John Fitzgibbons, who publically opposed the bill.
“Holy Week is the time to turn our attention to the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Aquila reflected. “These holiest days of the year are a very important moment of memory.”
“For the Catholic Christian, living the 'memory' of Christ is not like remembering some completed event that's now relegated to history; rather, the memory of Christ is someone present in our midst - in the sacraments, in our communities - and is the same as remembering who we are, and whose we are. He is our strength and our hope and the one who brings joy to the human heart!”