Catholic lawmakers in Colorado who voted for an extreme abortion bill that stripped all rights from the unborn child should refrain from receiving Holy Communion, the state’s four Catholic bishops have said in a letter.

Voting for the Reproductive Health and Equity Act (RHEA) was “participating in a gravely sinful action because it facilitates the killing of innocent unborn babies,” said a letter to lawmakers from the state’s Catholic bishops.

Catholic politicians who have voted for the legislation “have very likely placed themselves outside of the communion of the Church,” said the letter, signed by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver, Bishop Stephen J. Berg of Pueblo, Bishop James Golka of Colorado Springs, and Auxiliary Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez.

Religion News Service published the first report about the letter. The full text of the letter is available here.

The bill treats pre-born babies as “worth less than those who have the gift of being born,” the bishops said.

The law explicitly excludes any rights to unborn children, saying “(a) fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state.”

It allows abortion up until birth for any reason. Any pregnant individuals have “a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion.”

The bishops’ letter said they tried to speak with lawmakers who voted for the abortion bill to ensure that they understand Catholic teaching. Few lawmakers accepted an invitation to meet.

“We pray that this letter and our request to refrain from receiving Jesus in the Eucharist spurs sincere reflection and conversion in the hearts of those who have participated in allowing this grave act of injustice to become law,” said the bishops.

The bishops thanked the four Catholic lawmakers who voted against the bill.

Colorado already did little to restrict abortion before the new law was signed. It was the first state to legalize abortion, in 1967, and it is one of a handful of states in the country where abortions can take place up until birth. Each year 200-300 babies are aborted after 21 weeks gestation in the state, including many with Down syndrome.

Colorado voters in 2020 rejected a ballot measure that would have banned abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases where a mother's life is threatened. The pro-life campaign was heavily outspent by abortion backers.

The impetus for the new law, according to its Democratic sponsors, is the Supreme Court decision in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which may overturn Roe v. Wade later this year.

The Colorado Catholic Conference warned that RHEA could effectively remove a 2003 requirement that parents of a minor seeking abortion be notified 48 hours before the procedure.

The bill progressed rapidly through the legislature. It was introduced March 3. It passed along party lines in the House March 14, and in the Senate March 23.

In his signing statement, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said “This important bill simply codifies existing protections in statute. The bill does not make any changes to the current legal framework for parental notification that exists in state law … The bill simply maintains this status quo regardless of what happens at the federal level and preserves all existing constitutional rights and obligations.”

Shortly after the signing ceremony, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver tweeted, “Jesus forgive us! Tragic day for Colorado with signing of HB22-1279 unrestricted abortion up to birth with zero rights for the unborn. A triumph for the culture of death & further erosion of the dignity of human life. We will continue to pray for the conversion of hearts.”