BREAKING: Personhood activists launch municipal abortion-ban initiative in CO Springs

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Abortion-RightsIn a move that could make the complex life of being a Republican even more complicated, Personhood USA has announced plans to place an abortion-ban measure on the ballot in Colorado Springs, where a domestic terrorist killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic at the end of last year.

“The people who reached out to us in Colorado Springs don’t want any violence, including abortion, there,” Personhood USA spokeswoman Jennifer Mason told me, adding, as I wrote in an RH Reality Check post this morning, that the campaign was planned before the shooting occurred.

Planned Parenthood’s announcement that it will re-open the clinic next week “confirmed” the decision to undertake the initiative, which will mirror (at the municipal level) one of Colorado’s three failed state-wide measures that would have banned all abotion, even for rape, Mason said.

Personhood organizers are just beginning the legal process and paperwork required to place the initiative on the ballot, but they expect to have it completed within the next two months, Mason said.

So it’s not clear when the measure will appear on the ballot, if at all, but the signature-gathering effort alone will likely further push choice issues into election campaigns–sparking competition among Republicans competing for anti-choice primary voters and helping to define Republican and Democratic candidates up and down the ballot in November.

Could the measure push GOP turnout in Colorado Springs, a hotbed of evangelical churches? I have no idea, to be honest, but you have to think the electoral downsides of the latest personhood campaign, taking place in the wake of a massacre that taints the anti-choice cause, will hurt Republicans in the end on Election Day.

Planned Parenthood Colorado Springs To Reopen, Finally

Alleged domestic terrorist Robert Dear. Photo via CSPD

Alleged domestic terrorist Robert Dear. Photo via CSPD

A press release today from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains announces that the organization’s clinic in Colorado Springs, which was the target of a domestic terror attack last November by a self-proclaimed “warrior for the babies,” will reopen later this month:

The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood health center will once again offer the full range of sexual and reproductive health services beginning on February 15th. The health center will provide services in a portion of the building while construction and repair work continues, and with limited space and schedule.

“On February 15th we will open the doors to serve our community just as we have done for generations. We are in awe of our healing and resilient colleagues in Colorado Springs. They are eager to get back to the mission they so deeply care about and the people they so compassionately care for. We welcome our team and our community back into the space with open arms and full hearts.”

The safety of patients and staff is our top priority. Planned Parenthood has in place strong and increased security measures to ensure that this health center — and all of Planned Parenthood buildings — are safe, supportive, welcoming environments for all people to get the high-­‐quality health care and education they need.

“We stand, stronger than ever, for the belief that every person in this community, this country, and around the world deserves access to reproductive health care without fear of harassment or violence. We promised in those first days after the tragedy to repair and reopen in Colorado Springs as soon as possible and we are making good on that promise.”

As the Colorado Springs Independent reported late last month, the city has been without the abortion services provided by this clinic since the attack in November, forcing patients looking for these services to drive long distances. Other medical services provided by Planned Parenthood, which in fact account for the overwhelming majority of services delivered, were picked up by other health providers in the area but not without delays and inconvenience for existing patients.

Nobody on either side wants to admit it, but the plain goal of accused murderer Robert Dear was to shut down the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs–and he succeeded with his actions in doing just that for two and a half months. When you consider this in the context of GOP Rep. JoAnn Windholz’s explicit blaming of Planned Parenthood for the attack on its own clinic, the campaign against Planned Parenthood over the past year based on heavily edited undercover videos, and laws passed in other states and proposed annually in Colorado that would regulate most abortion clinics out of existence, a disturbing reality comes into focus.

By fiat or by violence, shutting down Planned Parenthood is the common goal.

And it can happen here. It did happen here.

DeGette To House GOP: End Planned Parenthood Witch Hunts

Rep. Diana DeGette (D).

Rep. Diana DeGette (D).

As the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports:

Five members of Congress, including Denver Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette, are calling on their Republican colleagues to end the investigations into Planned Parenthood.

The request comes in the wake of a grand jury indictment in Texas against David Daleiden and Sandra S. Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress, the producers of heavily-edited and widely-discredited videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials engaging in the illegal sale of fetal tissue.

Daleiden and Merritt were indicted last week by a grand jury in Houston, which had been asked by the Texas Lieutenant Governor to investigate the Center for Medical Progress videos. The grand jury found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, but did indict Daleiden and Merritt for presenting fake driver’s licenses, a felony in Texas, and attempting to purchase human organs, a misdemeanor…

More from Rep. Diana DeGette’s statement:

Today, Pro-Choice Caucus co-chairs, Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) led over 120 of their Democratic colleagues and called for an end to ongoing, politically-motivated House and Senate investigations into Planned Parenthood, in light of the many independent state investigations across the country that have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.

The Pro-Choice Caucus co-chairs joined their colleagues in both chambers on a letter to Republicans calling for an end to partisan investigations of Planned Parenthood in the House and Senate, following the Texas grand jury’s decision last week to exonerate Planned Parenthood and indict the creators of the highly fabricated, deceptive undercover videos designed to discredit Planned Parenthood and undermine women’s access to health care on federal charges.

In their letter to Republicans, they wrote: “Our country faces serious challenges when it comes to issues like supporting working families, creating good jobs, and boosting wages. The families and communities we represent rightly want us focused on efforts like these—not political attempts to undermine women’s access to health care and investigate their personal health care decisions. We urge you to listen to them.”

Will House Republicans listen? In all likelihood not. But following the indictment of the prime conspirators in the undercover video campaign against Planned Parenthood by a Houston grand jury, this latest assault on the organization has come full circle. In the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing by the organization after numerous investigations by Congress and local officials, there’s nothing left to this story but pandering to anti-abortion activists who need no urging.

Combine that with the domestic terror attack here in Colorado on a Planned Parenthood clinic, carried out by a man determined to stop the fictitious sale of “baby parts,” and DeGette has more than just cause to ask for these witch hunts to stop.

She has an obligation.

PolitiFact Colorado Debuts With Devastating Coffman Refudiation

mostlytrueWe’ve been anticipating the first story from the new collaboration between Denver’s ABC affiliate 7NEWS and the Pulitzer Prize winning fact-checking resource PolitiFact operated by the Tampa Bay Times. Last night, Politifact Colorado debuted with its first fact check of 2016, and it’s a doozy: powerfully validating a key attack on Rep. Mike Coffman from women’s advocacy group EMILY’s List:

Emily’s List is stoking the abortion debate in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District race with a fundraising email saying Republican incumbent Mike Coffman “co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape.”

Emily’s List — a political organization that supports the election of Democratic women who support abortion rights — has endorsed Coffman’s opponent, state Sen. Morgan Carroll, an Aurora Democrat. Its mailer focused on reproductive rights, abortion and Roe v. Wade…

We wanted to check the accuracy of Emily’s List’s characterization of Coffman’s role in the legislation.

Coffman did co-sponsor the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act, which attempted to redefine a ban on federal funding for abortions to exempt “forcible rape” — and not rape in broader terms…

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

7NEWS’ Alan Gathright, a veteran political reporter going back to the storied days of the Rocky Mountain News, correctly notes that Republicans did amend the bill under intense fire from, well, everyone with a conscience–but being amended by voice vote, there’s no record of Coffman’s agreement or lack thereof with the change.

And the bottom line: he was a co-sponsor of the original “forcible rape” language.

Emily’s List said that Coffman “co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape.”

The record shows Coffman did co-sponsor the bill to redefine a ban on federal funding for abortions to exempt “forcible rape.” [Pols emphasis]

It’s important to recognize just how hard Coffman has pushed back on criticism of his record on abortion. In April of 2014, Coffman’s campaign successfully prevailed on Denver Post political news editor Chuck Plunkett to remove a story about Coffman’s abortion record that had already been published, claiming that the story “shouldn’t have run.” The story acknowledged Coffman’s shifting stand on abortion, but uncomfortably provided fresh coverage of what had been Coffman’s longstanding position–that is, no abortions, and no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Much like now-Sen. Cory Gardner’s audacious deceptions on the issue in 2014, the response to any examination in the media of Coffman’s abortion record is feigned exasperation in public and aggressive bullying in private.

Well folks, it’s possible that in the new PolitiFact Colorado, we have an outlet that won’t be bullied. We’ll need to see more fact-checks like this one to be sure, but that would be a welcome–and sorely needed–development in Colorado politics.

Expect Gardner to co-sponsor Life at Conception Act soon

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner spent a good chunk of his election campaign telling us that the Life at Conception Act was really nothing more than a symbolic statement, when, in fact, it is federal personhood legislation that would ban all abortion, even for rape.

Gardner infamously described the Life at Conception Act, which he co-sponsored, this way, despite widespread objections by reporters:

Gardner: “The federal act that you are referring to is simply a statement that I believe in life.”

So you’d expect him to co-sponsor the U.S. Senate version of the bill, as he did in the House.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has just given him the chance, having introduced the Life at Conception Act just this week, as announced in a news release that described the legislation this way:

Paul: “The Life at Conception Act legislatively declares what most Americans believe and what science has long known – that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore, is entitled to legal protection from that point forward. Only when America chooses, remembers, and restores her respect for life will we rediscover our moral bearings and truly find our way.”

But Gardner isn’t a co-sponsor yet.

JoAnn Windholz: No Apologies. Dems: Good.

GOP Rep. JoAnn Windholz (center).

GOP Rep. JoAnn Windholz (center).

Yesterday, supporters of Planned Parenthood delivered a petition signed by over 60,000 people across the nation calling for GOP Rep. JoAnn Windholz to resign over her comments blaming the organization for the attack on its clinic in Colorado Springs last November. As the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports:

The group organizing a recall against state Rep. JoAnn Windholz told The Colorado Independent today they plan to drop their effort.

Instead they will focus on keeping Windholz’s name and remarks blaming Planned Parenthood for the shooting at its Colorado Springs clinic in front of her district’s voters between now and Election Day, said organizer Steve Cohn…

About a dozen members of the recall group came to the state Capitol today, asking that Windholz resign. They brought with them more than 63,000 signatures from an online petition that also asked Windholz to step down. According to Chris Burley of Denver, senior campaign manager for Care2, an online petition service, about 2,000 of those signatures came from Coloradans.

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch got a response from Windholz:

“I never once blamed the victims and as a supporter of life I am deeply saddened by the loss of any life,” Windholz said in a statement. “I will continue to support life and the values of my constituents.” [Pols emphasis]

Three days after a five-hour standoff left three dead and nine wounded, Windholz, a Republican from Commerce City, posted on her Facebook page comments critical of Planned Parenthood’s abortion services, saying: “The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves.” The post has been removed.

In the aftermath of Windholz’s statements about the Planned Parenthood terror attack in Colorado Springs, Democrats were obviously excited about the opportunity this created in one of the most narrowly-won GOP House victories of 2014. Windholz has always been unapologetically pro-life, but blaming Planned Parenthood for the violence committed against the organization makes that much harder for swing voters to ignore. Where it might have been overlooked previously, now strident anti-abortion politics is a central part of Windholz’s brand–in a politically competitive district ill-suited for it.

With that in mind, the last thing Democrats should want is for Windholz to be forced to resign, allowing her to be replaced by a less-damaged candidate. With Windholz standing by her words, and local Republicans standing behind her, the best place for Windholz from a Democrat’s point of view is right where she is.

As Napoleon said, never interrupt your opponent when they are making a mistake.

One of These Two News Reports Is Wrong

roevwadeAn unusual conflict arose in news reports over an incident Friday on the floor of the Colorado House. As the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports, House Democrats paused to observe the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion rights:

Roughly two dozen Colorado House Democrats took to the floor to recognize the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision.

Other House Democrats stood in silence while their collegues touted the importance of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the nation.

Colorado Republicans, however, would have nothing of it. More than half of the GOP House members walked off the floor, several expressing disgust at the Democrats’ comments. [Pols emphasis]

Oddly, the Denver Post’s Joey Bunch filed a very different report from the same scene:

House Democrats gathered in the speaker’s well to memorialize the 43rd anniversary of Roe. v. Wade, which could have prompted a backlash of hot words from Republican abortion opponents.

Republicans, however, wouldn’t take the bait on an issue Democrats hope to use against them in this year’s state and national elections. [Pols emphasis] An Associated Press-Gfk poll last month showed support for abortion rights at a two-year high in the wake of a mass shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic.

Most of the House Republicans meandered out of the chamber for a few minutes, then returned when a proclamation honoring the Denver Broncos was read. Those who left said it was not an organized walkout…

As you can see, two reporters have characterized the same incident in starkly different terms: Goodland describes Republican actions as “storming out” of the House chamber with much anger, where Bunch seems very much interested in downplaying any emotion–to the point of praising them for “not taking the bait.”

So what really happened here? Well, our sources tell us the scene was far closer to Goodland’s description than Joey Bunch’s. In response to the conflict between their reports, Goodland clarified in a Facebook comment Saturday morning:

I was sitting on the Republican side of the House when the Democrats began their Roe v. Wade comments. I saw one lawmaker (Windholz) bow her head as if in prayer. She then shook her head several times and then got up and left the floor. I heard another lawmaker call the Dems’ remarks “disgusting.” By the time the Dems had finished their comments, most of the House Republicans were outside the chamber. They returned to pass a joint resolution on the Broncos.

Bottom line, I stand by what I wrote. I was the only reporter on the Republican side of the House to see what was going on. [Pols emphasis]

Given the corroboration we’ve heard, and what we already know of the players involved, we have little choice but to validate Goodland’s version of this story over Joey Bunch’s. And if that’s right, Bunch’s editorializing on what transpired is not just inappropriate for a news story, it appears to be factually incorrect–depicting the opposite of what actually occurred.

All we can say is, thank goodness there was more than one reporter there.

The Agenda: Government Small Enough To Fit In Your Uterus

komen-planned-parenthood4-1The AP’s Kristen Wyatt has a great story up today on this year’s widely-anticipated battles in the Colorado legislature over–wait for it–abortion politics. After Cory Gardner successfully gummed this issue to death in 2014, it’s an issue that many Democrats are fatigued at the prospect of having to argue yet again.

Unfortunately, Republicans are fresh off a year of strident agitation on the issue, powered by the release of heavily edited undercover videos that falsely allege the organization “sold” fetal tissue samples used in medical research. The gap between perception and reality on this issue between the pro- and anti-choice factions has probably never been wider than it is today, and the rhetoric from anti-abortion activists in recent months is a major factor in incidents of violence like the domestic terror attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs last November.

Conflict-weary Democrats, there will be no relief in 2016:

In the U.S. Senate race, Tim Neville, a Republican state senator from Littleton, kicked off his campaign against Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet by talking about abortion politics.

“When an organization like Planned Parenthood ignores the law, kills the unborn, sells their body parts for profit and we have both parties that can’t even come together to end this tragedy, we have an issue with leadership,” Neville told supporters, referencing videos taken by anti-abortion activists they said showed Planned Parenthood personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs…

The state’s senior senator won his last contest in large part because of reproductive rights. Bennet faced a conservative Tea Party favorite in 2010, one who appeared to be winning in polls until Democrats pounded him for supporting ballot measures to ban abortion by defining fertilized embryos as people, a concept described as “personhood.”

Bennet’s victory ensured that Democrats for the next five years would try tying Republicans to the “personhood” movement. The focus on reproductive rights grew so intense that during the 2014 Senate campaign, reporters and Republicans derisively dubbed former Sen. Mark Udall “Mark Uterus.” Udall was defeated for a second term by Republican Cory Gardner, who once supported a “personhood” measure but convincingly told the public he’d changed his mind.

The Udall defeat was seen by many as the last time Colorado Democrats would focus so heavily on reproductive rights. But events have dictated otherwise. [Pols emphasis]

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

As we have written about at length in this space, the 2014 defeat of incumbent Sen. Mark Udall by Republican Cory Gardner left local Democrats extremely wary of using the choice issue as an electoral wedge. The rationale for this tends to boil down to criticism of Udall’s dour and negative message, which focused heavily on Gardner’s dishonesty on abortion without articulating his own positive case for re-election.

But that ignores something very important: Gardner’s successful and very forceful case that Republicans were “no threat to abortion rights.” Gardner’s after-the-fact disavowal of the “Personhood” abortion bans he had previously supported was used as cover for his continuing support for functionally equivalent abortion bans at the federal level. Longtime abortion opponent Rep. Mike Coffman used Planned Parenthood’s logo in an ad. Aware of the danger, the entire Republican media establishment from national pundits to local surrogates backed Gardner’s new image against all common sense–and became unlikely promoters of their party’s supposed “inability” to curtail abortion rights.

In only a year, this fiction has been completely undone by events. As it turned out, national anti-choice activists had no intention of slowing their campaign to ban abortion, and used the undercover videos attacking Planned Parenthood to ramp the anger on the religious right back up to a fever pitch. Sen. Cory Gardner’s inevitable votes against abortion within weeks of taking office could’t be spun. In 2016 just like last year, Republicans in the Colorado legislature have a long list of anti-abortion bills planned, starting with a bill to make abortion a felony “beginning at conception.”

For years, the Colorado GOP’s obsession with restricting abortion rights was a major political problem, with the cost measurable in punishing electoral defeats in 2008, 2010, and 2012. Gardner’s deceptive victory in 2014 might have changed the game in the long term, leaving Democrats unwilling to confront Republicans for fear of being pigeonholed in reverse by denial and feigned exasperation.

But today, 2014 looks like the exception–and Gardner has lulled the GOP into a very dangerous false security.

Women’s Media Center Slams Denver Post on Choice Coverage

UPDATE: The Colorado Independent’s Kyle Harris bro-ports:

In The Denver Post, 38 percent of the bylines of stories about reproductive issues were from women, while 53 percent were from men. Regarding sources, The Denver Post ranked second to last of the outlets examined: 28 percent of the sources speaking about reproductivee issues were women, 52 percent were men, 13 percent were attributed to organizations, and the rest were unknown.

The only publication with fewer women quoted about reproductive issues was The Wall Street Journal.

The irony is not lost on The Colorado Independent that the reporter of this story identifies as male.

—–

Denver Post Political Editor Chuck Plunkett.

Denver Post Political Editor Chuck Plunkett.

A release from the Women’s Media Center today calls attention to an obvious problem in mainstream media coverage of women’s reproductive choice issues–or at least it should be obvious, though we suspect it won’t be to some even after reading:

“When it comes to stories about abortion and contraception, women’s voices are systematically stifled – as writers and as sources,” said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center. Burton noted, “In articles about elections and reproductive issues, men’s voices prevail, especially in coverage of presidential campaigns, with male reporters telling 67 percent of all presidential election stories related to abortion and contraception.”

The gender of the reporter appears to affect whom they choose to quote and how they cover the story. WMC’s research shows that female journalists quote women more often than their male counterparts, while quotes from male sources predominate in articles written by men. Gloria Steinem, co-founder of the Women’s Media Center noted, “Since women play a greater role in reproduction, it would make sense for women to be the majority of the sources and authorities in its coverage.”

WMC research shows male voices dominate reproductive issues coverage as journalists and as sources. Female journalists wrote just 37 percent of articles about reproductive issues while their male counterparts penned 52 percent. Another 11 percent did not have bylines. Quotes from men account for 41 percent of all quotes in articles about reproductive issues while quotes from women account for just 33 percent.

“The American public — and especially women — deserve accurate, informed and experienced media coverage on reproductive health, state and federal legislation, abortion and contraception,” said Gloria Steinem. “This research is offered in the hope of increasing public information about reproductive justice — which means the right to have or not to have children — as a basic human right.”

The study looked at the authorship and use of sources in articles about reproductive issues in American politics at a number of leading daily newspapers around the nation. Colorado’s newspaper of record The Denver Post scored very low among those examined for both. Only 38% of stories in the Post on reproductive issues were authored by women while 53% were authored by men (the remainder had no byline at all). In terms of at least quoting women in stories about women’s reproductive issues, which you would think would be a priority, the Post did even worse: only 28% of such stories uses women sources. The only paper surveyed that did worse in this regard was the arch-conservative Wall Street Journal.

As we’ve discussed at length in this space, politically skewed coverage of abortion politics in local mainstream media has had a number of negative effects in recent years. These effects include Cory Gardner’s deceptive 2014 election victory, and an obfuscation of the clear connection between extreme anti-abortion rhetoric from Republican politicians and acts of violence like the domestic terror attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. When we make this assertion, it is frequently attacked as sour grapes in belated defense of the losing Democratic incumbent in 2014, Sen. Mark Udall.

Well folks, here’s evidence that it’s more than “sour grapes.” Here is evidence of a very real problem.

Emily’s List Endorses Meg Froelich for Colorado House

MEDIA RELEASE

Date 1/20/15

Contact: Meg Froelich, (720)570-6337 [email protected]

Kulsoom Jafri, (202)419-1056, [email protected]

 

 

EMILY’s List Endorses Meg Froelich for Colorado House District 3

Three million member group to lend communications and financial support

 

 

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, COLO. – Longtime Arapahoe County leader Meg Froelich was endorsed today by EMILY’s List in her campaign for Colorado House District 3 including Cherry Hills, Englewood, Greenwood Village and Sheridan. EMILY’s List is the nation’s largest resource for women in politics.

 

Meg Froelich has proven that she will be a strong advocate and strategic leader for the district through her work as Greenwood City councilwoman and NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado board member and interim executive director,” said Lucinda Guinn, EMILY’s List Vice President of Campaigns. “The EMILY’s List community is delighted to devote our resources to elect Meg, a strong supporter of gender equality, women’s reproductive rights, and health care for all.”

 

EMILY’s List works to elect pro-choice Democratic women to national, state and local office so families in Colorado and across the nation can benefit from the open-minded, productive contributions that women have consistently made in office. EMILY’s List began in 1985 and elected Barbara Mikulski in 1986 as the first woman US Senator in her own right. With three million members, the organization has helped elect more than 800 women to elected office.

 

“I’ve lived, worked, and raised kids in Arapahoe County for many years, and I’ve seen the struggles and needs of the families here, especially working women. As a longtime advocate for equal pay for equal work, paid sick leave and reproductive rights, I’m honored to have the support of EMILY’s List in my race for House District 3,” said candidate Meg Froelich. “These are woman’s issues and family issues – core values of fairness and opportunity we share as Coloradans. We need an economy that works for everyone, including a diverse district like this one. And as the representative for the families in HD3, I will fight to make that happen.”

 

 

# # #

Top 10 Stories of 2015 #3: The Rise of Tim Neville

Could this be the makeup of Colorado's U.S. Senate delegation in 2016?

Sen. Cory Gardner (left) poses with state Sen. Tim Neville. Could this be the makeup of Colorado’s U.S. Senate delegation in 2016?

With the right algorithm, you can calculate almost anything correctly. Using the correct combination of data and logic, a statistical junkie can crunch numbers to make fairly-accurate predictions and analysis about everything from NFL games to business profits and losses.

Politics is different. You can gather all the data you want about politics, but it’s much more difficult to account for the power of perception. Power perceived is power achieved, which is a nice way to sum up one of the biggest political stories of 2015: The Rise of Tim Neville.

Neville served one year in the State Senate in 2012 (he was appointed by a vacancy committee) before reapportionment left him a legislator without a district. In 2014, Neville ran for Senate in SD-16, defeating Democratic incumbent Jeanne Nicholson in one of the most competitive races of the cycle – and helping Republicans capture a one-seat majority in the State Senate.

When the 2015 legislative session convened, Neville wielded the gavel as the Chair of both the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Technology Committee, but he was not selected by his caucus to an official leadership position. Neville lacked the seniority to earn one of the top six positions in the Senate caucus (President, President Pro Tempore, Majority Leader, Assistant Majority Leader, Majority Caucus Chair, and Majority Whip), but that didn’t prevent him from taking control.

By the time the 2015 session came to an end, Neville still didn’t have a cool leadership title – but he had something better. Neville had become the true leader of the Republican caucus, in both chambers, and he had the juice to force Senate President Bill Cadman to grant a late-bill exception for a politically dubious piece of legislation requiring ultrasounds for women considering an abortion. As we wrote in this space in late April, Tim Neville is the Real Senate President:

Neville has emerged as the most prominent Republican of the 2015 legislative session, leading the charge on the controversial anti-vaxxer “Parent’s Bill of Rights,” among other lost causes. The Neville Nutters have been positioning themselves as something of a political “dynasty” in recent years, including Tim’s sons, Rep. Patrick Neville, and Joe Neville, a top lobbyist for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (whose Executive Director, Dudley Brown, thinks he owns the Senate); as well as sister-in-law Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board. It’s probably not a coincidence that all of the sponsors of SB-285 are also known backers of RMGO.

Senate President Bill Cadman does the bidding of state Sen. Tim Neville.

Senate President Bill Cadman does the bidding of state Sen. Tim Neville.

Thanks in part to his uncompromising right-wing beliefs, no Republican lawmaker made more headlines in 2015 than Neville. Senate President Bill Cadman is term-limited in 2016, and if Republicans are able to keep control of the State Senate, we wouldn’t bet against Neville becoming Senate President in title as well as action.

That is, of course, unless Neville finds himself in a different Senate body next January.

When Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) announced in June that he would not run for U.S. Senate in 2016, we suggested in this space that Neville could be an interesting candidate for the Republican Senate nomination and the right to take on incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver):

We have no idea whatsoever if Neville has even contemplated a U.S. Senate campaign, but it’s not difficult to see how you could make an argument for him here. Neville received more publicity than any other Republican in the Colorado legislature this year, and he doesn’t have to worry about re-election until 2018. Neville has a good base of conservative support from the religious right and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), so he’s already well positioned to win a Republican Primary — and once you become the GOP nominee in a competitive state like Colorado, there’s always a chance that national groups take notice and decide to jump onboard. Look at this from Neville’s perspective…what’s the downside?

Lo and behold, by the end of the summer, Neville was moving confidently in the direction of the U.S. Senate at the same time “establishment” Republicans continued their frantic search for a candidate who matched up well against Bennet. While Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler was hemming and hawing about a potential Senate bid, Neville quietly announced a statewide “listening tour” to lay the groundwork for a U.S. Senate campaign of his own.

When Neville formally kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign in early January, he made it clear that he would be running as a right-wing Republican in right-wing Republican clothing, promising to focus his campaign on divisive issues such as abortion and gun rights. Neville can do this because he has spent years cultivating relationships with hard-right groups and individuals who share his zeal and ideals. He is a less bombastic version of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has risen to the top tier of Republican Presidential candidates because he so openly defies any attempt at bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate.

Neville has strong support from the religious right and hardline conservatives (including Tea Party enthusiasts), and he has the financial backing of prominent anti-abortion and gun rights organizations. That may not be enough to win a General Election against Bennet, but it’s more than enough to capture the Republican nomination in the June Primary. The field of GOP candidates for Senate is rapidly increasing (we’re up to eight, at last count), but none of those candidates can lay out a strategy for getting past Neville first.

It would be difficult to name another Colorado politician who had a better year in 2015 than Tim Neville. If all goes according to plan, it will be difficult to name somoene who had a better year in 2016, either.

Top 10 Stories of 2015 #4: Terror Attack at Planned Parenthood Clinic Rips Scab Off Abortion Politics

Alleged domestic terrorist Robert Dear. Photo via CSPD

Alleged domestic terrorist Robert Dear. Photo via CSPD

We wrote earlier in our 2015 top stories recap about Sen. Cory Gardner’s audacious flip-flop on abortion in the 2014 U.S. Senate election, and how the defense of Gardner by a large segment of Colorado’s political press and pundit corps was discredited in 2015 as Gardner repeatedly cast votes that made liars of his defenders. In Colorado politics as in Washington D.C., “mainstream” Republican abortion politics follow a predictable pattern of denial in election season, followed by an intense push to restrict abortion rights in off years.

2015 may be the last year this cycle is allowed to continue in Colorado.

After Gardner’s U.S. Senate victory in 2014, in which both his and by extension the GOP’s anti-abortion agenda was successfully downplayed, abortion figured centrally in Colorado politics in 2015. During the legislative session, Republican lawmakers once again introduced a bevy of anti-choice bills, from outright bans on abortion to the kinds of “regulations” that have had the effect of closing most abortion clinics in states like Texas. The summer-long release of heavily edited undercover videos from an anti-abortion group linked to Operation Rescue re-inflamed right-wing passions, and sent Republicans at every level of government in America into a fresh hyperbolic tizzy over the evils of the so-called “abortion industry.”

Anyone who actually believed the indignant downplaying of abortion in 2014 by Colorado Republicans could see in 2015’s contrived freakout stone-cold proof of the lie they were fed. But it was about to be cast in even sharper relief.

On November 27th of 2015, a man described as an ardently right-wing loner with a history of criminal trouble appeared at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and began shooting. Clinic workers quickly moved staff and patients behind locked doors. Responding police officers were shot, and an afternoon-long standoff ensued. Just before the 5PM newscasts began, Robert Dear surrendered to police just as they prepared to storm the clinic.

Robert Dear killed three people at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on November 27th, one police officer and two civilians. Five more police officers and four other civilians were shot but survived. During the standoff and immediately after Dear’s surrender, Republican lawmakers local and across the nation tried to disavow any connection between their politics and Dear’s killing spree—even claiming that Dear was a “transgendered leftist activist” based on a typographical error in his voter registration. Local Rep. Kit Roupe falsely claimed that Dear’s actions were “a failed bank robbery gone wild.”

roupebankrobberyWithin a few days, these denials of any connection between Dear and the extreme rhetoric against Planned Parenthood in recent months had completely fallen apart. Under questioning, Dear readily confessed to having targeted the clinic, claiming his motivation was “no more baby parts.” Dear announced at his arraignment hearing that he is a “warrior for the babies,” and proudly proclaimed his (lack of) guilt. Subsequent interviews with neighbors and associates made it clear that Dear was a radicalized right-wing domestic terrorist who knew exactly what he was doing and why.

Dear’s terror attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs threw the anti-abortion right wing that had previously been riding high on the strength of the undercover video campaign against the organization into chaos. While nobody should consider Republican anti-abortion rhetoric criminally responsible for Dear’s actions, the link between that rhetoric and Dear’s violence is undeniable. The claims in the undercover videos attacking Planned Parenthood have been thoroughly discredited with no acknowledgement from Republicans who spent most of 2015 demagoguing them. The extreme rhetoric used by Republicans to describe those misleading videos can easily be construed as incitement to violence.

But so far in 2016, the anti-Planned Parenthood crusade shows no signs of slowing—a potentially marked contrast to 2014, when Republicans sought to bury the issue through the election. Not even this terror attack on Planned Parenthood appears to have slowed the appetite among Colorado Republicans to attack abortion rights this year, even as their counterparts in Washington, D.C. nervously retrench. We expect to see the full range of anti-choice legislation, gratuitous “fact finding” hearings, and other public grandstands by Colorado Republicans to keep the abortion fight center stage through the 2016 elections.

If they keep to that course, the abortion issue could yet produce a greater electoral disaster for Colorado Republicans than anything that has come before. And in that event, the “triumph” of 2014’s campaign of deception on abortion will look like something else entirely.

Bill on tap to restrict fetal tissue research and give women burial option for fetus

(They just can’t help themselves – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In a article at the end of last year, Durango Herald reporter Peter Marcus reported that Colorado Republicans plan to continue introducing anti-abortion legislation during the upcoming legislative session, some of it specifically targeting Planned Parenthood. Marcus reported:

This year, some Republicans are discussing measures to curb Planned Parenthood’s financial resources – though it does not receive direct state funding – while also forcing an investigation. Republicans also want to impose restrictions on fetal-tissue research programs and require abortion providers to counsel women on cremation and burial options.

This legislative effort to “require abotion providers to counsel women on cremation and burial options” got my attention, as it appears to be a new appraoch here–though it’s been tried nationally.

It turns out that Americans United for Life, a national anti-abortion group that provides state legislators with model legislation, has a bill posted on its website with details on what such counseling might look like and whay it would be proposed.

Part of the reason for the bill, as you can read below at number 6, would be to stop fetal-tissue research.

..the purposes of this Act are to:

(1) Ensure that the mother of a deceased unborn infant is given the opportunity to bury or dispose of the bodily remains of her infant with
dignity and respect;
(2) Require institutions where deceased unborn infants are delivered or where unborn infants are aborted to provide a dignified final disposition of the
bodily remains of these infants;
(3) Require fetal death reports for all fetal deaths as defined in this Act;
(4) Ensure that parents of all stillborn infants are offered the opportunity to obtain a [Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth];
(5) Prohibit the sale, transfer, distribution, or other unlawful disposition of an
infant, an unborn infant, or bodily remains resulting from an abortion;
(6) Prohibit the use of bodily remains resulting from an abortion for experimentation; and
(7) Ensure that the bodily remains of an unborn infant resulting from an occurrence other than an abortion are not sold, transferred, or distributed for experimentation without the mother’s informed, written consent.

We don’t know whether Colorado’s bill, if one is introduced, will include all of this, but it appears state Republicans will continue their focus on stopping fetal-tissue research in Colorado.

Coffman Wants to Stop 2,200 Women from Going to the Planned Parenthood Clinic in his District

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Still from Rep. Mike Coffman's 2014 ad using Planned Parenthood's logo.

Still from Rep. Mike Coffman’s 2014 ad using Planned Parenthood’s logo.

Rep. Mike Coffman voted again Wednesday to defund Planned Parenthood, making it seven times that he’s voted to strip funding from the women’s health organization.

So you wonder, what does Coffman have to say to the 2,200 women who would no longer be able to go to the Aurora Planned Parenthood clinic if it loses federal money?

We don’t know, because his office won’t return my calls.

You hope Coffman has thought about this, because the clinic currently offers these 2,200 women basic healthcare services like HIV and STD tests, birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings and more, according to a Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado spokeswoman.

And that’s just the Aurora clinic, located in the womb of Coffman’s own district. Across Colorado, if the Aurora Republican has his way, about 80,000 women, men, and young people would lose access to Planned Parenthood health services they rely on if federal funding were lost, says Planned Parenthood in a news release yesterday.

“In his first vote of the year, Rep. Coffman voted to roll back care for millions of patients in this country who rely on compassionate care at Planned Parenthood’s health centers,” said Sarah Taylor-Nanista, PPVC Vice President of Public Affairs in a statement, referring to Coffman’s latest vote for a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, which was vetoed by Obama today. “We need our elected officials to put the health and well being of their constituents first, not sideline good policy for the sake of politics.”

Maybe Coffman has another option in mind for these low-income women on Medicaid and a federal cancer-screening program? Maybe some of them could find alternative to Planned Parenthood? But all of them? And where? How far would they have to travel?

In any case, what’s Coffman’s plan for these women in his district? What does he have to offer them? Or would he prefer to cover up the fact that they exist? Or does he just figure Obama will veto any bill that defunds Planned Parenthood, so Coffman doesn’t have to worry about real-life alternatives?

And will Coffman run his plans, if he has any, by the 2,200 women who now attend the Aurora Planned Parenthood clinic to see how they feel about it?

Coffman won’t tell me. But maybe he’ll take a call from another reporter.

NARAL report: national anti-choice groups targeting Colorado

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

prolifevsprochoiceNARAL Pro-Choice Colorado issued a report yesterday exposing the legislative influence in Colorado of two national anti-choice organizations, Americans United for Life (AUL) and Alliance Defending Freedom(ADF), as well as the state-wide network of “crisis pregnancy centers.”

During the last legislative session, five bills and one resolution were modeled on AUL draft legislation, and AUL staff testified at numerous committee hearings, according to the report, titled “Against Our Will: How National Anti-Choice Groups are Targeting the Pro-Choice Majority in Colorado.

None of these bills had much chance of becoming law, as pro-choice Democrats control the governor’s office and state house.

But two of the proposed laws generated serious media attention: a measure requiring women to have an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abotion and a “fetal personhood” bill giving legal rights to a fetus, potentially threatening abortion rights, and allowing prosecutors to bring murder charges if a fetus is destroyed during criminal acts.

These two bills  were co-sponsored by key Republicans in the state, including the leading GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, State Sen. Tim Neville, and Westminster State Sen., Laura Woods, whose race next year will likely determine control of the state senate.

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