MSNBC's Steve Benen reports on the deadline missed by Rep. Cory Gardner last Friday, as noted by our friend Jason Salzman, to remove himself as a co-sponsor of the federal Life at Conception Act before the November elections:
No issue has dogged Rep. Cory Gardner’s (R) Senate campaign in Colorado more than a policy known as “personhood,” which would ban abortions and many common forms of birth control. In a bit of a surprise, the far-right congressman has decided to ride this train straight through to Election Day.
Gardner has long been a culture warrior, championing personhood at the state and federal level, even after Colorado voters rejected it (twice). After launching a statewide campaign, the Republican tried to flip-flop on the issue, but Gardner struggled to even do this properly – the congressman announced he no longer supports the state personhood policy, but he would remain a co-sponsor of the federal personhood legislation.
With Election Day nearing and Gardner locked in a very close race with Sen. Mark Udall (D), would the conservative Coloradan complete the reversal and walk away from the right-wing legislation? Apparently not. Jason Salzman reported Friday that “the die is cast.”
…There’s simply no ambiguity here. Over a year ago, Gardner signed on to the Life at Conception Act (H.R.1091) as a co-sponsor. The Colorado Republican ostensibly changed his mind about the issue a few months ago, but nevertheless kept his name on the federal personhood bill, despite having ample opportunity to withdraw his support.
And now it’s too late to do anything about it.
Now that the House has adjourned until November 12th, there's no opportunity for Gardner to take the formal steps necessary in order to remove himself as a co-sponsor of this legislation. In response to questions about the obvious conflict between Gardner's abandonment of the state Personhood ballot measures and his continued sponsorship of the functionally equivalent federal Life at Conception Act, Gardner has clung to a fictional distinction between the two proposals. Both Personhood and the Life at Conception Act contain the same language conferring rights from "the moment of fertilization" that could result in a ban on certain forms of "abortifacient" birth control.
The fact-checkers have thoroughly debunked Gardner on this point, but Gardner still hasn't changed his answer to the question. The simple remains that the same language that exists in the Personhood abortion bans Gardner has abandoned is in the bill Gardner is still sponsoring. Gardner's abandonment of Personhood is therefore meaningless at best, and a desperate, incomplete attempt to escape his record ahead of a statewide run in the more likely case.
And now he's stuck. The only thing Gardner can hope for now is that the voters won't figure it out until it's too late–that, as GOP consultant Katy Atkinson said, he can "muddy it up" enough to confuse the issue until the election. That was the whole purpose of Gardner's over-the-counter birth control redirection, which has also been dismantled by fact-checkers. But the polls show clearly that this issue has already severely harmed Gardner with women voters, and there's more for them to learn about the story now. Gardner's refusal to acknowledge this ongoing liability opens him to a whole new line of attack.
If anyone can outline a scenario where this ends well on Election Day, we're all ears.