Ellen Roberts, Save(s) Thyself

Ellen Roberts can finally stop arguing with Ellen Roberts now that she is no longer considering a U.S. Senate run.

Ellen Roberts can finally stop arguing with Ellen Roberts now that she is no longer considering a U.S. Senate run.

Today State Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) made her first logical statement to the press in literally weeks when she announced that she will not run for U.S. Senate in 2016. This is, undoubtedly, the wisest political move she has made in a month filled with ridiculous self-inflicted political wounds.

As Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post reports on the Roberts announcement:

State Sen. Ellen Roberts announced Tuesday she won’t seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate next year, saying the “hurdle of immediate, massive fundraising” was the single biggest factor in her decision.

“A Senate race would also require full-time attention for the next 16 months and I am committed to carrying out well my existing duties this interim,” Roberts said in a statement…

Roberts was seen as an attractive candidate in part because she is a woman and also she has bipartisan support in southwestern Colorado. But even some party members questioned whether she was ready for prime time after a couple of gaffs. She told a conservative talk radio host she never said she was a “pro-choice Republican,” prompting the liberal blog ColoradoPols to display a video of Roberts on the Senate floor saying she was a pro-choice Republican. [Pols emphasis]

In case you missed the video clip mentioned above, here’s the original post “Seven Seconds That Could End Ellen Roberts’ Political Career.”

Roberts really wanted to run for Congress or U.S. Senate in 2016, but she proved to be spectacularly bad when trying to move to a larger stage. From the time she first publicly floated her name in early May, telling the Durango Herald that she was a “long-shot” candidate, Roberts made one silly gaffe after another, flip-flopping on abortion like a spawning salmon, and her hometown Durango Herald eventually jabbed her for taking part in political theater that was “not compromise, but Kabuki.

Democrats were admittedly nervous about a potential Roberts campaign against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, but it was always a “theoretical concern,” since nobody really knew how she might handle a statewide run. Once Roberts started actually talking about running for higher office, she torpedoed her own career before Democrats could even lift a finger.

But, hey, it could be worse.

Gardner Takes OTC Birth Control Con Job Too Far

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

A story last night from CBS Denver’s Shaun Boyd caught Colorado’s junior Sen. Cory Gardner in a major contradiction with regard to his recent proposal to make some forms of birth control available over the counter. Contraceptives are already required to be covered without cost to patients as part of the Affordable Care Act, but Gardner’s proposal to “encourage” pharmaceutical companies to apply for over the counter status for contraceptives is meant to fulfill a campaign promise from Gardner to make obtaining birth control “easier and cheaper.”

Since it’s hard to be cheaper than free, this claim has always been a little suspect:

“I think this bill is disingenuous,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America spokeswoman Laura Chapin.

Chapin believes the bill would make birth control less accessible because it would be less affordable.

Currently, Pres. Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover prescription birth control. Gardner’s bill allows women to use health savings and flex spending accounts if the birth control is over-the-counter. Gardner said women could still get birth control for free by prescription. [Pols emphasis]

That last sentence is where Gardner screws himself, and the reason is simple: Gardner is now relying on the dreaded Affordable Care Act to continue to provide no-copay prescription birth control for women with insurance. That represents a major change from Gardner’s campaign-trail promises, where he claimed a “fix” to Obamacare was needed to allow birth control to be sold over the counter. He never addressed the affordability argument directly back then.

But we do know what Cory Gardner thinks of the Affordable Care Act, don’t we? That would be the same Affordable Care Act that Gardner has voted literally dozens of times to repeal. Understand this: the law that Gardner has voted to repeal over and over is now what he is relying on to refute the charge that his proposal would make birth control less affordable. Does this mean that Gardner is now a supporter of Obamacare’s contraceptive coverage mandate? If so, that is truly national news.

Why, you ask? Because in 2012, Cory Gardner signed what’s become known as the “Scalise Letter,” named for Rep. Steve Scalise of Lousiana, in which a large group of self-identified “pro life” members of Congress demanded that then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius suspend the contraceptive coverage requirement of Obamacare:

scalisegardner

Got that, folks? Abortifacient IUDs! Sterilization! Conscience rights! Kevin Lundberg couldn’t have said it better.

There’s just no way around it: in order for Gardner to believe in good faith what he told Shaun Boyd, he can’t still endorse the letter he signed demanding that contraceptive coverage not be mandated by Obamacare. He certainly can’t vote to repeal Obamacare wholesale again, but for Gardner it means more than that as a signatory of the Scalise Letter. Either Cory Gardner has just abandoned a major Republican policy plank, and sold out his fellow “pro-life members of Congress…”

Or “Con Man Cory’s” jig is finally up.

Either way, this is the next question for the next reporter. Please. Ask it.

Somebody Give Ellen Roberts a Shovel

THURSDAY UPDATE: Charles Ashby updated his story today, and in all fairness, it looks like he quoted Sen. Ellen Roberts wrong. As our readers already knew, Roberts voted against a budget amendment to restore funding for the state’s successful IUD contraception program, not for it as Ashby reported yesterday:

Later, Democrats in the GOP-controlled Senate tried to get funding for the IUD program through the state’s budget. Roberts said she voted with Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman of Denver, a member of the Joint Budget Committee, against spending the money. [Pols emphasis]

Readers debated the fact that Sen. Pat Steadman voted against the “Long Bill” amendment to restore the LARC program’s funding, which as you can see Roberts uses as cover for her own vote against this amendment. But that’s not the whole story: members of the Joint Budget Committee almost always vote against Long Bill amendments, since they are the ones who hashed out the compromises to produce the budget to begin with. It’s a matter of principle that JBC members do so even when it’s an issue they would otherwise support, as we expect Steadman would readily tell you he does.

Unfortunately for Ellen Roberts, she can’t claim JBC membership as an excuse for voting against something she goes to great pains to claim to support. The public may not get this distinction, but it’s our hope that longtime capitol reporters like Ashby will going forward. Original post follows.

—–

Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

We took note last week of a story in The Nation about the failure to renew funding in the Colorado General Assembly this year for a program to provide long-acting contraceptives to low-income women–a program credited with helping dramatically lower the rate of teen pregnancy in our state. Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango, now exploring the possibility of running for the U.S. Senate, claims to have supported this IUD funding, but voted against it during debate over the state’s budget when it was presented as an amendment. As Roberts explained to The Nation’s Katha Pollitt:

The clincher: No-cost birth control is already provided by the Affordable Care Act, so why should the state pony up? Republican Senator Ellen Roberts told me she might have supported the bill if she’d had a good answer for that… [Pols emphasis]

As you can see, Roberts isn’t making some kind of “process argument” for voting against the LARC funding, which was introduced as Amendment J.066 to this year’s budget “Long Bill.” She thought it was unnecessary because Obamacare requires contraceptive coverage.

Keep that in mind as you read the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby today, in which Roberts appears to tell a very different story:

Later, Democrats in the GOP-controlled Senate tried to get funding for the IUD program through the state’s budget. Roberts voted for spending the money, but the effort died nonetheless. [Pols emphasis]

“You could make all the same arguments for why you would vote against the IUD bill as the teen pregnancy bill,” Roberts said. “But they (the Democrats) won’t acknowledge that I had that same bill.”

So, we want to give Charles Ashby, a reporter we trust, full latitude to confirm this quote from Roberts–and allow for some other possibility that might explain what appears to be a clear contradiction. First, Roberts tells The Nation she didn’t support the IUD LARC program because of the fact that Obamacare mandates contraceptive coverage. Then, she tells the Sentinel that she did support it, citing a budget amendment she supposedly voted for. But our readers already know she voted against that amendment–so unless there’s some other vote out there that hasn’t been brought to our attention, Roberts simply appears to be all over the map.

Which is where she’s been for some time, trying to reconcile her record in the legislature with a new hard-right persona that Republican primary voters might actually vote for.

And it’s not going well at all.

A Word You Shouldn’t Use To Describe Women: “Hysterical”

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Bill Theobald caught up with Sen. Cory Gardner for a story this week, and asked Gardner about his recent proposal to allow some contraceptives now available only by prescription to be sold over the counter. As our readers know, Gardner has taken a lot of heat since his OTC birth control legislation was introduced–though a nominal keeping of a campaign promise, Gardner’s bill could force millions of women who presently receive contraceptive coverage without cost under the Affordable Care Act to pay for the same medication.

It’s worth remembering that Gardner proposed over the counter contraception aS a way of deflecting from his longtime support for the “Personhood” abortion bans, which in addition to banning all abortions would have restricted access to common forms of birth control. So it’s not like he can be considered, you know, an expert on this stuff.

As the Coloradoan reports, he’s not very good at explaining himself either:

The one piece of legislation that Gardner has been involved in that has attracted the most attention is a bill to encourage drug makers to offer contraceptives that don’t require a prescription.

The bill was introduced earlier this month by Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and co-sponsored by Gardner.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, called the bill “a sham and an insult to women.” She and others said the bill is designed to make contraceptives more expensive because if they are offered over the counter, the cost would not be covered by insurance.

Gardner called the reaction “hysterical.” [Pols emphasis]

“This is about providing safe and effective contraception on their time when they want it not when the doctor’s office is open,” Gardner said.

The word “hysterical”–which has its origins in dark-age superstitions about pregnancy and women’s emotional states–is not always considered sexist. Heck, we’ve used it ourselves a few times to describe such things as the Republican Party’s outlandish response to Obamacare. But in the context of a discussion about birth control for women, it’s an unusually poor choice of words. The fact is, Gardner has no good answer for women who would be forced to pay under his proposal for something they get now without cost. He didn’t have a good answer on the campaign trail last year, and he doesn’t have one now.

But for the sake of not just Gardner, but also so many other Republicans looking to emulate his example of “muddying up” the issue to placate swing voters, he really needs to figure out a way to talk about this without insulting women who happen to have a legitimate concern about his proposal.

Unless, of course, he’s not even trying anymore.

Gardner’s birth-control bill falls way short–even of what he promised during campaign

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Last year, then U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner had a nice-sounding proposal: offer birth control over the counter, easy and quick.

But… more expensive, journalists pointed out, because under Obamacare, birth control prescribed by doctors is free. Insurance companies are required to cover it.

Not to worry, replied Gardner. He promised to fix an “obscure provision” in Obamacare and require insurance companies to pay for over-the-counter birth control.

Women should “still be able to find an insurance policy and use their insurance to pay for it,” Gardner told Fox 31 reporter Eli Stokols Sept. 28 (at 15 seconds in the video).  “That’s why we need to fix Obamacare.”

Women “will have an insurance policy that covers it,” Gardner promised a skeptical Stokols.

“We should change Obamacare to make sure that insurance can reimburse for that over-the-counter contraceptive purchase,” Gardner told reporter Lynn Bartels (at 50 seconds in the video) during The Denver Post debate against Democrat Mark Udall. Gardner even attacked Democrats, telling the Denver Post during the campaign: “If Democrats are serious about making oral contraception affordable and accessible,” Gardner wrote, “we can reverse that technical provision [in Obamacare].”

Once elected, however, Gardner didn’t deliver on his promise. He introduced a bill that simply offers incentives to drug companies to gain FDA approval to sell contraception over the counter. Nothing about changing Obamacare is mentioned in the bill, so insurance companies would not be required to cover birth control under Gardner’s OTC bill.

(more…)

Ellen Roberts’ Self-Immolation Continues

UPDATE: Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado slams Ellen Roberts in a new statement:

“Sen. Roberts’ positions and votes on choice issues over the last few years have been erratic at times – even opposing teen pregnancy prevention and sex education programs. We no longer consider her to be pro-choice, and understand why she’s having a hard time defining her own ‘label.’ It’s been confusing for a lot of us,” said Cathy Alderman, VP of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado.

And NARAL Pro Choice Colorado:

“Unlike Sen. Roberts, Colorado voters know where they stand on Roe v Wade, without parsing or equivocation – they’ve said over and over again at the ballot box we are a pro-choice state. And at a time when abortion rights are under constant assault at the state and federal level, Colorado women need allies we can count on.

This isn’t a hypothetical discussion. Women in other states are facing the humiliation of mandatory ultrasounds and waiting periods. The US Senate is about to vote on a 20-week abortion ban, while in Colorado we saw an unprecedented 6 bills designed to limit a woman’s right to choose this year alone. By sponsoring a fetal personhood bill and voting against funding common sense programs like LARC for Colorado, which actually reduced the abortion rate, Ellen Roberts proves she can’t be trusted to stand up for pro-choice Coloradans, no matter what she says.”

—–

The Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus follows up our story yesterday about state Sen. Ellen Roberts’ interview with conservative radio host Dan Caplis this week, in which Roberts claimed she has “never” referred to herself as “pro-choice.” As we demonstrated yesterday with a 7 second video mashup (above), that was a really stupid thing for Ellen Roberts to say.

Confronted with the obvious question by the Herald, Roberts had no choice but to backpedal:

[H]er response offers fodder to Democrats and pro-choice advocates who have increased attacks on Roberts in recent weeks after The Durango Herald reported that Roberts was seriously considering a challenge to incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet in 2016 for the U.S. Senate seat. With Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman no longer considering the Senate seat, much of the focus has turned to Roberts.

When asked by the Herald about her pro-choice talk show comment, Roberts said she did not offer an accurate answer.

“I would like to correct my statement from the ‘Dan Caplis Show’ in that I spoke in error when I was on the radio show the other day and said I never described myself as pro-choice,” Roberts said.

“I would like it out there that I made a mistake,” she said. “I should not have used that word ‘never,’ and it’s been a continual learning curve to me in terms of how the labels are attached to people.” [Pols emphasis]

A…”learning curve?” As sagely columnist Mike Littwin at the Colorado Independent writes today, that’s not really the problem:

The problem is that she has said many times she was pro-choice. And it wasn’t long before Colorado Pols had the video of her on the floor of the state Senate saying she was “pro-choice.” The fact is, she has said, adamantly and repeatedly, she is pro-choice. She might as well have said she never claimed to have two feet.

So why did she lie? That’s easy: Because she didn’t know what else to say. She had voted for the fetal-homicide/personhood bill in the state Senate this year to try to make the problem go away. We saw how that worked out. Her pro-choice allies dumped her, and all her anti-abortion foes were unswayed…

She didn’t just speak in error. She didn’t just make a mistake. She told a gigantic, easily provable whopper that she can never walk back. All politicians lie. No successful politician breaks the Pinocchio machine the first time out. [Pols emphasis]

This wasn’t the only problem Roberts created for herself during her interview with Dan Caplis. Her refusal to answer a simple question about whether Roe v. Wade was properly decided, saying that she would “try and answer in detail once I decided that I was getting into the race,” was inadequate to the point of being laughable. If she wasn’t prepared to answer such basic questions, she should never have agreed to this “friendly” interview.

As for lying about having called herself “pro-choice,” then attempting to back away from it with a tortured excuse about how telling the truth is a “learning curve?”

Amateur hour, folks. Ellen Roberts is not ready to run for the U.S. Senate.

Seven Seconds That Could End Ellen Roberts’ Political Career

In a talk radio interview yesterday with conservative host Dan Caplis, Colorado state Senator and possible 2016 U.S. Senate candidate Ellen Roberts attempted to thread the needle between her perceived record as a “moderate” legislator, and the conservative policies she has come out in favor of recently as she contemplates what it will take to survive a Republican primary.

Unfortunately for Roberts, in the course of making herself more palatable to the hard-right Caplis’ conservative Republican audience, she contradicted herself on the issue of reproductive choice to an extent that you almost have to find…well, pitiable. Seven seconds of video is all you need to watch:

The first clip is from Roberts’ interview with Caplis yesterday, in which he claims “I’ve never called myself pro-choice.” The second is from a Colorado Senate floor debate, where the same Ellen Roberts proudly identifies herself as a “pro-choice Republican.”

There’s no context that makes this any less damaging. Roberts tells a right-wing stridently anti-abortion talk radio host that she has “never” called herself pro-choice–no qualifiers. But as anyone with any experience with Roberts from her time at the state capitol knows, that’s completely false. Even though pro-choice organizations have written Roberts off as an ally after voting against their interests repeatedly in recent years, Roberts has frequently self-identified as “pro-choice” when it suited her politically to do so.

Obviously, these two clips make it very difficult to trust Roberts on this issue–regardless of your own personal views about abortion. Played together, they cannot help but erode trust on both sides of the aisle. And the thing for cynical Democrats in Colorado still smarting from 2014 to understand: Roberts is just not as slick as Cory Gardner was last year when he successfully played both sides of this issue, infuriating Democrats with his audacious deceptions but in the end winning the election. These seven seconds of video tell voters on both sides everything they need to know about Roberts, about a lot more than just abortion. And she just doesn’t have the same ability to talk her way out of it.

Roberts can’t clear a GOP primary field, and explained properly, we believe this self-inflicted wound is enough to make her an also-ran–in a primary or the general election.

Egads! Ellen Roberts is Really Not Good at This

State Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) tried, poorly, to float her name for U.S. Senate (or Congress) last month, telling the Durango Herald that she considered herself a “long-shot candidate.” But with Rep. Mike Coffman publicly declining to run for U.S. Senate, Roberts has another opportunity to launch the ol’ trial balloon.

It’s not going well.

Roberts has been absolutely bludgeoning herself in media interviews lately. It’s only been a few days, but Roberts is suffering from so many self-inflicted wounds that we almost want to call for an intervention.

Last week the editorial board of her hometown Durango Herald ripped into Roberts for her absurdly transparent attempts to appear both “pro choice” and staunchly anti-abortion. This week the national publication The Nation obliterated Roberts’ ridiculous explanation for opposing funding for Colorado’s very successful long-acting contraception (LARC) program. This is not some sort of “liberal media conspiracy,” either; this terrible press is all directly linked to statements and botched explanations that have come straight out of Roberts’ mouth.

Consider Roberts’ latest mistake on KNUS Radio, as chronicled by Jason Salzman:

 

Yup, there’s Roberts, flat-out refusing to answer a softball question about abortion because she is not officially a candidate for U.S. Senate. So, um, Sen. Roberts, what did you think they were going to ask you about? Your garden?

Roberts Stumbles Explaining IUD Funding Opposition

Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

The Nation’s Katha Pollitt has an excellent in-depth story up about the battle over funding for long-term reversible contraceptives in Colorado–funding that was ended this year by Republicans after a protracted legislative battle with Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly. It’s a fight that Colorado Sen. Ellen Roberts figured prominently in as a nominally “moderate” Republican, who supporters had hoped would back continued funding for this program–but voted “no” on a budget amendment that represented her only chance to do so.

Pollitt’s story details the fight over the LARC program, which has been credited with dramatically lowering the rate of teenage pregnancy in the state, and leaves Roberts looking once again like a politician who sacrificed principle for electoral advantage:

You would think Colorado had found the holy grail of compromise in the abortion wars: a plan that would unite Democrats and Republicans, pro-choicers and anti-choicers, social liberals and fiscal conservatives. A plan that was, moreover, well-run, backed by evidence, supported by the state’s health department—and, to repeat, worked astonishingly well. You would think that when the state legislature had to decide whether to pass a bill funding the program after the private money runs out in June, the choice would be, in the pungent words of its Republican cosponsor, Don Coram, “a no-brainer.”

But you would be wrong. When the program began, Colorado’s state government was in Democratic hands, and the initiative enjoyed some bipartisan support. This was one reason the foundation picked Colorado for its pilot program: Chances were good that if it showed positive results, the state would take it over. But last November, Republicans won control of the State Senate and are on a kind of victory lap. Optimists predicted that the bill would sail through the legislature; instead, after it passed the Democrat-controlled House, Senate Republicans maneuvered the bill into a budget committee, where GOP lawmakers killed it. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility. “It’s insane not to be supportive of high-quality family planning if you want to reduce spending on public health,” Dr. David Turok, a leading expert on the IUD, told me. But what’s money when a fertilized egg might be in danger?

As Republican State Senator Kevin Lundberg put it, using an IUD could mean “stopping a small child from implanting.” (Fun fact: Lundberg is the head of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee.) That IUDs work by preventing the implantation of fertilized eggs is a cherished conviction of abortion opponents, who reject the massive amount of scientific evidence that the devices work by preventing fertilization…

Into this Kevin Lundberg-toxified environment steps Sen. Ellen Roberts:

The clincher: No-cost birth control is already provided by the Affordable Care Act, so why should the state pony up? Republican Senator Ellen Roberts told me she might have supported the bill if she’d had a good answer for that… [Pols emphasis]

And there you have it, folks–Roberts finally gives a definitive answer on why she didn’t support funding for the LARC birth control program. But unfortunately for Roberts, Pollitt wasn’t buying:

Luckily, thanks to my access to the Internet and a telephone, I was able to help her out: The ACA doesn’t cover everyone; it doesn’t guarantee teens’ privacy; and although it’s supposed to provide access to every method of birth control with no co-pay, the fine print has allowed insurance companies to refuse to cover the more expensive, more effective methods. (In fact, President Obama recently rebuked insurers for these shenanigans.) Someday, the ACA may render programs like Colorado’s obsolete—but how many pregnant teenage girls will have dropped out of school by then? How many babies will be born to a girl or woman who is not in a good position to parent a child?

There’s no question that the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare, that mandate zero-copay coverage for contraceptives is a good thing that has helped millions of women–but the ultimate goal of 100% health coverage for all Americans hasn’t been achieved, and many of the at-risk populations the LARC program targeted these very uninsured women.

Also…doesn’t Ellen Roberts oppose Obamacare? She voted against the legislation to set up Colorado’s “Amycare” health insurance exchange, and is now a leading troll of Obamacare in Colorado as chair of the insurance exchange oversight committee. Isn’t it therefore a little disingenuous to cite something she opposes as justification for voting against LARC funding?

To be honest, we think that under different political circumstances, Roberts may well have been a “yes” vote on LARC funding. But even the most charitable interpretation, that Roberts’ vote was influenced by political calculations as she ponders a Republican primary for higher office, amounts to a serious indictment of her credibility–on an issue she needs to be strong on to sell herself as a “moderate” in a general election. Then again, she can’t win a Republican primary wearing a “moderate” label.

The bottom line? Ellen Roberts may simply have no good options.

Cory Gardner To Prove 2014 Abortion Attacks Were All True

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Anti-abortion news site LifeNews.com reports on the movement of the 20-week abortion ban bill, which passed the U.S. House in mid-May, to the GOP-controlled Senate:

The lead Senate sponsor of the pro-life bill that bans abortions from after 20-weeks of pregnancy up to the day of birth will introduce the legislation next week. Last month, the House of Representatives voted 242-184 for the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is the lead sponsor of the pro-life measure in the Senate, has announced that he will introduce the measure next week. In a new letter to members of the Senate, released to LifeNews.com, the National Right to Life Committee is urging members of the Senate to sign on to the legislation as cosponsors.

“The operative language of the proposal that Senator Graham intends to introduce is the same as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act as approved by the House of Representatives on May 13 (H.R. 36, as revised by the Franks Substitute Amendment),” NRLC says in its letter. “Like earlier versions of the legislation, the House-passed bill extends general protection to unborn children who are at least 20 weeks beyond fertilization (which is equivalent to 22 weeks of pregnancy — about the start of the sixth month).”

National Right to Life says there is an abundance of scientific evidence showing unborn babies feel pain in the latter stages of pregnancy and the pro-life group says the Senate ha an obligation to protect them from excruciating abortions…

The experts say that, all other arguments for or against abortion notwithstanding, there’s just no solid evidence to back up the claim that fetuses “feel pain” when a woman’s pregnancy reaches 20 weeks. Factcheck.org dug into this claim in detail after the passage of this legislation in the House last month:

Research on the topic has centered around the stages of brain and nervous system development, and what is known regarding the processing of pain in the brain. We reviewed the literature and spoke with several experts, and we conclude that a firm starting point for pain in the developing fetus is essentially impossible to pin down, and that definitive claims regarding pain perception at 20 weeks are unfounded. [Pols emphasis]

Once you accept that the 20-week cutoff in this legislation is arbitrary, the only justification for the bill beyond the usual rote arguments against abortion falls apart. What this represents is another attempt by Republicans to restrict abortion rights–period. Media talking heads who just got done convincing voters that there is no “war on women” against reproductive rights by the Republican Party have nothing to say when asked about this renewed effort, except maybe to sheepishly note that President Barack Obama is certain to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.

who_wont_get_fooled_againBut with a presidential election looming next year, what kind of comfort is that to women? Not much. One of the GOP’s foremost slicksters on the issue of abortion, Sen. Cory Gardner, is all but certain to vote for this abortion ban bill. How will local Republican operative Laura Carno, as one example, react to that–after assuring Colorado voters last year:

Democrats seem intent on making this election about choice. What else explains the barrage of ads in the Colorado U.S. Senate race with the false narrative that a woman’s right to get a legal abortion is in jeopardy?

…[A] deafening barrage of political commercials is now telling women their reproductive rights are in danger. Let’s be clear: They aren’t. [Pols emphasis]

Not to mention the Denver Post’s endorsement of Gardner, which proclaimed unequivocally:

Gardner’s election would pose no threat to abortion rights. [Pols emphasis]

Well folks, as soon as Gardner votes for this legislation, these lies are all laid bare for the voters of Colorado to see. At the very least, that should make it harder for GOP apologists in the media to tell Colorado voters that what they can see with their own eyes in the records and statements of Republican candidates for office isn’t so. By running away from his anti-abortion past during the campaign, and then voting for this abortion ban bill within months of taking office, Cory Gardner may well destroy the ability of fellow Republicans in Colorado to replicate his success in the future.

At the very least, it will be hard to fool them again.

Hardly Anybody’s Buying Cory Gardner’s Birth Control “Sham”

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Freshman Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado unveiled his long-awaited proposal to make oral contraceptives available over the counter last week, nominally keeping a major campaign promise but opening himself to new criticism as the details of his plan are unpacked by experts. Last Friday, Lynn Bartels at the Denver Post highlighted the objections of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to Gardner’s proposal, who say it “would actually make more women have to pay for their birth control, and for some women, the cost would be prohibitive.”

Today, after more experts and advocacy groups have had a chance to look at the bill, the criticism continues to pile on. The Hill’s Sarah Ferris reports today:

The Colorado Republican’s push to make birth control available over-the-counter is not winning him more allies among women’s reproductive health groups…

Groups like Planned Parenthood have opposed the idea, which they argue could drive up contraception prices.

The group has pointed to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate — requiring insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved forms of birth control — and said that insurers may no longer cover the medication if it’s not prescribed by a doctor.

Emily Crockett at RH Reality Check:

Gardner was one of many Republican candidates in the 2014 midterm elections who campaigned on expanding “access” to birth control by making it available over the counter. Reproductive health advocates said that this was a cynical way for candidates to downplay their extreme anti-choice views on issues like anti-choice fetal “personhood,” which Gardner has supported throughout his political career.

The proposed Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act would waive the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) filing fee and expedite the application review process to encourage manufacturers of “routine-use contraceptives” to apply to the FDA for over-the-counter (OTC) status, according to Gardner’s website…

As Salon’s Katie McDonough explains, this legislation doesn’t do anything except ensure that women who now pay nothing for their contraceptives will start paying:

Birth control is expensive. Oral contraceptives can cost, in some places, more than $600 a year. And that cost can be prohibitive for women already struggling to support themselves. And as funding cuts to family planning clinics continue to devastate access for low-income women, making full-price birth control available over the counter does virtually nothing to counter that…

And no cost reduction through market force could match what’s offered by the new healthcare law: no cost. There simply is no competing with zero dollars when it comes to access. [Pols emphasis] And Joshua Cohen, a health economist at Tufts University, told FiveThirtyEight that such measures may improve convenience, but not cost. “Any improvement in access is likely to be merely a convenience issue,” he said. But that women “would pay more out-of-pocket for the OTC contraceptive than they would for the prescription product.”

Which brings us to the Huffington Post’s Laura Bassett, and the most important reason this proposal is being offered at all–to undercut the requirement in Obamacare that contraception be covered through a guaranteed health insurance benefit with no co-pay at all. Think Hobby Lobby:

[T]he proposal also represents a GOP end run around the Affordable Care Act provision that requires most employers to cover the full range of contraception at no cost to women. Republicans have long opposed and even pledged to repeal that rule because they claim it violates the religious freedom rights of employers who are morally opposed to birth control.

The mandatory contraception coverage under Obamacare applies only to birth control that requires a prescription. So if this bill resulted in various forms of routine-use contraception being sold over the counter, they would not have to be covered by insurance. [Pols emphasis]

On the campaign trail last year, Gardner used this proposal for over-the-counter oral contraceptives to counter allegations that, as a longtime supporter of the “Personhood” abortion ban ballot measures, he had effectively advocated for a ban on common forms of birth control. Despite the fact that the birth control restrictions that would result from passage of “Personhood” were well known to all sides of the debate as far back as 2008, Gardner insisted that he “had not realized” the initiative would have this effect until much more recently. As our readers know, a very large amount of oxygen in the 2014 U.S. Senate race was expended on trying to pin “Personhood’s” worst potential effects on Gardner, which Gardner outlasted via blanket denials that eventually fatigued the public’s interest.

In retrospect, it worked brilliantly–and for low-information voters who don’t know the details, Gardner just “kept his promise,” even as medical experts and pro-choice advocates cry foul to anyone who will listen. The bill is of course never going to become law under President Barack Obama, but that’s not the point.

Because this is not about passing anything, or even helping women get contraceptives. It’s about, as GOP consultant Katy Atkinson candidly admitted last year of Gardner’s women’s health agenda, “muddying it up” enough to confound the politics of birth control and abortion, and helping Gardner complete his reinvention from a conservative “social issue warrior” into an electable mainstream politician.

With all of this in mind, it’s easier to understand why pro-choice advocates are so angry over this proposal. It’s not sour grapes over 2014, more like proof that what they said about Gardner’s reproductive choice “con job” last year…was right.

Cory Gardner Delivers Turd (As Promised!)

Suppose someone promised you that in June 2016, they would come to your house and kick you in the shins.

Now suppose it is June 2016, and this same person has just kicked you in the shins. Would you be upset over your newly-bruised legs, or would you congratulate that person for doing what they said they were going to do one year earlier? We like it when people keep promises, in part because it helps to validate our opinion of that person, but the contents of the promise are still important. Should we still applaud someone for keeping a shitty promise?

Enter Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who introduced legislation today that he first outlined during the 2014 Senate race. As Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post explains:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner today made good on his promise to push for over-the-counter contraceptives, introducing legislation to encourage drug manufacturers of “routine-use contraceptives” to file an application with the FDA to sell their products over the counter.

The Yuma Republican first brought up the idea last year in an opinion piece published in The Denver Post. At the time, the congressman was trying to unseat U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat…

…Planned Parenthood Votes claimed at the time that Gardner’s over-the-counter proposal actually took away coverage for birth control. When Democrats questioned Gardner on his positions about women and reproductive rights, he would point to his op-ed and say he didn’t want to place restrictions on contraceptives but expand access to them. But critics noted he still sponsored the federal Life Begins at Conception Act, which would ban common forms of birth control and abortion.

Planned Parenthood was not impressed with Gardner’s idea in 2014, and they’re still not happy about it. In a press release, Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, had this to say:

“This bill is a sham and an insult to women. It would give women fewer birth control options and force women to pay twice for their birth control.”

Opposition to Gardner’s bill from the left has always been about the specific proposal, and not about agreement or disagreement with increasing access to birth control. Gardner’s bill would actually end up making contraception less available and affordable for women by making it too expensive: In order to make more options available over-the-counter, the bill first removes the requirement for insurance to cover birth control. Under Gardner’s bill, you might not need a prescription for certain contraceptives — you just won’t be able to afford them. Problem, not solved.

But hey, he did what he said he would do! 

Hooray, or something.

Americans United For Life Takes Credit For Colorado GOP’s Failed Abortion Rights Crackdown, Longmont Attack Exploitation

Senate President Bill Cadman.

Senate President Bill Cadman.

As controversy raged over the recent horrific attack on a pregnant Longmont woman toward the end of this year’s legislative session, we noted in late April that a bill proposed by Colorado Senate Republicans “in response” to that attack, Senate Bill 15-268, incorporated model language from the national anti-abortion advocacy group Americans United For Life. Even though Senate President Bill Cadman insisted that the legislation was not intended to restrict abortion rights, AUL proudly took credit for the bill with its members, as part of an explicit strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade “through deliberate, legal strategies that accumulate victories, build momentum, and restore a culture of life.”

In particular, language in Senate Bill 268 defining a “human being” as “an unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth” echoed the Personhood abortion ban constitutional amendments that Colorado voters have overwhelmingly rejected three times in recent elections. An amendment to strip the Personhood language was rejected by the GOP Senate majority, and despite Cadman’s protests to the contrary, it was clear by the time this legislation was finally killed in the Democratic-controlled House that the “ulterior motive” of chipping away at abortion rights was very much the goal–as AUL was more than happy to confirm in their member communications.

Now that the session is over, it should be noted that Americans United for Life played a role in more than just the so-called “fetal homicide” debate. In a memo distributed just before the end of Colorado’s legislative session this year, AUL includes our state in a long list of states where their organization has contributed “legislative consulting” and model bill language:

AUL and AUL Action have responded to 329 legislative consulting requests in 31 states and the District of Columbia: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, [Pols emphasis] District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

So far this legislative session, AUL has distributed 620 policy guides/model language in 33 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, [Pols emphasis] Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

In terms of specific bills AUL takes credit for in Colorado this year, it’s a lot more than just the “fetal homicide” proposal:

• Colorado is considering HB 1162 which is based on AUL model language and prohibits sex-selective abortions.

• Colorado is also considering HB 1128 which is based on AUL model language and provides licensing and safety requirements for abortion clinics. The measure includes an admitting privileges requirement.

• Colorado is considering SB 268 which is based on AUL model language and provides legal protection for unborn victims of criminal violence.

All of these bills, along with others like the bill to make abortion a felony earlier in the session, were ultimately killed in the Democratic House. The only one of these bills that ever had any hope at all was the “fetal homicide” bill, and then only because the tragic attack on Michelle Wilkins was still fresh in everyone’s minds. But to Cadman and Americans United for Life, the attack on Wilkins was an opportunity to push a big piece of a much broader anti-abortion agenda–and maybe even get it passed through a legislature partly controlled by Democrats. It didn’t matter that the alleged perpetrator in the Longmont attack faces over 100 years in prison if convicted, making the need for a new crime beyond Colorado’s existing unlawful termination of a pregnancy statute unnecessary.

These facts help explain why Democrats and pro-choice groups were so enraged by the exploitation of the attack on Wilkins by Cadman and the GOP Senate majority: they knew where this legislation was coming from, and they knew what AUL’s agenda really is. It’s widely suspected that the blowback at Cadman over the “fetal homicide” bill provoked him to allow a much crazier abortion restriction bill, Senate Bill 15-285, to drop right before the end of the session. Cadman, after all, is famously easy to piss off, and his responses are not always the most level-headed. Politically, these anti-abortion bills are highly toxic in the long term–but that didn’t even slow Cadman and the Colorado GOP down a bit.

Now that the dust has settled, hopefully the media can stop making excuses for what happened. Because it’s all out in the open now.

Ellen Roberts’ “Pro-Choice” Credentials Pulled

As the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports, Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado is calling out Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango), after Roberts abandoned reproductive choice advocates and voted for multiple pieces of legislation they consider antithetical to the words “pro-choice.”

Attacks against Republican state Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango intensified this week after The Durango Herald reported that Roberts is considering a run for U.S. Senate. If she were to survive a tough primary, Roberts would take on incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet. She has not formally announced a campaign…

[Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado] has walked back support for Roberts, disagreeing that she remains pro-choice. It points to recent votes, including her support for a measure that would have created a fetal homicide law in Colorado. The bill failed after Democrats opposed the measure, suggesting that it was tantamount to so-called “personhood,” or defining a fetus as a person.

“You cannot support fetal personhood measures and be pro-choice,” said Cathy Alderman, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. “Despite what the proponents claimed, when you define ‘person’ prior to birth, you have created fetal personhood. Just saying it’s not personhood doesn’t change that.”

Sen. Roberts, who has campaigned on her allegedly pro-choice views but also faces the daunting prospect of a fierce GOP primary in any pursuit of higher office, protests vigorously:

“I do think it’s important to be vigilant and caring about the advancement of women in society in general,” Roberts said. “But if we want to talk about erosion, I would say it’s eroding credibility to try to insist that everybody is going to think in one monolithic way.”

Unfortunately for Sen. Roberts, this year’s fetal homicide debate, which ended with the death of Republican legislation establishing rights for fetuses “from conception,” drew a bright line on this issue–and Ellen Roberts was on the wrong side.

There were efforts this year to…remove a definition of “person” from the fetal homicide bill, but Roberts voted against an amendment that would have stripped the “person” language…

“We no longer believe her to be moderate, and we no longer consider her an ally on women’s health issues,” [Pols emphasis] Alderman continued. “Frankly, we are disappointed by it, but she may feel that is what she needs to do if she is going to go for a statewide race.”

Bottom line: Ellen Roberts had this coming. Back in 2012, Roberts sponsored a Colorado Senate resolution in support of the failed Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed any company to deny workers contraceptive coverage. This year, in addition to supporting the fetal homicide “Personhood” bill, Roberts cast a key vote against the state’s successful long-term reversible contraception program. Today, the Herald reports separately that this program played a “major role” in reducing the rate of teen pregnancy in Roberts’ own district.

And that, dear reader, is how one loses the right to call one’s self “pro-choice.”

Coffman should be asked about exceptions in 20-week-abortion ban

(But remember, the “War on Women” is a myth! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Mike Coffman shrugs.

Rep. Mike Coffman shrugs.

THURSDAY UPDATE: Coffman voted for the 20-week abortion ban yesterday. Under the bill’s exceptions, a raped woman can have an abortion only “if the rape has been reported at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency.” And a child who’s a victim of incest can obtain an abortion if the “incest against a minor has been reported at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency or to a government agency legally authorized to act on reports of child abuse or neglect.” There is no exception for adult incest victims.

——-

Abortion continues to be a major focus of House Republicans, as they prepare to vote today on the latest version of their 20-week abortion ban.

The bill mandates exceptions for rape-and-incest victims, but to be allowed to have an abortion, a raped woman has to seek counseling or medical help within 48 hours of the procedure.

Coffman’s vote on the bill should be of interest to reporters. For most of his political career, Coffman took a hard-line position against any rape-or-incest exception to his anti-abortion stance. But facing a tough re-election fight, he announced his support for abortion for rape and incest.

In his vote on a similar measure in 2013, Coffman favored exceptions for rape and incest but he also voted for the requirement that rape victims report the crime to police, in order to be allowed to have an abortion. Will this year’s requirement for counseling or medical help be enough for Coffman?

If no, why? If so, what’s the explanation for his change of heart on this issue? Why does he no longer support police reporting?  Why the evolution from someone who was fiercely opposed to abortion, even for rape and incest, to someone who favors exceptions? The makeup of his new district? A personal story?

Just as House Republicans in Washington are again fighting over which exceptions should be included  in their 20-week abortion ban, the left-leaning People for the American Way has released a new report, “The Personhood Movement: Where It Comes From and What it Means for the Future of Choice,” which explains the strategic thinking of the different factions of the anti-choice movement.

The report offers a broad overview of the politics and policy of personhood, focusing on the current disputes among personhood leaders over where to take the movement going forward. And it explains why some anti-choice leaders oppose state personhood amendments, even though they share the common goal of outlawing abortion.

The report points out that personhood leaders denounce anti-choice allies, like Coffman, when they support exceptions for rape and incest, even when done in an obvious effort to make themselves or their anti-abortion legislation more palatable to the public. The report states:

“But the greatest betrayal in the eyes of these personhood advocates is the willingness of major anti-choice groups to endorse legislation that includes exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. The personhood movement’s leaders contend that these political concessions are not only immoral and intellectually inconsistent, but also threaten to undermine the movement’s goals in the long term.”

We’ve seen this play out in Colorado, as personhood leaders have turned against Republicans like Coffman.

In any case, Colorado continues to be ground zero for the personhood movement, and the PFAW report helps put what we see in front of us in a national context.