We've been waiting for many weeks now for the Denver Post to revisit the story of GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner's ongoing support for the federal Life at Conception Act–legislation in Congress with functionally similar language to the state Personhood abortion ban ballot measures Gardner disavowed support for soon after entering the Senate race. As we've discussed in this space repeatedly, the Life at Conception Act contains the same references to rights at "the moment of fertilization" as Personhood–which could have the same effect in terms of outlawing certain forms of so-called "abortifacient" birth control. When the Post last reported on this matter, the Gardner campaign's denial that the two measures would have a similar effect was left unchallenged–even after fact-checkers and experts had long debunked it.
Lynn Bartels at the Post finally revisited this story today, and she worked her way through the spin (for the most part) to get to the facts of the situation:
"I was not right," he said. "I can't support personhood now. I can't support personhood going forward. To do it again would be a mistake."
But critics note Gardner remains a co-sponsor of the federal Life at Conception Act, which implements "equal protection under the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution for the right to life of each born and preborn human person."
Coloradan Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, said the federal proposal mirrors state personhood efforts, which can be interpreted to mean prosecution for those performing abortions, "which I welcome," he added… [Pols emphasis]
"The federal proposal in question simply states that life begins at conception, as most pro-life Americans believe, with no change to contraception laws as Sen. Udall falsely alleges," [Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano] said.
But as the Colorado Personhood abortion ban's chief proponent Keith Mason says above, and Factcheck.org validates with expert opinion, Personhood and the Life at Conception Act are "mirrors" of one another. Gardner said flat-out when he abandoned support for the state Personhood measures, "the fact that it restricts contraception, it was not the right position." Now to be fair, Mason says he doesn't think either measure would ban contraception. But that doesn't matter: if what Gardner claims about Personhood is true, the same must be true of the Life at Conception Act, because they say the same thing. Again, the operative language in the Life at Conception Act:
The terms "human person" and "human being" include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, [Pols emphasis] cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.
And the full text of Amendment 48, the 2008 Personhood abortion ban measure:
Person defined. AS USED IN SECTIONS 3, 6, AND 25 OF ARTICLE II OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION, THE TERMS "PERSON" OR "PERSONS" SHALL INCLUDE ANY HUMAN BEING FROM THE MOMENT OF FERTILIZATION. [Pols emphasis]
This is why is was so important for Gardner to have removed himself as a co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act before Congress adjourned last week, which he failed to do. There was no way Gardner was going to be able to get to November without this obvious discrepancy being exposed. Either both Personhood and the Life at Conception Act would result in banning birth control, or neither would. And Gardner has already validated the argument that Personhood would "restrict contraception." In short, Gardner is screwed.
Our friend Jason Salzman also has a post up about today's story, noting an error by Bartels on legislation Gardner sponsored in 2007–legislation that would have, despite one misleading clause, likely restricted the legality of some forms of contraception. It's a valid point that further underscores Gardner's long duplicity on this issue as he tries to please the hard-right champions of this issue while remaining electable to higher office. But it shouldn't take away from the many things Bartels got right in this story, things that voters need to understand about the issue before ballots drop.
Despite his best attempts, this is the needle Gardner couldn't thread. And there will be a high price.