What kind of rotten decision-making process did CSU use in suspending the use of some fetal tissue?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

CSU President Tony Frank.

CSU President Tony Frank.

If you take a close look at Colorado State University President Tony Frank’s July 23 decision to suspend the school’s use of fetal tissue from vendors “implicated in the Planned Parenthood investigation,” you’re left wondering what kind of strange and half-assed process the University implemented in making its new policy.

There’s of course the overarching fact that journalists are saying Planned Parenthood has broken exactly zero laws, and you can be pretty sure that, if laws had been broken, the undercover anti-choice video tapers would have provided the evidence by now.

But beyond that, the description of the process by which CSU arrived at its decision, as described in Frank’s letter to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO Springs), raises serious doubts about whether the process was fair. (Lamborn had complained to Frank about CSU’s fetal-tissue policies.)

Frank: Since receiving your letter, I have reviewed the video that was released by the Center for Medical Progress; sought clarification on the points of law you’ve raised; and discussed the issue further with Colorado state Senator Kevin Lundberg, who provided additional insight. We also convened our Bioethics Advisory Committee to assess the known facts and make a recommendation directly to me regarding University practices going forward.

Frank “reviewed” the heavily edited video? He talked to Lundberg! Lundberg is a passionate advocate to be sure, but he  happens to be one of the least objective sources you could find in the entire state of Colorado, when it comes to abortion issues.

Frank makes no mention that he talked to any entity that might have given him Planned Parenthood’s perspective–and he writes as if he may not have even reviewed the unedited version of the Center for Medical Progress’ video.


Terrible Anti-IUD Press Silences Colorado Senate GOP

iudA major battle this past legislative session over state funding for a highly successful program to provide long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), generally in the form of an intra-uterine device (IUD), continues to generate bad press for the one-seat Republican majority in the Colorado Senate responsible for killing legislation to keep the program going. There was some confusion in the immediate aftermath of that decision as to whether or not the program, which was started with private seed grant money, would continue without tax dollars–or if continued, whether services would be impacted.

As the Denver Post’s John Frank reported early this week, there have indeed been consequences for women’s health:

Over the past seven years, a private foundation donated about $27 million to boost the program, but the grant money expired July 1.

A push to use state taxpayer dollars to continue the program failed in the Republican-led state Senate earlier this year, killed by ideological and fiscal objections.

Now, a month after the money ceased, the county clinics that administer the program are starting to see the effects, as limited federal and state funding fail to meet high demand in some areas…

In Jefferson County, the state’s fourth largest, the public health department had to start a waiting list in July.

In Pueblo County, the clinics are reserving the high-end devices for clients under age 19 and those with Medicaid coverage, which will reimburse the cost.

According to Larry Wolk, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the hunt continues for private funds to carry the program for another year, and he hopes it will come through in the next few weeks–which would allow clinics now forced to delay access to IUDs to resume at full steam. In response to GOP critics who say that private funds should continue to pay in full, LARC backers say that was never the purpose of the startup grants that funded the program up to now. Because the reduction in unintended pregnancies saves the state of Colorado considerable amounts of money, the state should pick up the cost for the LARC program to allow private grant dollars to flow to communities that don’t yet have this positive experience to motivate them.

In the months since the end of this year’s legislative session, the story of Colorado’s successful IUD program–and the inexplicable killing of legislation to fund it by the state Senate GOP majority–has been retold by news outlets across the nation. At one point in the after-debate, Senate Republicans fielded defenders like Sen. Ellen Roberts to try to explain why these funds were voted down. That didn’t go over very well to put it mildly, and in recent weeks, we’ve seen almost nothing in the way of comment from Republicans about the LARC program.

At this point, we have to think that no one is more eager to see CDPHE pull down private grant money to keep this program alive until the next legislative session than Senate Republicans. Repeated news stories documenting this program’s success, always with a word about the GOP killing the funds over “ideological and fiscal objections,” are very bad for this one-seat Senate Republican majority headed into a presidential election year. With Roberts already kneecapped out of the U.S. Senate race in part by her bumbling responses to this question, quantifiable damage has already been done.

And short of a huge about-face we don’t see coming, there will be more damage done by November of 2016.

Gardner’s Planned Parenthood Vote: Well, Pundit Class?

Sen. Cory Gardner (left).

Sen. Cory Gardner (left).

Denver Post reporter Joey Bunch contributes the local angle to the AP’s national wire story about yesterday’s failed attempt by U.S. Senate Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood, as the brouhaha over thinly-supported allegations of the organization “selling baby body parts” continue to provoke the usual reaction from the anti-choice crowd’s usual suspects.

Including Colorado’s junior Sen. Cory Gardner, for whom the issue of voting to defund Planned Parenthood is stickier than most, after successfully outflanking attacks on his anti-choice record in last year’s elections:

Planned Parenthood Colorado Votes called out Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Yuma for voting to defund the organization, which provides many other women’s health services besides abortions. Cathy Alderman, the organization’s vice president, said Gardner “should be ashamed of himself.”

Gardner wasn’t.

“This bill would redirect funding for women’s health care away from the scandal-plagued Planned Parenthood and toward responsible community health clinics that operate without a political agenda,” he said in response. “Funding for women’s health care must actually go to fund women’s health care, not to line the coffers of an organization under increased scrutiny for reprehensible, inhumane behavior.”

Like we said last Friday discussing this vote, there’s nothing in the videos released by abortion opponents so far that points to any actual wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. Clinics are allowed a reasonable repayment for handling tissue donations under federal law, and the medical research carried out using donated fetal issue is both vital and (until now) relatively uncontroversial.

But in rushing to vote to defund Planned Parenthood, even before the various GOP-led and presumably biased inquiries are complete, Gardner and friends have proven that these videos are just a pretext–to do what this organization’s longstanding enemies would do anyway and have repeatedly voted to do. This vote is a validation of the “War on Women” theme that Republicans have desperately tried to discredit in recent years. The political advantage gained by firing up the conservative base is undone, and then some, by demonstrating to independents and Democrats that their fears about the GOP’s true agenda on this issue are justified.

In the absence of evidence that any law was broken, and with over a year until the next election to allow cooler heads to prevail, we believe Republicans are seriously harming themselves politically–reversing gains they had made in appealing to women voters last year.

And we’ll say it again: every time Gardner votes to attack women’s reproductive rights–and this won’t be the last before 2020–he is discrediting the entire local pundit class who pompously told women voters that concerns about Gardner’s record on the issue were overblown. From the Denver Post’s editorial board who claimed Gardner’s election “would pose no threat to abortion rights” to local talking heads like Floyd Ciruli and Eric Sondermann who helped manufacture the negative impression of Democrats’ “one issue campaign” against Gardner, there are lots of people today who should be embarrassed to show their face.

Then again, Dick Morris still gets face time for some reason.

Gardner, Senate GOP Rush To Vote Against Planned Parenthood

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports:

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the Republican whip, suggested Wednesday that the Senate will take a vote on defunding Planned Parenthood on Monday.

“We’ll find out Monday night,” the Texas Republican told reporters on whether or not Republicans would be able to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle.

Cornyn spoke with reporters after a press conference with a handful of Senate Republicans who pressed for legislation rolled out Tuesday that would cut off federal money for Planned Parenthood and redirect the funding to other women’s health groups…

Republicans have renewed their push to defund the agency in the wake of a string of controversial, hidden-camera videos. The third, released Tuesday, appeared to show a Planned Parenthood official in Colorado negotiating with someone posing as a buyer of fetal tissue.

In an interview earlier this week with 9NEWS, GOP Sen. Cory Gardner confirmed that he will vote to defund Planned Parenthood:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) will be voting for the Paul amendment.

“I’m disgusted and deeply saddened by the recent videos released documenting highly unethical and inhumane practices committed by Planned Parenthood officials and affiliates,” Gardner said.

One problem with this rush to vote to defund Planned Parenthood is the “investigations” underway into selectively edited undercover videos that have circulated in recent weeks are not complete–not that we expect political investigations by Planned Parenthood’s avowed congressional enemies to produce any outcome other than wholesale condemnation anyway. But to push forward with a vote to punish Planned Parenthood without even finishing their biased inquiries broadcasts that this response was a foregone conclusion from the beginning.

That should tell you something very important about this latest campaign against Planned Parenthood, which is hardly the first–looking back, we can recall other attempts to scandalize this organization, also in the lead-up to a general election year as we are now. Even though none of the videos released so far validate the accusation that Planned Parenthood is being illegally compensated for voluntary fetal tissue donations, they are already guilty in the eyes of social conservatives just for being Planned Parenthood. With that in mind, these videos are merely a pretext for actions that conservatives would gladly take, and have taken with or without pretext.

And that should tell you something important about Sen. Cory Gardner, who you’ll recall the pundits assured us last fall “would pose no threat to abortion rights.” Here is just the latest evidence of what a bald-faced lie that was–and it won’t be the last.

Local Planned Parenthood Pushes Back Hard On Latest Anti-Abortion “Sting” Video

komen-planned-parenthood4-1The Denver Post’s Elizabeth Hernandez reports–as you’ve probably seen in the news by now, the anti-abortion gotchameisters at the so-called “Center for Medical Progress” paid a visit to Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains as well–and a video this week adds to their drumbeat releases of highly edited videos attacking the organization’s alleged tissue donation practices:

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains is “certain” it has done nothing illegal and that the accusations made against it by an anti-abortion group that posted an undercover, edited video of a PPRM physician seemingly talking about the sale of fetal parts is false.

The video — the third released by the Center for Medical Progress in recent days — shows local Planned Parenthood Dr. Savita Ginde looking at specimens with an alleged fetal tissue buyer.

Fetal tissue cannot be sold for profit but can be donated for research with permission of a donor, and providers can be reimbursed for the cost of the procedure.

Planned Parenthood says it obeys the law. But since the release of the first furtively recorded video, Republicans in Congress have been pressing to bar federal aid to the group.

Now several weeks into a series of undercover videos released by anti-abortion activists in the hope of scandalizing what amounts to routine and life-saving medical research, two things are increasingly undeniable: that these videos rely on emotional manipulation to shock viewers out of thinking rationally, and that they are part of a longstanding campaign by anti-abortion activists and allied Republican lawmakers to discredit and ultimately defund Planned Parenthood–despite the organization’s major contribution to public health in a variety of fields. The Colorado Independent’s Nat Stein provides important context for locals:

This 501(c)3 nonprofit was founded in 2013 by David Daleiden, a famous provocateur in the anti-abortion movement. Also listed as a CMP board member on the group’s registration filing in the state of California is Troy Newman — president of Operation Rescue, which ran a decades-long harassment campaign against Dr. George Tiller in Kansas that only ended after Tiller was murdered in a church in 2009…

Here in Denver, it’s worth noting that PPRM, like most Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country, doesn’t currently have a fetal-tissue-donation program. From the highly edited video, the context of their conversation about tissue sales is unclear, but PPRM President and CEO Vicki Cowart issued a statement explaining that representatives from CMP’s fake company Biomax had approached the clinic about launching a program. [Pols emphasis]

Under pressure from hard-right Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, Colorado State University has announced they will suspend any further acquisition of fetal tissue until Congress completes an “investigation” sparked by the spread of these videos. CSU presently has a single research project that has used fetal tissue samples, working on a treatment for HIV/AIDS. CSU says they did not obtain complete fetal organs, just small tissue samples, and CSU insists they were all procured in accordance with the law.

It’s important to note that, other than the unpleasant subject matter being discussed, none of these videos show anything that appears illegal as the law pertains to voluntary fetal tissue donations. Planned Parenthood doctors covertly filmed repeatedly state that they are following the law, and that it’s “not about the money.” In the end, it is one’s pre-existing views on abortion that principally determine the reaction to these videos. And that means they are most useful for agitating people who already oppose abortion.

For the rest of us, it’s the same old anti-choice crap. It takes just a moment of critical thinking to realize that medical research is in fact a good thing, and doctors talking about their work in terms non-doctors find a bit macabre is hardly a new phenomenon. Once you realize that, these videos are no more worthy of consideration than those lurid rolling billboard trucks covered with bloody fetuses and pocket change. Not to mention the growing possibility that laws were broken filming them.

In the end, it’s (pardon the expression) red meat for the conservative base, and little more. With one possible caveat: to the extent that these videos send social conservatives into yet another public freakout over what most Americans consider a settled law, this could well backfire politically–once again defining Republicans as the “war on women” party just ahead of a major election.

Doug Lamborn Says Burn Those “Baby Body Parts”

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

How else are we to interpret what the Colorado Statesman reported yesterday?

Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn called Friday for Colorado State University to stop using fetal tissue from abortions in its research while CSU defended its work as above reproach both legally and ethically.

In a letter to CSU President Tony Frank, Lamborn cited documents released last week by the Center for Medical Progress showing that the university bought what he described as “aborted babies’ parts” on Jan. 10, 2013, from a Planned Parenthood affiliate in California…

Lamborn asked Frank to explain the purchase, including the date, “the body parts purchased, the source of the body parts purchased (including the abortion clinic which performed the abortion), the price paid by Colorado State University for the body parts.”

“I also respectfully request that, should it be true that the policy of Colorado State University permits the purchase or acquisition of aborted babies’ body parts for experimentation or for other purposes, Colorado State University immediately revoke any such policy and thereafter refrain, cease and desist from any further purchases of aborted babies’ body parts,” Lamborn said in the letter.

And here’s the kicker for those of you who have been following the (latest) Planned Parenthood hidden camera story over the past week: then-state Sen. Doug Lamborn in 2000 actually tried to pass a bill that would totally outlaw any transfer of fetal tissue, even for life-saving medical research. The original text of House Bill 00-1468 made no exceptions, not for reasonable handling expenses or anything else, mandating, apparently, that fetal tissue simply be destroyed:

No physician or institution that performs procedures for the induced termination of pregnancy shall transfer such tissue for consideration or through gift, grant, or donation to any organization or person that conducts research using fetal tissue or that transplants fetal tissue for therapeutic purposes.

Unfortunately for Lamborn (but arguably very good for the rest of us), this language was softened considerably in the final version of House Bill 00-1468 to comport with federal law–adding the key term “valuable consideration” to prohibit only true for-profit exchanges, while allowing the voluntary donation of fetal tissue for medical research to continue:


Medical waste incinerator.

Medical waste incinerator.

And just so everybody is clear, in the present controversy over hidden-camera videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donations, the nominal amount of money described is strictly for the allowable handling costs indicated above. Despite the clear attempt to imply otherwise, the subjects of both videos released to date repeatedly state that the amounts are for reasonable handling costs, and that profit is not a motive.

This means that, even though the videos in question are capable of making anybody unfamiliar with the often blunt language of medical practitioners queasy, there’s nothing illegal happening. Colorado State University’s research, and the acquisition of fetal tissue with which to carry it out, appears to be perfectly legal under both federal and state law. And again–the alternative of incinerating this fetal tissue instead of saving lives with it? This whole argument seems to play on the public’s ignorance of medical advances they otherwise take for granted on a daily basis.

Instead of helping clarify what seems to us to be a very straightforward question, GOP Attorney General Cynthia Coffman responded to Lamborn’s request for an investigation of CSU with an encouraging letter stating that she was “forwarding” his request to the appropriate jurisdiction for “enforcement,” the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Because the law in question here is not ambiguous, we fully expect that CDPHE’s investigation (if needed) will clear CSU. In fact, Cynthia Coffman could easily have said as much in her response if the facts mattered more than the politics.

But with the anti-abortion crowd relying on your emotional response overcoming reason, facts just get in the way.

After briefly wrapping himself in the Planned Parenthood logo, Coffman back to hating the organization

(Naturally – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman came out swinging against Planned Parenthood yesterday, telling KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis, “It’s just one thing after another with Planned Parenthood.”

Then why did Coffman feature a Planned Parenthood logo in a campaign ad just last year, Caplis should have asked Coffman. Coffman’s 2014 ad stated that Coffman “was praised for protecting women from violence” and showed the Planned Parenthood Action Fund logo on the screen.

Judging from yesterday’s radio interview, Coffman has a list of longstanding grievances against Planned Parenthood, and Caplis would have done his listeners a favor by asking Coffman what they are. What was Coffman thinking of when he said Planned Parenthood has done “one thing after another?”

When Coffman’s ad ran last year, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains responded by pointing out that Coffman “voted many times to de-fund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide many important health services to women including birth control, family planning services, and lifesaving cancer screenings.”

In 2011, Coffman voted against Planned Parenthood funding, as part of a House resolution to the federal budget billHR 36, which prohibited  making funds available  “for any purpose to Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. or any affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc.”

For most of his political career, Coffman maintained his ardent opposition to abortion,even in the cases of rape and incest, as well as his support for personhood ballot measures in 2008 and 2010, which would have outlawed all abortion and some forms of birth control.

However, in 2013, Coffman flipped, and his office stated that the Congressman supported giving rape victims the option of having an abortion. Coffman has never explained what motivated this change, leaving everyone to conclude that he was trying to shine himself up for women voters in his swing district. Hence, his unauthorized use of the Planned Parenthood logo in the ad.

Coffman made his comments about Planned Parenthood in response to Caplis’ question about recent allegations by conservatives against the organization, which it has denied.

IUD Funding Not A Done Deal After All

UPDATE: Statement from Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado:

It is disgraceful that Republican Colorado Senators this session voted to leave low-income teenagers and young women without access to contraception that will help them achieve their goals and stay financially independent. Funding for the program expired today – that leaves a huge gap for hundreds of thousands of young women in Colorado.

The long-acting reversible contraception program (LARC) is recognized as a critical part of making Colorado #1 in preventing teen pregnancies (by 40%) and reducing abortions (35%). A relatively small investment of $5 million in LARC would have saved an estimated $50 million in Medicaid and public assistance programs.

The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment is searching for alternative funding to continue this vital service. Planned Parenthood is committed to supporting all programs like LARC that help teenagers stay in school and give them the opportunity to succeed.




A story from KUNC community radio last month announced that a highly successful program to provide IUD contraception to low-income women in Colorado would be renewed for another year, despite the refusal by Republicans in the Colorado legislature to authorize public funds to continue the program:

Despite state lawmakers failing to pass a bill to fund the effort, a program to provide long acting reversible birth control to young, low-income women in Colorado is being extended for another year.

The long acting contraceptives, according to state figures, have helped cut teen pregnancy rates in the state by 40 percent. Abortions have gone down too…

[Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment Executive Director Larry] Wolk does want to come back to the state Legislature in 2016 and try to get the $5 million needed to again fund the program through the state – and even expand it to more clinics that serve lower income young women.

“It’s good public investment,” said Wolk. “It’s not fair that we have to keep going to the private or foundation community to fund something that is saving the state money.” [Pols emphasis]

But according to a press release today from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the lack of public investment in the Long-Acting Reversible Contraception program is a problem–making the previous declaration of victory problematic:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment continues to search for funding for its successful Colorado Family Planning Initiative. To date, there is engaged conversation and expressed interest, yet no firm commitment. [Pols emphasis]

“We are working closely with our partners who believe in this initiative to find the funding necessary to continue providing contraceptive choices to young women across Colorado,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer for the department. “Making sure Colorado women have access to safe and effective contraception is an investment in their futures and ours.”

There’s reportedly still a possibility that private funds will come through to continue this program, perhaps on a reduced scale depending on how much they can get. But the situation could still affect single women in the interim if funding isn’t locked in soon, and in either case illustrates the uncertainty involved with trying to fund an important public health program of this kind with fickle private contributions. As CDPHE executive director Larry Wolk says, this is a program that saves the state tax money in the end, so to refuse to fund it as Republicans in the legislature did this year was textbook pennywise and pound foolish.

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:


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.


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.