“And contrary to Udall’s tedious refrain, Gardner’s election would pose no threat to abortion rights.”
– The editorial board of The Denver Post (Oct. 10, 2014)
You can argue, as many politicos have, that Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall lost the 2014 election for U.S. Senate in Colorado because his campaign against Republican Cory Gardner was too focused on the issue of abortion. Such an argument would not be without merit; Udall’s campaign may, in fact, have spent too much time and money (and ad space) on the idea that Gardner’s election would be a significant threat to women’s rights in Colorado and across the country.
But as we saw today with the implementation in Texas of the most comprehensive abortion restriction in the country, Udall and his supporters were not wrong to be concerned about what might come next if Gardner and Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate. As it turns out, the threat to abortion rights was very real indeed. So real, in fact, that you can draw a direct line between the Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate in 2014 and the new law in Texas that went into effect today.
As Molly Jong-Fast explains for The Daily Beast:
As of today, SB8, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law, bans abortions at six weeks, with no exception for rape or incest, while targeting anyone who “aids or abets” another person’s abortion. The idea is to make anyone who helps a woman get an abortion a legal target, even her Uber driver, with any citizen able to collect a bounty on abortion providers…
…The Supreme Court’s own precedents have barred states from banning abortion before about 22 weeks, when a fetus could be viable outside of the womb. Letting a six-week law stand is a sign that things have changed, dramatically, with the court’s new 6-3 conservative majority.
There’s a lot of legal posturing here, as Republicans made their insane new law complicated by design in the hopes of sneaking it through—to the point that abortion providers had to turn to the Supreme Court, with its new majority just itching to do away with Roe, as their last best hope. And on Tuesday night, the Supreme Court did nothing, and thus let SB8 stand for now, with an emergency request to block the now-in-effect rule still pending.
The Texas law, which for all practical purposes amounts to a total abortion ban, is not even that popular IN TEXAS. But it passed because Texas has a Republican-led legislature, and it will now be implemented because the U.S. Supreme Court gave its tacit approval when it declined to offer an opinion on the matter. For this to happen, the Supreme Court needed to be overseen by a majority of justices who are fundamentally supportive of strict abortion bans.
The 2014 election gave Republicans control of the U.S. Senate, which allowed then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to refuse to even CONSIDER President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
Then came the Nuclear Option, followed by Neil Gorsuch and later Brett Kavanaugh. And, finally, Amy Coney Barrett. Gardner supported McConnell’s stonewalling of Garland in 2016, but had no such concerns about nominating a new Supreme Court justice at the tail end of a Republican term in the White House. Gardner lost his own re-election bid in November 2020 to Democrat John Hickenlooper, but the damage had already been done.
Lo and behold, elections DID matter.
As recently as the 2020 election cycle, media outlets were still allowing Republicans to insist that Roe v. Wade was perfectly safe, despite whatever they regularly told their right-wing base. But in April of this year, many of those same Republicans — including several from Colorado — began to speak out more plainly in support of overturning Roe v. Wade. Later this year, the Supreme Court will consider the legality of a stringent abortion ban in the state of Mississippi. As The Washington Post notes, “Antiabortion activists have urged the court to use that case to overturn the 1973 Roe decision.”
Could this happen in Colorado? You betcha it could. Here’s Colorado Republican Party Chairperson Kristi Burton Brown — who previously failed at multiple attempts to enact a “personhood” measure in Colorado — celebrating the new law in Texas:
Polling shows that more than 70% of Coloradans support a woman’s right to choose (see below), but public opinion won’t mean squat if Republicans are able to wrestle control from Democrats in future elections. Republican leaders in Colorado want to end access to reproductive rights for women, and they’ll do just that if given the opportunity.
The threat to reproductive rights was always real…and now we’re here.