Voters, Meet The GOP’s Anti-Abortion Agenda. And Don’t Forget

Neil Gorsuch and ex-Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)

Religious-right conservatives who wield tremendous power in the Colorado Republican Party’s base coalition have pursued an agenda of totally banning abortion for many years, making the practice of abortion a felony outright as well as attempting to impose time limits and other medically superfluous restrictions, through both legislative means as well as statewide ballot initiatives. A succession of ballot measures declaring “Personhood” at the moment of fertilization were resoundingly defeated by Colorado voters in several elections, followed by the most recent attempt in 2020 to limit abortion to the first 22 weeks of pregnancy that failed with nearly 60% of voters opposed.

While Colorado voters and lawmakers have fought off perennial assaults on abortion rights for as long as we’ve been writing this blog, nationally abortion rights have been starkly eroded in recent years with the passage of literally hundreds of abortion restriction laws in state legislatures across the country. At the same time, the historic shift on the U.S. Supreme Court to a 6-3 conservative majority under Donald Trump and (especially) Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened the door to a successful challenge to Roe v. Wade. Cory Gardner, who helped Republicans win back the U.S. Senate in 2014 by defeating Colorado’s Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, was instrumental in the process of reshaping the Court into body that would overturn Roe.

In 2014, voters were assured by the Denver Post’s editorial board that Gardner’s election would “pose no threat to abortion rights.” For years afterward, even as the Supreme Court’s march to the right was well underway, the GOP’s perennial anti-abortion slate of bills’ death in the Democratic-controlled Colorado General Assembly barely received any attention from the local media. But this year, with the nationwide threat to abortion rights finally apparent to everyone, that wasn’t the case:

The front page of the Denver Post was understandably dominated by headlines about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but for the first time we can remember the GOP’s anti-abortion bills actually led local coverage at the Post today. Reporter Nick Coltrain:

Two of the Republican proposals would have criminalized abortion outright in the state. [Pols emphasis] The third would have coerced doctors into reporting to the state more information about patients who end their pregnancies to better understand the reason for the procedure, which opponents fought as invasive and intimidating to patients.

The Colorado debates happened as Democratic leadership prepares a bill to enshrine the right to abortion in state law in case the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its prior decisions that enumerated the right. The court is Nationally, legislatures in several Republican-led states have either recently enacted or are considering new restrictions on abortion access…

In Colorado, the proposed bills followed an annual ritual at the Capitol when it comes to abortion restriction, with hours of testimony that was at times emotional, impassioned and sinister before falling to almost predetermined, party-line outcomes. Democrats hold a 17-seat advantage in the House, and a 7-4 advantage in the committees that determine if a bill makes it to the full House.

And yes, it’s true–blanket abortion ban “message bills” are introduced and killed by majority Democrats every single year. What’s different this year is that in addition to abortion rights being in mortal danger at the federal level, local Republicans are running hard to capitalize on what they hope will be the most favorable political environment for their party in several election cycles at least. What happens if Republicans actually do take back control of the state government in Colorado like they promise? That’s why Democrats are responding this year with legislation of their own to formalize abortion rights in statute ahead of whatever the Supreme Court does this summer.

We’ve said it over and over, and it remains true: Colorado is one election away from the unthinkable.

In addition to the Denver Post’s coverage, Marianne Goodland at the Colorado Springs Gazette’s political blog has solid and un-paywalled coverage focused on debate over the insidious but equally notable “abortion surveillance” bill that also died yesterday in the same committee hearing. Meanwhile Heidi Beedle, newly of the Colorado Times Recorder after working at the Colorado Springs Independent, offered an unsanitized glimpse at the antics:

Speakers compared abortion to the Holocaust, and to slavery, while quoting misinformation about Margaret Sanger and Black abortion rates. They spoke in support of forcing women to continue pregnancies conceived through rape to term, and one woman was chastised by Lontine for attempting to show the committee a blown-up image of her lost 21-week old fetus.

“Tonight was truly disgusting,” said [Rep. Kyle] Mullica, who took particular exception at speakers who suggested women not have access to abortion after being raped. “I’m disgusted at the thought of that.”

And the bottom line from Rep. Susan Lontine:

“With the Supreme Court likely to strike down Roe v. Wade, it’s more important than ever that we defeat these extreme Republican bills that would ban abortion in Colorado,” said Lontine in a news release. “Coloradans have said time and time again that we trust women to make their own decisions and we don’t want to imprison doctors or ban abortion. We won’t let Republican politicians take us back to a time when women died while trying to seek the care they need.”

In 2014, Gardner was able to ride complacency on reproductive rights to a narrow win in a state that has been trending toward Democrats in statewide elections. That’s never going to happen again. Like even Republican talk-radio shock jock George Brauchler says on the issue, “people are going to want answers.” And those answers will inform votes.

If the past is any guide, getting what they’ve always wanted on abortion could spell doom for Republicans in places like Colorado. This is an issue proven to turn out more supporters of abortion rights in Colorado than opponents–and smart Republicans in Colorado thinking long-term should be very worried about “victory” over Roe actually means for them.

4 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. 2Jung2Die says:

    Expect to vote on it directly in November too, with citizen initiatives already drafted for the ballot, and the same people who signed petitions in the past will make it easy to get enough signatures again.

  2. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Kristi Burton Brown continues to be a leader in Colorado's version of Amerika's Bedroom Police.

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