There are not many topics that can ignite debate as much as the topic of abortion does. On both the pro-life and pro-choice sides, the feelings run deep and many take issue with reproductive laws in each state.
Since abortion was made legal in the United States, Colorado has provided safe and legal abortions. However, many laws have been added to the books since then that help to guard the lives of both women and the unborn.
Here’s what you need to know about unlawful termination of a pregnancy in Colorado and scenarios in which people can face charges for pregnancy loss.
What is Illegal Abortion in Colorado?
Since 2013, Colorado has used the term “unlawful termination of a pregnancy” instead of “abortion” in legal texts.
Unlawful termination of a pregnancy generally means that a pregnancy was terminated with the consent of the woman but obtained outside of the approved means of either a medical procedure, drug, instrument, or birth with the help of an authorized healthcare provider.
What is Legal Abortion in Colorado?
Under the definition of unlawful termination of a pregnancy in Colorado, the means by which someone can obtain a legal abortion are also outlined.
Legal abortion comes in the form of a medical procedure, drug, or instrument that a pregnant woman consents to use in order to cause an abortion.
Anything outside of these definitions — including when someone other than the mother causes the death of her fetus — can result in charges of unlawful termination of a pregnancy. In other words, in cases of domestic violence or other assaults, if a mother loses her child, criminal charges may be filed.
Penalties for Unlawful Termination of a Pregnancy
In Colorado, there are different degrees of criminal charges that can result in different penalties for the unlawful termination of a pregnancy.
First-Degree Unlawful Termination of a Pregnancy
This occurs when the fetus is intentionally terminated. It is normally charged as a Class 3 felony. When the fetus and mother die, the person responsible can be charged with a Class 2 felony.
Class 2 felonies can send you to prison for up to 24 years and involve fines up to one million dollars. Class 3 felonies can send you to prison for up to 12 years and involve fines up to $750,000. Both require five years of mandatory parole after release.
Second-Degree Unlawful Termination of a Pregnancy
If you knowingly cause the unlawful termination of a fetus, then it is a Class 4 felony. However, if the termination of the pregnancy was the result of the “sudden heat of passion” (such as when voluntary manslaughter is perpetrated), then it is considered a Class 5 felony.
Class 4 felonies can land you in prison for up to six years and involve fines up to $500,000. The perpetrator is also subject to three years of mandatory parole after their release.
Class 5 felonies can send you to prison for up to three years and involve fines up to $100,000. It requires two years of mandatory parole after release.
Third-Degree Unlawful Termination of a Pregnancy
This is charged in situations where the pregnancy termination is caused by the extreme indifference to the value of human life, creating a risk of death to someone else. This is a Class 5 felony, punishable by the same sentence as stated above.
Fourth-Degree Unlawful Termination of a Pregnancy
If a person recklessly causes the unlawful termination of a pregnancy, then it is normally charged as a Class 6 felony. That can send you to prison for up to 18 months and require you to pay fines up to $100,000. It also entails one year of mandatory parole after release.
Understanding the law in Colorado is essential to avoid charges, especially with something as controversial as pregnancy termination.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.