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 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, 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. 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.


Distilling the arguments against a wildly successful teen-pregnancy prevention program

(These are not misquotes – Promoted by Colorado Pols)



Much has been written about the Republicans’ tragic torpedoing of legislation that would have provided funds for a Colorado program that reduced teen pregnancy by 40 percent and teen abortions by 35 percent–or thereabouts.

But it’s worth enumerating, in short-form fashion as the legislative session ends, the various arguments Republicans used to attack the program, which involved the distribution of long-acting contraception, like intrauterine devices (IUDs), to teenagers.

Birth Control = Abortion: First, there was Colorado Republican Senate Majority Leader Kevin Lundberg saying that the arguments for the bill amounted to “poor science,” citing his inaccurate belief that IUDs work by “stopping a small child from implanting.”

The Government Shouldn’t Fund Birth Control at all. Then there was the generalized no-government argument, embodied by GOP Sen. Owen Hill, who described the the measure as a bill “we gotta kill,” explaining: “You know, there’s always a new way to start a new government program. Five million dollars for some new long-term birth control. I think that’s a personal decision people need to make. Certainly the government shouldn’t be funding that.”

The Government Already Funds Contraception. “Nobody wants less unintended pregnancy more than I do,” Sen. Larry Crowder told Nora Kaplan-Bricker, who wrote a fantastic article on the topic for the National Journal, “but am I willing to go in and ask taxpayers to fund this? I think there’s adequate funding out there.” In fact, as Kaplan-Bricker pointed out, it’s difficult if not impossible for many teens to get free IUDs and other long-acting contraception under Obamacare, and the staffing for Colorado’s successful program is not funded.

Birth Control = Promiscuity and Bad Sex.  “I hear the stories of young girls who are engaged, very prematurely, in sexual activity, and I see firsthand the devastation that happens to them,” Rep. Kathleen Conti said during a hearing on the pregnancy-prevention program, as reported by Kaplan-Bricker. “I’m not accrediting this directly to this [birth-congrol] program, but I’m saying, while we may be preventing an unwanted pregnancy, at the same time, what are the emotional consequences that could be coming up on the other side?” Conti, a Republican asked at one hearing: “Are we communicating anything in that message [of providing contraception] that says ‘you don’t have to worry, you’re covered’? Does that allow a lot of young ladies to go out there and look for love in all the wrong places, as the old song goes?”

Takeaway: The legislative fight over the teen-pregnancy prevention program spotlights the fact that most Republicans in Colorado still don’t know how to talk about birth control in a way that makes sense to normal people.

Get More Smarter on Friday (May 1)

May Day! May Day! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).



► So, Thursday was a weird day. There was an Ultrasound Bus outside the State Capitol, lots of terribly insensitive things were said in a Senate Committee hearing over the surprise abortion bill (SB-285), and in a move nobody saw coming, Senator Tim Neville’s last-minute legislation failed to even make it out of committee. Check out the Durango Herald for a good summary of yesterday’s events.

 ► Oversight on the VA Hospital construction in Aurora was virtually nonexistent, according to a new report. Let us remind you, again, that Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is the CHAIR OF THE OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE for the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Six Baltimore police officers are being charged in the death of Freddie Gray, which prosecutors have ruled a homicide. Gray’s death was the prime spark that kicked off riots and violence in Baltimore.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


BREAKING: Senate Abortion Bill Dies in Committee


After all the talk about Senate Bill 285, the GOP’s surprise attempt to place new restrictions on abortion (and the Super-Friendly Ultrasound Bus), the bill failed to even make it out of committee. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

A Republican lawmaker broke party ranks and joined Democrats to reject a major abortion bill in Senate committee Thursday…

…Freshman Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton, said she is concerned about the mandates on women and physicians in the bill.

“I’d like to see more work done on this, more discussion, more thought put into this,” she said. “My people have spoken to me and they don’t feel this bill is in their best interest.”

The vote came as a surprise because it is one of the only conservative bills to get voted down in the Republican-led Senate since the party took power in January. Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said he was disappointed an abortion bill would fail before getting to the floor.

We’ll have more on this in the coming days, including the horribly insensitive statements and testimony from a handful of Republican Senators. This is an absolutely stunning end to a really bad idea from Senate Republicans. It is also tremendously damaging to Senate “President” Bill Cadman, who was already reeling from the obvious Republican repudiation of his leadership and now has to explain how taking such a big risk could fail so spectacularly.

We wrote yesterday that this surprise legislation “would not end well.” It couldn’t have ended any worse for Senate Republicans.

All Aboard the Super-Friendly Ultrasound Bus!

Tim Neville Bus

The Neville Nutters — State Sen. Tim Neville and his son, Rep. Partick Neville — really don’t understand why anybody would be upset with their last-minute legislation to regulate abortions. Via John Frank of the Denver Post:

Sen. Tim Neville, the bill’s sponsor, called it a common-sense bill to provide women more information about their decision and rejected the idea that it would spark rancor.

“I don’t think it has to be a divisive issue,” the Littleton Republican said. “I can’t pick what’s going to be divisive or not.”

His son, Rep. Patrick Neville, who is the House sponsor, said he began working on the bills months ago. “I think women have a right to view an ultrasound, and it’s also a safety issue, too,” the Castle Rock Republican said.

That’s right, folks. And what could be safer than getting an ultrasound on a weird bus parked across the street from the State Capitol? The flyer you see here was distributed to State Senators this morning by Tim Neville himself (who cleverly rhymed “bus” with “fuss”). We are not making this up.

Tim Neville is the Real Senate President

Things could be worse for Senate President Bill Cadman; at least he's not a hand puppet.

Things could be worse for Senate President Bill Cadman; at least he’s not a hand puppet under Tim Neville.

THURSDAY UPDATE: Senator Tim Neville may be good at manipulating fellow Republicans, but he still can’t make this logic work:

Sen. Tim Neville, the bill’s sponsor, called it a common-sense bill to provide women more information about their decision and rejected the idea that it would spark rancor.

“I don’t think it has to be a divisive issue,” the Littleton Republican said. “I can’t pick what’s going to be divisive or not.”

No, no, you can’t. You just make Bill Cadman do it.


The State Capitol is abuzz over the surprise move from Senate Republicans to introduce a last-minute bill to regulate abortions out of existence — and what this unexpected move tells us about who is really running the show for the GOP. 

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking in the text of Senate Bill 285; requiring women to undergo an ultrasound and a 24-hour waiting period before a procedure is an approach that we have seen from anti-choice groups around the country for many years. Similar legislation was nearly passed in Virginia in 2012 until then-Gov. Bob McDonnell realized that it was obscene to suggest that women could be “forcibly penetrated” via ultrasound (for more background, check out this 2012 story in Slate magazine).

The big surprise, of course, is that SB-285 would be introduced in the State Senate just one week before the 2015 Colorado legislative session is scheduled to come to an end…and right on the heels of the GOP’s “Personhood” debacle. Even if Republicans controlled both chambers of the Colorado legislature, it would take a minimum of three working days to get a bill through the Senate and the House (we know this little fact because that’s what Republicans tried to do with their infamous “Midnight Gerrymander” back in 2003). As it stands now, there will barely be enough time for a House committee to spike the bill — should the GOP even manage to get it out of the Senate quickly — so how did this strange maneuver even surface?

First off, SB-285 could not have been introduced this late in the legislative session without the approval of Senate “President” Bill Cadman. Legislators can’t just toss out a new bill whenever they choose; if this were the case, the legislative session quite literally would never end. If you want to introduce a new bill later in the session, you must secure a “late bill exemption” from House or Senate leadership. That Cadman would grant late bill status for anything is a contradiction of his own words from the opening day of the session (Jan. 7, 2015), when he said in a floor speech “stop asking for ‘late bills’; I’m not kidding.”

Sen. Tim Neville.

Sen. Tim Neville (R-Jefferson County)

Now, Cadman is no dummy (figuratively speaking, anyway). He knows good and well that SB-285 has zero chance of making it into law. He knows that this move will be used as negative advertising fodder against Republicans in 2016. And he’s also smart enough to understand how badly this undermines his title of “Senate President.” Obstensibly, Cadman is the leader of his caucus and responsible for making sure that things like this do not happen. From what we’ve heard today, there is a growing consensus that Cadman got rolled by the right-wing of his own party — and by Senator Tim Neville specifically.

Neville has emerged as the most prominent Republican of the 2015 legislative session, leading the charge on the controversial anti-vaxxer “Parent’s Bill of Rights,” among other lost causes. The Neville Nutters have been positioning themselves as something of a political “dynasty” in recent years, including Tim’s sons, Rep. Patrick Neville, and Joe Neville, a top lobbyist for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (whose Executive Director, Dudley Brown, thinks he owns the Senate); as well as sister-in-law Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board. It’s probably not a coincidence that all of the sponsors of SB-285 are also known backers of RMGO.

So what does Cadman get out of all this? By doing the bidding of the Neville Nutters, does he avoid a challenge from his own caucus in the fall so that he can remain “Senate President” in title only? Was Cadman subtly promised more business for his political consulting firm, Advantage Marketing? Or is there another political deal in the works, whereby the term-limited Cadman is backed by prominent anti-choice groups in a potential Congressional Primary against Rep. Doug Lamborn?

Of course, it is entirely possible that Cadman just “gave up” on trying to hold the line against the right-wing fringe of his party. He hasn’t been very good at keeping the trains running on time anyway, so perhaps this weakness in leadership should be expected.

Senate Bill 285 is not going to become law in 2015, but the political ramifications of this bizarre last-minute legislation will likely reverberate throughout 2016 and beyond. Consider the floodgates open.

Senate Republicans Drop Surprise WTF Bill on Abortion

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

Senate President Bill Cadman (R), in a photo taken sometime before he went completely bonkers.

We wrote yesterday that Senate President Bill Cadman had completely hosed his fellow Republicans by pushing through a fetal homicide Personhood bill that will come back to haunt the GOP in 2016.

Guess who just doubled-down on teh stupid?

As John Frank of the Denver Post tweeted last night, Senate Republicans are rolling out a new abortion bill that seems about as pointless as an eraser:

Sen. Tim Neville, Rep. Patrick Neville.

Sen. Tim Neville and his son, Rep. Patrick Neville.

Senate Bill 285, sponsored by The Neville Nutters, is an “informed consent/right to know” bill that would essentially get rid of abortion in Colorado by creating a laundry list of barriers and red tape for anyone considering an abortion. The legislation has a lot of similarities to a failed bill back in 2008 (SB08-095), which was sponsored by former Sen. Dave Schultheis and then-Rep. Kevin Lundberg; that Schultheis and Lundberg were involved should tell you everything you need to know about that bill.

This is a “late bill,” because it is being introduced well after the midpoint of the legislative session; in fact, we might need a new term for this, because the legislature is supposed to wrap things up one week from today. Sen. Cadman is not listed as an official sponsor, but because he is the Senate President, SB-285 could not have been introduced this late in the session without Cadman’s approval.

To recap, Senate Republicans just spent weeks prattering on about how SB-268 (the fetal homicide/Personhood bill) was about “justice” and not about abortion or Personhood or anything else. Cadman completely lost control of SB-268, to the point where Senators Ellen Roberts and Kevin Lundberg finally just admitted that this was an abortion bill. The legislation passed out of the Senate and will almost certainly come to a screeching halt in the State House, so the only thing that Cadman succeeded in doing was getting his caucus on-record about Personhood and making the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life fairly happy.

To follow up on that disaster, Cadman allowed a new abortion bill to be introduced that has no chance whatsoever of making it through the legislature; even if Cadman somehow picked up enough votes to move SB-285, there is no time left in the session to do it.

Is Cadman trying to sabotage Republicans, or has he just given up on trying to control the fringe elements of his caucus? Given what happened last week, it’s possible that Cadman just threw up his hands and said, “do whatever you want” to the extremists running around the Senate chamber. This will not end well.