Littwin: Tim Neville’s Colorado Senate is from another planet

Mike Littwin
Fair and Unbalanced

In the upset of the day — maybe of the legislative year — a freshman Republican state senator from Thornton named Beth Martinez Humenik bucked her party and voted against a provocative, late-session abortion bill.

And so the bill died in committee, leaving everyone to wonder exactly what had happened.

I mean, if the bill was going to die in a Republican-controlled committee in a Republican-controlled Senate, why did the Republican leadership allow the controversial bill to go forward in the first place?

The rumor going around the Senate was that the Republican leadership knew Humenik was going to vote no. If so, what was Senate President Bill Cadman thinking?

Was it simply incompetence at work? Was it some kind of intra-party payback? Whatever it was, it was clearly humiliating.

It’s pretty easy to figure out why Humenik voted the way she did, joining two Democrats on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in defeating the bill, 3-2. The bill may have seemed like nothing more than the latest of the many absurd and doomed culture-war bills to come up this year. But if you looked closely, this one was apparently a bill too far.

We’re not talking about ill-informed anti-vaxxers who think they need a Parents Bill of Rights or of Dudley Brown-inspired gun nuts who wouldn’t consider a compromise doubling ammunition magazine limits.

This bill was an assault not only on our senses, it also was an assault on the bodies of women seeking an abortion.

The bill, put forth by Sen. Tim Neville — yes, one of those Nevilles, who are suddenly everywhere in the Colorado political world — would have, among other things:

Forced women seeking an abortion to undergo an invasive, medically unnecessary ultrasound.

Forced doctors performing abortions to offer up medically questionable “facts” on fetal pain.

Forced women to wait 24 hours before receiving their abortions as if they were incapable of timing a decision themselves.

You’ve heard the story before. The bill has been controversial in other states at other times. The bill is meant to either discourage women, humiliate them or both. And in case anyone missed the point, Neville was passing out fliers before the vote for a mobile van offering ultrasounds. The van was parked across the street from the Capitol.

Of course, it was Neville who told the Denver Post that he didn’t see what the problem was. “I don’t think it has to be divisive,” he said of the bill.

Maybe he doesn’t think it’s divisive. Not everyone agreed.

Humenik, who was elected in November by a narrow vote in a swing district, obviously didn’t agree, saying, according to Peter Marcus in the Durango Herald, “I’ve heard time and time again during this legislative session about the protection of liberty and personal responsibility. I believe individuals who are females should be able to do that as well.”

Yep, it was about individuals who are females who may be wondering what their state senators are up to.

You may remember how Mark Udall was ridiculed as “Sen. Uterus” for his battle over personhood with Cory Gardner, who managed to recant his support for Colorado personhood even while co-sponsoring a federal personhood bill that he insisted wasn’t a personhood bill. Gardner didn’t just become a U.S. senator by pulling that off. He became an overnight legend.

There won’t be any argument in 2016, though. The Republicans who control the Senate — the one in Denver, not the one in D.C. — are now insisting that Democrats run against them on personhood and abortion and birth control.

As we head for the close of the legislative session, the Colorado Senate, in which Republicans hold an 18-17 majority, has apparently learned nothing from first day to the last. And they especially have learned nothing from the Cory Gardner playbook, in which you talk like a moderate and vote like a hard-right conservative.

We could see this in the Senate fetal homicide bill, in which the horrific crime of cutting an unborn baby from the womb of Michelle Wilkins, who was seven months pregnant, became a platform for personhood. The bill put forward insisted on describing the fetus as “an unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth.”

The bill passed the Senate, but with no chance for compromise in the language, it was sent to a House kill committee where it will predictably die.

Or we could go to the IUD debate. As you may know, Colorado has become a much-honored model for reducing teen pregnancy by an astonishing 40 percent over the past five years — a number so large that you could hardly believe it. And yet, a number not so large that Senate Republicans couldn’t, incredibly, ignore it.

The reduction effort was led by a privately financed program to distribute IUDS and implants to low-income teens. The program needs $5 million to continue. The senators said no because the bill, they said, would encourage young women to have, you know, sex. Or because they thought IUDs were an abortifacient.

And so the program’s supporters will have to look elsewhere for the money. And if they can’t find it, your Colorado Senate can take credit, or blame, for a bunch of unwanted pregnancies and, presumably, abortions.

I’m guessing you can spot a trend here. I’m guessing Humenik spotted a trend here. I’m wondering, in fact, how anyone could have missed it.

Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for