Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango has had a tough time this year as she tries to navigate the tricky landscape of apiring to higher office as a female Republican with a “moderate” public image. We’ve discussed a number of instances this year in which Roberts was either forced to move to or willingly positioned herself on the far right of policy debates at the Capitol–from the disastrous “Anti-Vaxxer Bill of Rights” legislation that stoked a nationwide controversy over low vaccination rates, to her more recent support for a so-called “fetal homicide” bill that reproductive rights advocates believed was a segue into another “Personhood” abortion ban.
Today, Roberts’ hometown paper The Durango Herald weighs in strongly on the latter issue–and while not completely sparing Planned Parenthood and other groups from criticism, the paper’s editorial board makes clear they aren’t buying Roberts’ excuses for backing “Personhood” either:
State Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, has mounted a spirited and eloquent defense of her support for Senate Bill 268 – called “Concerning offenses against an unborn child” – in the recently concluded legislative session. Lawmakers should be able to explain their positions, and Roberts is good at it…
What she does not explain, however, is that SB 268 was a completely unnecessary piece of political theater. [Pols emphasis] Its language seems carefully tuned to spark controversy, and its stated goal could probably have been achieved without dancing through the minefields of the abortion wars.
…[T]he Legislature could have crafted a tightly written bill that would have increased penalties for such violent acts without employing any of the red-flag words that surround discussion of reproduction. It could have made “terminating a woman’s pregnancy without her permission” punishable by life in prison without any mention of abortion-war catchphrases.
Instead, SB 268 turned entirely on hot-button words. It defined a “person … as a human being and includes an unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth.”
In fairness, the Herald does accuse Planned Parenthood of “rising to the bait,” citing the fact that the bill was killed in committee as evidence that it “was never a serious threat to reproductive freedom.” But the harshest criticism in this editorial is definitely reserved for Sen. Roberts:
Courting the anti-abortion right while simultaneously touting a pro-choice record is not compromise, but Kabuki. [Pols emphasis]
As we said before, Ellen Roberts is in a very difficult position. Many of the things that might have made her a more viable general election candidate, like her past support for some reproductive choice measures, make it much harder for her to win a Republican primary. But her only means of placating the Republican base is to take positions that negate those “moderate” credentials, robbing her of her principle advantage.
Would it have been better for Roberts to have stuck to her former position, and not lurched right to make herself more appealing to the Republican base? Faced with winning an interim battle but losing the war today, we think so. Unfortunately, she’s already made the opposite choice, and her votes can’t be uncast.