UPDATE: After radio silence all morning, here’s the statement from Joe O’Dea on the overturning of Roe v. Wade:
I support nationwide limits on late term abortion and a massive effort to promote and expand adoption, but I don’t support a total ban early on in a pregnancy. I know social issues are important to many Americans, but my focus is stopping the policies from Joe Biden that have forced inflation, $5 gas, and a record debt on the American people.
Once again, O’Dea pitifully fails to meet the moment, and issued a statement more likely to upset both sides than appease either. O’Dea just committed to supporting nationwide abortion restrictions, which will be thoroughly toxic this fall, while leaving enough wiggle room so claim later (assuming O’Dea has a later) that he’s not completely anti-abortion.
Inadequate, untenable, and too late.
The announcement this morning by the U.S. Supreme Court of their decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case striking down the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteeing abortion rights, though expected after a draft of the decision was leaked in early May, has thrust this social wedge issue irrevocably to the forefront of American politics. In states like Colorado where abortion rights have been stoutly defended by voters and proven politically toxic to anti-abortion Republicans in the general election, this long-sought “victory” for conservatives could prove disastrous if Colorado’s battle-hardened pro-abortion majority turns out in massive numbers to punish Republicans at the ballot box for this once-unthinkable situation in November.
With the Republican primary elections in Colorado wrapping up next Tuesday, candidates who were hoping to squeak through the primary without toxifying themselves with general election voters just ran out of time. In the unexpectedly competitive U.S. Senate primary between Joe O’Dea and state Rep. Ron Hanks, O’Dea’s waffling on abortion rights compared to Hanks’ unequivocal opposition now stand out in sharp relief. In Colorado Public Radio’s profile of Hanks today, to the delight of anti-abortion voters he’s abundantly clear on the issue:
Rep. Hanks: I am pro-life, and frankly, that is a major decision point for the Republican party this year. I’m pro-life, my opponent is not. The issue has become a larger issue because of the alleged leak, or presumed leak, of the Alito draft to overturn Roe v. Wade. I don’t think it would have been as high of an issue on the chart had it not been for that, but we don’t get to pick the issues that we run on. My opponent says he doesn’t want to run on social issues. Well, here’s one, and we’re going to have to talk about it. I’m pro-life, he’s not. Life begins at conception, and the world, and the science and the medical advancements have made young babies viable — fetuses, if you prefer — viable at an ever-younger age.
For Republican primary voters, it’s an infinitely more satisfying answer than Joe O’Dea’s:
O’DEA: It’s a really complicated issue. It really is. I’m adopted, I’m Catholic, and personally, I am very pro-life. But at the same time I’ve grown up, all my life, thinking government doesn’t need to be involved in our lives. And so, I, right now, in my mind, I would not support overturning Roe v. Wade. I don’t believe that’s the right thing for Coloradans.
One of these viewpoints remains viable in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson, and the other has been left in the dustbin of history. O’Dea has struggled with the issue of abortion throughout this campaign, attempting to thread a needle that kept him electable with the Republican base while not exposing himself overly to the wrath of pro-choice voters in November. We know O’Dea hates that Colorado codified Roe in statute, and calls himself “personally very pro-life.” Now that the Supreme Court has ripped away O’Dea’s safety blanket by overturning Roe, it’s necessary for O’Dea to articulate a coherent policy on abortion.
And folks, that’s the last thing Joe O’Dea wanted to do before next Tuesday.
On the other hand, the overturning of Roe v. Wade is a triumphant moment for anti-abortion politicos like Rep. Hanks and Colorado Republican Party chair Kristi Burton Brown. Brown was the face and lead organizer of the statewide “Personhood” abortion ban ballot measures that were eviscerated by Colorado voters and helped Republicans lose multiple elections. No matter what happens to her party in November as a result of today’s ruling, this is a lifelong goal achieved–and the overwhelming majority of Colorado Republicans will not be able to resist celebrating.
Smart Colorado Republicans should be deeply worried about what comes next.