Factcheck.org: Gardner’s Personhood Distinction Is BS

As the debate has continued over GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner's abandonment of the Colorado "Personhood" abortion ban initiatives, the can of worms he opened attempted to put this issue to bed before election season has become increasingly evident. Instead of ending questions about his longstanding support for Personhood, which in addition to banning all abortion even in case of rape or incest could also outlaw certain forms of "abortifacient" birth control, Gardner's disavowal of the Colorado Personhood measure has led to a damaging and protracted look at the underlying details of the issue in the press.

In particular, Gardner's continued sponsorship of the federal Life at Conception Act, which contains the same essential language as the state Personhood measure granting a fetus rights "from the moment of fertilization," has opened Gardner to accusations of outright deception. If he still supports the federal equivalent of Personhood, plainly his claims to have "rethought" the matter are fictional–an attempt to, as Republican strategist Katy Aktinson cynically admitted, "muddy [the issue] up enough to take it away" from opponent Mark Udall. The much more straightforward reason, as Democrats alleged from the beginning, is that Gardner realized his support for Personhood is a fatal liability in his statewide U.S. Senate race.

In response to ongoing questions about this, Gardner campaign has told the press that there is a difference between the federal Life at Conception Act and the Colorado Personhood ballot measures:

"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 Senator Udall falsely alleges," [Gardner spokesman Alex] Siciliano said.

Cory Gardner's Personhood twist

You'll recall that we and others immediately questioned this statement–the language in the federal Life at Conception Act and Colorado's Personhood intiatives that could outlaw so-called "abortifacient" birth control are in fact functionally identical, and there is nothing in the Life at Conception Act Gardner remains a sponsor of that prevents it from having the same effect. News stories at first accepted Team Gardner's statement at face value, but slowly we began to see in the reporting that journalists were aware of the discrepancy.

Yesterday, the Annenberg Public Policy Center's Factcheck.org settled the question: Team Gardner is full of bull.

Gardner announced his change of position eight months after he had signed on as a co-sponsor to the federal “Life at Conception Act,” which would extend “equal protection for the right to life” under the 14th amendment to the “preborn” from the “moment of fertilization.” That language — giving the rights of a person to the fertilized egg — is exactly what raises the question of what such a measure would mean for some forms of birth control. Yet Gardner’s campaign told us he was not withdrawing his support for the federal legislation. Spokesman Alex Siciliano told us by email: “The federal proposal in question simply states that life begins at conception, as most pro-life Americans believe, with no change to contraception laws.”

We don’t see how the Colorado initiative and the federal bill, which supporters in Congress describe as a “personhood” measure, are different on this point. [Pols emphasis] And neither does one of the groups supporting the state initiative. Jennifer Mason, a spokeswoman for the Yes on Amendment 67 Campaign, which supports the ballot measure, told Colorado public radio station KUNC: “Obviously [Gardner's] a victim of some bad political advice, there’s no reason for him to pull local support while he’s still 100 percent behind the federal amendment. It doesn’t make any sense.”

We agree. And we didn’t receive any further explanation from the Gardner campaign on the contradiction. We asked Nash at the Guttmacher Institute if there was something in the federal bill that would preclude the concerns over birth control, but Nash agreed that the “moment of fertilization” language was the reason these types of proposals had the potential to prohibit access to hormonal forms of birth control. [Pols emphasis]

In other words, exactly what we said all along.

It's not like this is a hard conclusion to reach: both Personhood and the Life and Conception Act are extremely short–a sentence or two at most in all their various iterations. Honestly, we have no idea what the Gardner campaign was thinking throwing out this nonexistent distinction. It was really easy to see that it's false. The elementary critical thinking required to see that Colorado's Personhood ballot measures are a threat to "abortifacient" birth control is no more difficult in the case of the Life at Conception Act.

Hopefully, this puts an end to the maddening up-to-now acceptance without question of Gardner's bogus defense we've seen from reporters either too busy or too lazy to rebut a plainly false statement. There's nothing unfair about checking to make sure the assertion you are reprinting is factually correct–or at least factually defensible. This bogus claim, very important to Gardner's credibility on a key issue, is neither.

19 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. BlueCat says:

    I don't know if it's so much that they're lazy as that reporters no longer know what their job entails. They don't know it's not just repeating what they're told. They don't seem to know that reporting isn't just regurgitating. They don't seem to know that one person's "opinion" is not just as valid as any other where verifiable facts and verifiable untruths are concerned or that it's their job to verify what they're told before they pass it along.  

    I have no idea what gets taught to journalism majors anymore. Apparently not journalism. 

    • gertie97 says:

      Agreed, BC. They don't understand the age-old rule that if your mother says she loves you,, check it out.''

       

      • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

        How many are even aware of the historical mandate of the Fourth Estate? Most of the young reporters are nice enough and some are even quite literate, but they are historically underpaid and under pressure… even more so today.

          • DavieDavie says:

            Well, the Denver Post seems to have fired all the journalists, or they left on their own.  Journalism schools have been closing, so they aren't teaching much at all.

            Only the low-paid steno pool remains, supervised by accountants and PR flack-wannabes planning their exit strategies.

            • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

              I don't think that the journalism picture is that bleak. It's changed form, and it's much more chaotic and uneven in quality, with the new media and the blogs and the forums and the comments and tweets and all.

              The traditional forms of journalism – newspapers, magazines, broadcasts – now all have components and branches in the new media formats.

              Capitalism and net neutrality will both level the playing field, and potentially enclose people in tighter and more reason-proof fact-free bubbles.

              I don't know how to raise and maintain standards, except through good old laissez faire demand – the hits, the eyeballs on the articles.

              Just random thoughts.

              • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

                For example, on the "new journalism" front, 15,800 people are watching the livestream twitter feed of this one journalist, Tim Pool, in Ferguson, MO.

                Not much is happening – same as last night, the police are trying to enforce curfew, and some citizens are resisting, and the press is covering.. And the fact that this motley, ragtag crew of "the press" is covering, has kept a lot of people safer here. The eyes of the world are, literally, watching what happens in this sleepy little Missouri town.

                And "the press" looks so different from even ten years ago. It's on a 24 hour cycle. It's completely dependent on the consumer's choice and the internet connections available. The broadcast equipment is relatively cheap. It's a different world.

              • BlueCat says:

                Newspapers are a traditional form but  print journalists, with some notable exceptions, are no longer of traditional quality. 

  2. notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

    Apparently, they're no lnger taught that old saw of law and olitics "you're entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts, B.C.

     

  3. notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

    "poiltics', dammit! Whre do the letters go/

  4. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    War on women, war for women.  Political consultants are also "full of it". There are as many different "women's issues" that will motivate women to vote for or against a certain candidate as there are women. And we're smart enough to know when we are being manipulated for our votes. The struggle to nail down Cory Gardner's lying ass on "Personhood" is a struggle to show how much he is attempting to deceive and misinform women, and how much contempt he has for our ability to discern his lies.

    In general, policies which enable women to support themselves and take care of their already-born children – policies about wages, fair treatment, childcare, education , a healthy, safe, not-polluted environment- are going to have equal weight with reproductive rights issues. It's a spectrum.

    What is a "men's issue"?

  5. Diogenesdemar says:

    Kind of a cheap shot here, Alva — publishing a Gardner diary on Saturday — when you know damn good and well that Moderatus isn't paid to troll on Weekends?!?

    How are we gonna' manage here until Monday without a dead-horse gif???

  6. Republican 36 says:

    Congressman Gardner's Credibility Problem Expands Again

    With Amendment 67 (the Colorado Personhood Amendment) on the ballot again this year and the campaign for and against it cranking-up, the reason Gardner withdrew his of support for 67 is obvious. The amendment has been defeated by overwhelming majorities twice and it would be the kiss of death to his campaign for U.S. Senate if he endorsed it but therein rests his latest credibility problem.

    No matter how hard he tries he is still a cosponsor of the federal Personhood Amendment which would outlaw abortions, even in cases of incest and rape, and end the legal status of many contraceptives. No matter how many iterations of his position he tries to foist on Colorado voters, he still supports federal legislation that would accomplish the same goals as the Colorado Personhood Amendment.

    His latest ploy last week, supported by the Colorado Womens Alliance, was to convince women voters that everyone is tired of womens issues, especially abortion, and to just move on. You bet women are tired of those issues and probably many male voters too. But one must ask what exactly are they tired of? In the overwhelming majority of Colorado voters minds, they are tired of this debate because these are settled issues. In other words, the overwhelming majority of Colorado voters believe a woman has the right to control her body and to make her own helathcare decisions free from government control or the whims of the owners of privately held corporaitons. They are "tired" of politicians who, like Cory Gardner, believe someone other than themselves should have the right to choose or make these deicions for them. They are tired the Republicans, and this year its Cory Gardner, continue to attack their rights but that doesn't mean they will give him a pass on this issue. They won't and most Colorado men won't either.

    Congressman Gardner has tried to play it both ways for the past five months. He made himself the issue by standing on both sides of this issue. He has suffered the political consequences as his credibility has evaporated. It is now too late for him to be honest because even if he was honest now and admitted he is anti-choice for women, he would legitimately open himself to an attack that he has been trying to fool Colorado voters for the past five months which is exactly what he has tried to do. 

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