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December 02, 2014 01:15 PM UTC

Gumming Abortion To Death, Part II: Joke's On You, Ladies

  • by: Colorado Pols


One of the central issues of the 2014 elections in Colorado was the battle over abortion policy–both at the federal and state levels, where GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner outlasted months of withering attacks on the issue, and voters again rejected a "Personhood" abortion ban ballot measure. Colorado has a long history of support for women's reproductive rights, and the lopsided margins by which Personhood has been defeated here in recent years have made the issue toxic for Republican politicians who used to proudly campaign on their support for banning abortion.

In 2014, however, Republicans successfully blunted the issue of abortion in Colorado–more than that, they managed to turn the debate back on Democrats, successfully countering that liberal "social issue warriors" were wrongly obsessing about a non-issue. Conservative go-to foil on women's issues Laura Carno wrote an op-ed suggesting that the entire question of abortion rights in this year's elections was overblown–declaring flat-out, despite the many avowedly pro-life GOP candidates on the ballot, that Colorado womens' "right to an abortion is not in jeopardy." In the Denver Post's endorsement of Cory Gardner, they claim with no supporting evidence whatsoever that "Gardner's election would pose no threat to abortion rights." Next month, one of the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate's top priorities is a 20-week abortion ban.

In 2006, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez promised to sign an abortion ban in Colorado that would make no exceptions even for cases of rape or incest, and was happy to explain in detail exactly why he thought that was the right thing to do. This year, Beauprez's message on abortion was a complete about-face: "I respect people's opinion, women's right to that choice."

Because Beauprez was defeated, and Democrats retained at least partial control of the state legislature, the question of what Republicans in full control would do on abortion isn't going to be tested here. But what's going on elsewhere, in the wake of the GOP's huge gains in state legislatures across America? As Politico's Paige Cunningham reports, all that stuff you heard before the election about abortion rights not being in jeopardy–it's simply not true.

The big Republican gains in the November elections strengthened and enlarged the anti-abortion forces in the House and the Senate. But it’s the GOP victories in the statehouses and governor’s mansions that are priming the ground for another round of legal restrictions on abortion…

Abortion rights advocates have had setbacks in the states for several years, with a surge of legislative activity since 2011. [Pols emphasis] Women seeking abortions may face mandatory waiting periods or ultrasound requirements. Clinics may face stricter building codes or hospital admitting privilege rules they can’t satisfy. Dozens of clinics have shut down in multiple states. Texas, for instance, has fewer than 10 abortion clinics now. A year ago, it had 40.

Republicans now hold two-thirds of the state legislative bodies, after winning control of 11 more chambers. They completely control the legislature in more than half the states, adding Nevada, New Hampshire and West Virginia to that list earlier this month. And they gained two more governor’s seats, so they will hold 31 next year.

Steady Democratic control of Colorado in recent years means we haven't seen the same kinds of proposed restrictions on abortion that have passed in many other states, and the ones that have been introduced have been defeated with enough fanfare to render them political liabilities for Republicans. Despite this, 2014 marked the greatest challenge to Democratic control by Republicans since Democrats took the legislature in 2004–and before the ballots were fully counted, Republicans had a few glorious moments when control of the Colorado House, Senate, and Governor's Mansion were all at least hypothetically in reach.

Today, even with Republicans only in narrow control of the Colorado Senate after last month's elections, a program credited with reducing teen pregnancy by 40% is already in jeopardy. Without more power, there's not much that Republicans in Colorado can do legislatively to further restrict abortion and contraception access–but now that the election is over, it's time to recognize that the downplaying of abortion by the GOP and accommodating local media was enormously deceptive. The truth is, restrictions on reproductive choice are passing across the nation–and if Republicans had taken control of this state as they did so many others in the last two midterm elections, restrictions on abortion rights could well become law in Colorado too.

In that event, a lot of local pundits and media types would owe you an apology.


12 thoughts on “Gumming Abortion To Death, Part II: Joke’s On You, Ladies

  1. Like I said yesterday, the fact that Udall screwed this message up doesn't make it false. Republicans are gunning for women's rights in a huge way. But the real problem, as Pols suggests, is the media. The Denver Post helped Gardner whitewash abortion, and wantonly lied to their readers by suggesting there is no threat to abortion rights. It is only progressive majorities in Colorado that have kept them at bay.

    We can't ever let the GOP do this to us again…

  2. BS. The Pro-Choice has no one to blame except Mark Udall himself.  He set us back years.  Since the early 1990's those of us pro-choice republicans and ex-republicans have been picking off just enough pro-choice Republicans to ensure pro-choice leadership in the legislature.  We had begun in 2008 with Udall's election to pick off these folks for higher level races.  Now all that work worthless.  Udall succeeded in making the Republicans go home.  I can tell you.  They're my friends and family.  They were done with abortion being shoved in their faces by a man who ran an obnoxious, insulting single issue campaign.  And frankly, they were done with Obama and anyone who supported him.  Unfortunately Mark Udall wouldn't listen to anyone except his idiot advisors (who by the way should be run out of the state on a rail – ask me I did this in the 80's with a bunch of republican no-nothing consultants).  And he got exactly what he deserved.  But we didn't we got screwed.  And furthermore, did anyone look at what his campaign did in Pueblo and Adams Counties?  Well, I'll tell you what he did, he turned the Reagan Democrats into Republicans.  Blame it on the media.  Blame it on anyone you want.  But the blame goes 100% to the Udall campaign.  I'm not sure I'll ever work in a Democratic campaign again.

    1. It's not just Udall, it's the entire Democrat establishment who has no real agenda. The only thing Democrats have is personal vilification and scare tactics. The one "issue" they thought they had, abortion, they ran into the ground.

      I'm not disagreeing with you that Udall gets the blame for his defeat. All I'm saying is the Democrat lack of a message or agenda is bigger than Mark Udall.

      1. Moddy, you were right from the start with your little man with the cane and the dead horse, meaning Udall should have talked about other issues in addition to reproductive choice.  

        But that doesn't turn Gardner into a feminist.  


          1. Udall had 6 years to build a strong statewide brand and to be a solid Dem. He spent half of that time on CNBC promising Lawrence Kudlow he'd vote for that stupid Grand Bargain, come what may. 

            Well, it came. 

          2. Don't know how many times the ads on other subjects ran as opposed to the abortion ones but it's not Republican propaganda that the perception, even among Dems, was of an over emphasis on that one issue. It's certainly what I heard Dem supporters grumbling about when we got together at events or to call and canvass as far back as September. Everyone was waiting to see some forceful positive ads about accomplishments and goals in other areas and wondering WTF the hold up was. 

            It's not Republican propaganda that for most of the time his ads were running his numbers were falling. It's not Republican propaganda that he lost decisively.

            Dems can complain about Republican lies and propaganda but they aren't going to go away. Dems need to stop making excuses about those mean Republicans and realize that when progressive policies in ballot initiatives win in the same states where Republicans who oppose those policies get elected and Republicans get elected by many of the same voters who support progressive policies in polls it's their own fault.

            They aren't standing by their apparently very popular policies so the majority doesn't know that their only chance of getting the policies they favor is by voting for Dems. Imagine the shoe on the other foot. You wouldn't see Rs afraid of their own popular policies. 

            There is no law of nature that says Republicans are the only ones who can succeed at messaging. Dems need to have the courage of their convictions and learn to compete in communicating them. It shouldn't be that hard, once they locate their guts and fire the old DLC ops who are clearly and entirely wrong on strategy, a bunch of stubborn old generals stills fighting the last war.  But people need to know those things they say they want in polls and vote for as ballot initiatives are all reasons to vote Dem.


      2. No, the problem is it's the Democrats who have an agenda but refused to run on it, as opposed to the GOP who gleefully ran on no agenda while letting the Democrats flail about. 

  3. Anyone who thinks that, if given the reigns of power, Republicans wouldn't criminalize abortion nationwide, needs to think again, and stop eating stupid pills for breakfast.

    The pro-choice position also needs to be more forcefully argued

    Katha Pollitt, an old friend of this magazine (and of this writer) has written a bracing, unapologetic polemic in favor of abortion rights. “Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights” has two major originalities. First is its lack of bowing or scraping for its pro-woman position. Abortion, in Pollitt’s view, must be seen not as a moral compromise requested by poor, weak women—we’re sorry, and we promise we’ll make it rare, but please, forgive us, we’ll still need it in extremis— but as a positive doctrine of women’s control over their own bodies, and of their own lives and destinies. Abortion, she insists, is a right integral to women’s own autonomy, not a privilege to be used as infrequently as possible. The Clintons’ shrewd formula—“Safe, legal, and rare”—may have been born of political necessity, but it misstates the truth. Abortion need not promise to be rare to be secured as safe and legal. One of the greatest moral achievements of human history—the full emancipation of women—should not be seconded to a metaphysical intuition, one with no scientific support or even coherent meaning: that a fertilized egg makes the same moral claims as an entire person. In a memorable moment in the book, Pollitt points out that the use of sonograms of embryos and fetuses to promote the anti-abortion case—with good reason, since any parent can recall their excitement at first seeing them—is intrinsically misleading:

    Sonograms distort reality in another, more subtle way: you can only take a picture of the embryo/fetus if you erase the body of the pregnant woman. As with the famous optical illusion of the duck-rabbit, you can’t see them both at the same time: either you see a rabbit or you see a duck. In a sonogram the fetus is the subject, the woman is the background; the case for its personhood is made by turning her into gray-and-white wallpaper.

    The second virtue of Pollitt’s book is that—with the help of some arguments from the late Ronald Dworkin, in particular—it takes seriously, and seriously refutes, the metaphysical arguments that claim some ethical seriousness in the view that a fertilized egg is equivalent to a human being. First, Pollitt sees, and insists, that for a “pro-life” argument to make sense it has to make sense; that it follows from a spiritual instinct, or from religious dogma, however deeply held, is not something that rational people have to pretend to respect. It is easy to cite the source of moral ideas in religious vision. Don’t you know that Dr. King was a Christian minister? Didn’t the ideas of the Abolitionists rise from the Northern churches? It’s perfectly true that many good and noble and necessary ideas have come from churches and chapels—as many others have come from temples, universities, Masonic lodges, and presumably one or two from a Satanic cult. But their relevance and plausibility have nothing at all to do with their source; they have to do with the moral and practical sense they make to those who don’t have any special respect for their origins..

    The moral intuition that abortion is in any way like murder is one that can be tested in the only way we can test such things, by looking at the actual evidence and by observing the actual conduct of the people who claim to hold it. Pollitt calmly reviews it all. No person actually imagines that a zygote is a person. If they did, they would actually equate murder and abortion, and their conduct—only the tiniest fringe is willing to advertise comparable penalties for both—shows that they know perfectly well that they aren’t the same. 

    1. The problem with slippery-slope arguments (“Allow abortion in the first trimester, and it will end in infanticide!”) is not that they are inadmissible but that they are always true. All of biological life exists on a slippery slope, where we walk with ice picks called rules and moral decisions. We may allow abortion without restriction in the first and in the third trimester, and still not permit infanticide. The distinctions, as always, are our own.

      This does not make them arbitrary. We have always before us the Enlightenment choice between empty authority and rational argument—between divine rules made by an authority we know for certain to be nonexistent and rational ethical argument we know in advance will be ongoing and inconclusive. This uncertainty causes an enormous strain, huge social anxiety—what Karl Popper rightly called the strain of civilization. But that some people can’t bear the strain is no reason for the rest of us not to go on trying to make sane rules. Accepting moral complexity is a sign of moral maturity…

      There is no conflict between abortion rights and religious liberty. There is a conflict between women’s rights and religious intolerance. No one is proposing—no one will ever seriously propose—banning or discouraging those who passionately believe in their metaphysical intuitions about life from proselytizing and promulgating for them wherever they will, as best they can, within the normal rules of civil argument. What is not tolerable is trying to impose irrational intuitions on people who don’t just fail to accept them but who feel that the removal of women’s freedom is itself a moral crime…


      Surrendering moral certainties in order to promote social peace is exactly what humanists ought to do, and what theocrats won’t do, because humanists know their certainties aren’t. For the time being, though, Pollitt is surely right to be unapologetically “Pro.” The choice—the only actual choice, in the world as it really is—is between safe, legal abortion and dangerous, illegal abortion. Everything else is just misogyny, cruelty, and superstition.

      p.s.  This editor SUCKS!!!

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