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January 22, 2016 02:01 PM UTC

The Agenda: Government Small Enough To Fit In Your Uterus

  • by: Colorado Pols

komen-planned-parenthood4-1The AP’s Kristen Wyatt has a great story up today on this year’s widely-anticipated battles in the Colorado legislature over–wait for it–abortion politics. After Cory Gardner successfully gummed this issue to death in 2014, it’s an issue that many Democrats are fatigued at the prospect of having to argue yet again.

Unfortunately, Republicans are fresh off a year of strident agitation on the issue, powered by the release of heavily edited undercover videos that falsely allege the organization “sold” fetal tissue samples used in medical research. The gap between perception and reality on this issue between the pro- and anti-choice factions has probably never been wider than it is today, and the rhetoric from anti-abortion activists in recent months is a major factor in incidents of violence like the domestic terror attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs last November.

Conflict-weary Democrats, there will be no relief in 2016:

In the U.S. Senate race, Tim Neville, a Republican state senator from Littleton, kicked off his campaign against Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet by talking about abortion politics.

“When an organization like Planned Parenthood ignores the law, kills the unborn, sells their body parts for profit and we have both parties that can’t even come together to end this tragedy, we have an issue with leadership,” Neville told supporters, referencing videos taken by anti-abortion activists they said showed Planned Parenthood personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs…

The state’s senior senator won his last contest in large part because of reproductive rights. Bennet faced a conservative Tea Party favorite in 2010, one who appeared to be winning in polls until Democrats pounded him for supporting ballot measures to ban abortion by defining fertilized embryos as people, a concept described as “personhood.”

Bennet’s victory ensured that Democrats for the next five years would try tying Republicans to the “personhood” movement. The focus on reproductive rights grew so intense that during the 2014 Senate campaign, reporters and Republicans derisively dubbed former Sen. Mark Udall “Mark Uterus.” Udall was defeated for a second term by Republican Cory Gardner, who once supported a “personhood” measure but convincingly told the public he’d changed his mind.

The Udall defeat was seen by many as the last time Colorado Democrats would focus so heavily on reproductive rights. But events have dictated otherwise. [Pols emphasis]

Sen. Cory Gardner.
Sen. Cory Gardner.

As we have written about at length in this space, the 2014 defeat of incumbent Sen. Mark Udall by Republican Cory Gardner left local Democrats extremely wary of using the choice issue as an electoral wedge. The rationale for this tends to boil down to criticism of Udall’s dour and negative message, which focused heavily on Gardner’s dishonesty on abortion without articulating his own positive case for re-election.

But that ignores something very important: Gardner’s successful and very forceful case that Republicans were “no threat to abortion rights.” Gardner’s after-the-fact disavowal of the “Personhood” abortion bans he had previously supported was used as cover for his continuing support for functionally equivalent abortion bans at the federal level. Longtime abortion opponent Rep. Mike Coffman used Planned Parenthood’s logo in an ad. Aware of the danger, the entire Republican media establishment from national pundits to local surrogates backed Gardner’s new image against all common sense–and became unlikely promoters of their party’s supposed “inability” to curtail abortion rights.

In only a year, this fiction has been completely undone by events. As it turned out, national anti-choice activists had no intention of slowing their campaign to ban abortion, and used the undercover videos attacking Planned Parenthood to ramp the anger on the religious right back up to a fever pitch. Sen. Cory Gardner’s inevitable votes against abortion within weeks of taking office could’t be spun. In 2016 just like last year, Republicans in the Colorado legislature have a long list of anti-abortion bills planned, starting with a bill to make abortion a felony “beginning at conception.”

For years, the Colorado GOP’s obsession with restricting abortion rights was a major political problem, with the cost measurable in punishing electoral defeats in 2008, 2010, and 2012. Gardner’s deceptive victory in 2014 might have changed the game in the long term, leaving Democrats unwilling to confront Republicans for fear of being pigeonholed in reverse by denial and feigned exasperation.

But today, 2014 looks like the exception–and Gardner has lulled the GOP into a very dangerous false security.


9 thoughts on “The Agenda: Government Small Enough To Fit In Your Uterus

  1. Great story, you say, not the least bit biased.

    …negotiating the sale of fetal organs…murder charges in the killing of an unborn child…

    True journalism would require the use of words like "allegedly" or "so called."  When you use one side's language to describe contested terms you're tilting the playing field.  A fetus is no more an unborn child than an egg is raw chicken.

  2. Gardner's "forceful" case that Republicans are no threat to abortion had very little to do with Udall's loss to him. Everyone on both sides knows where the GOP stands on the issue. I don't think anyone was fooled. It simply wasn't the number one issue for most Colorado voters.  It certainly wasn't  number one for most of the voters I canvassed. 

    Making more moderate noises didn't hurt him with anti-choicers who no doubt took it as a wink, wink, rightly assuming the GOP candidate was on the same page with them and it certainly didn't fool pro-choicers.  

    He did a better job of giving purple Colorado low info voters the idea that the economic issues most important to them were most important to him and Udall didn't. End of story. Hate to sound like a broken record but you're pretty broken record on this yourself, ColPols!

    Once again, I never talked to a single voter who told me they were voting for Gardner because they were reassured he posed no threat to abortion. I did talk to moderate Dem and indie women who were not voting for Udall because they personally oppose abortion for themselves and their daughters and, while they supported choice they were not bothered by the idea of certain limits and felt Udall was, in their words, a pro-abortion extremist who didn't share their values or main concerns about jobs and the economy, an idea they got from his ad campaign. Whether or not Gardner was as moderate on abortion as he claimed was simply not enough of a concern to them to affect their choice.  Period.

    1. No, she is absolutely wrong and it baffles me. She makes the case better than Gardner's own shills that abortion doesn't matter. I don't get it but I'm not going to argue with her anymore. Better for Pols to take it to the voters who need persuading, and that's not BC.

      1. Actually you're wrong, JeffcoBlue, in implying that abortion "doesn't matter." Rights tend to disappear; like the right to choose & freedom of conscience; when citizens are not vigilant.

        Udall's handlers from outside Colorado ran an inept campaign. Udall never got close, except maybe in the two weeks prior to election, to running on his excellent wilderness and environmental record. In his ads, he was generally scowling while Gardner was usually smiling. Bennett won't make the same mistakes and if Tim Neville is the Republican nominee, he is much more of an extremist authoritarian than Gardner was and is.

      2. Apparently you don't read my posts, JB. Never have I said abortion doesn't matter. I've said, and been proved right by the results of the last elecrion, that it isn't the number one concern for most Colorado voters. If it was, Udall would have won.

        I have conveyed the attitiudes expressed to me by actual Colorado voters the majority of whom voted for Gardner, not because they thought he was pro-choice but because other issues mattered more to them.  

        I don't agree that these voters made the best decision. It certainly isn't a decision I would have made. But the deciding voters in the low info middle in purple Colorado don't pay much attention to or follow "politics". It's up to the campaigns to create appeal for their candidates among those voters.

        Harping on abortion rights as if that's the one and only vital issue doesn't work on those voters because it isn't the issue most important to them, much less the only issue important to them. You might not want to hear this but plenty of folks in the middle, including  many moderate Dem women, have very ambivalent feelings on the subject and are not at all opposed to some limits. Once again please note I'm passing on opinions I've discovered in canvassing, not expressing my own. I'm not a low info ambivalent moderate Dem woman but my neck of the woods is loaded with them. 

        In any case, Bennet will run a smart campaign. He will also be fortunate in his opponent, whichever clown car occupant that turns out to be, and he will not suffer Udall's fate. If you view this expression of my observations as someone who has canvassed the south 'burbs ( including Littleton, Centennial, Englewood, Cherry Hills) for Dems in every election of the past decade as shilling for anti-choice Rs that's, of course, your opinion and you're entitled to it, ridiculous as it may be. 

  3. Young women in my conservative town hold much more nuanced positions on abortion than one might think. Several of them chose the topic of abortion for a persuasive speech assignment, and while two of them flatly say that "abortion is murder," they also say that it should be a choice legally available, especially in the cases of rape and incest.

    Some young men chose to weigh in on the topics of stem cell and cloning research. They're for it, within limits. No "build a baby" shops.

    These teens are not judgmental -they all know young women who are raising children, staying in high school, not being shamed into disappearing.  At the same time, high school is hard enough without raising a baby before graduation. And the other piece is that birth control is now available. No thanks to Cory Gardner, but Plan B medical pregnancy prevention is available to young women who access their friendly neighborhood women's health clinic , teen clinic, or Planned Parenthood office. But if they just want to walk in to Walmart or Walgreens, the pharmacist could refuse to sell emergency contraception to them. 

    Colorado is not one of the states which allows young women to buy Plan B emergency contraception over the counter or from a pharmacist. They can buy it online, but then there's the shipping delay, which can make it ineffective. And Colorado adopted laws which allow pharmacists to refuse to fill valid prescriptions because of "conscience objections". It actually looks as though we have moved backward on this issue. The Sex, etc site for teens, said in 2011 that teens could buy emergency contraception without a prescription in Colorado. Either they were mistaken, or we have lost ground.

    Dr. Daft, care to weigh in? What's the law in Colorado? Am I right that young women in Colorado are losing ground on access to birth control?

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