Factcheck.org: Gardner’s Personhood Distinction Is BS

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

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

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

"The federal proposal in question simply states that life begins at conception, as most pro-life Americans believe, with no change to contraception laws as Senator Udall falsely alleges," [Gardner spokesman Alex] Siciliano said.

Cory Gardner's Personhood twist

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, exactly what we said all along.

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

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

Cory Gardner To Pro-Lifers: Thanks For Nothing, Morans!

Cory Gardner.

Cory Gardner.

Yesterday, the anti-abortion National Right to Life PAC endorsed Republican U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner, citing Gardner's longstanding opposition to "unrestricted abortion." From their press release:

Sen. Udall’s own radical abortion position is far out of the mainstream. Mark Udall supports a policy of abortion on demand, which allows abortion for any reason. He voted to keep the gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure legal (10/02/03, Roll Call No. 530). He opposed measures that would protect the rights of parents to be involved in their minor daughter’s abortion decision. Udall has also voted several times in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions.

Rep. Gardner opposes unrestricted abortion. He voted for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act – ground breaking legislation to protect unborn children at 20 weeks, a point by which the unborn child is capable of feeling great pain when being killed by dismemberment or other late abortion methods (6/18/13, Roll Call No. 251). Gardner also voted for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, a bill that would establish a permanent, government-wide policy against taxpayer funding of abortions (1/28/14, Roll Call No. 30)…

Cory Gardner stands in opposition to Obamacare – a law that created a national program of massive federal subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortion, and imposes rationing of lifesaving medical care – and he voted to repeal this destructive health care law. Sen. Udall voted for the pro-abortion, pro-rationing Obamacare law. Cory Gardner is needed in the U.S. Senate to help reverse the abortion-expanding and rationing effects of that law.

“Colorado mothers and their unborn children deserve better than Mark Udall’s extreme abortion policies,” Tobias added. “They deserve a senator who will stand up and give them a voice in the U.S. Senate. They deserve Cory Gardner.”

Interestingly, this release makes no mention at all of Gardner's strongest current pro-life position: his continuing sponsorship of the federal Life at Conception Act, which includes similar language protecting embryos "from the moment of fertilization" that Colorado's Personhood abortion ban initiatives contained. This is the language that could, in addition to banning all abortion even in cases of rape or incest, ban certain "abortifacient" forms of birth control. Given the problems Gardner is having reconciling his abandonment of Colorado's Personhood intiatives with his ongoing sponsorship of federal Personhood legislation, it's probably best that National Right to Life PAC keeps quiet about it.

This endorsement may be helpful for Gardner for shoring up his right flank, but it works at cross purposes to Gardner's larger objective of burying abortion as an issue to use against him well ahead of election season. Even among friends, Gardner doesn't want to talk about this, because any accommodation to one side of this polarized debate alienates him from the other–even more so since his recent flip-flops on the issue have been away from his base and record. He needed the right's support to get where he is, but what he needs most of all today is for them to shut up and let him run to the middle. That they're not doing so, giving Democrats new angles to revisit the issue, is an ominous development for Gardner.

So, that's one problem with this endorsement.  Here's another.

corytetons

get-a-brain-morans

This is the social media graphic National Right to Life is sharing to announce their endorsement. See the mountain in the background shot? That's Mount Moran of the Grand Teton Range in Wyoming. We've been there. It's pretty. But unfortunately, it's not in Colorado.

In our experience, using non-Colorado mountains in Colorado political advertising is the kiss of death. Perhaps not quite the disaster that the Colorado Republican Party's awkward dance with Personhood has been, but definitely not good. Be assured, locals don't appreciate it. It comes across as ignorant and patronizing, the product of outsiders to whom all "flyover state" mountains look the same.

Bottom line: to summarize National Right to Life's efforts on behalf of Cory Gardner, see title.

Video: Gardner Recommits To Abortion Ban Legislation

A video clip of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner shot about a week ago by a "tracker" with the national liberal organization American Bridge captures Gardner once again forced to address the subject of abortion–an issue that, although great for Gardner to flog during his long career running for office in safe Republican seats, is today a major liability in his statewide race. This encounter is from Gardner's recent "jobs and economy" tour on the Western Slope, as transcribed below–staying on message seems to be a bit of a problem.

VOTER: I wanted to say thank you, I had to look up the name of this bill, because I can never remember. But about a year ago, the U.S. House voted on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. And you voted for that. Um, I thought that was a wonderful bill, the media paid it very little attention, and I thought it was a very reasonable approach to a complicated and controversial problem. And you'd vote for it again as a Senator, would you not? [Pols emphasis]

GARDNER: Yes. [Pols emphasis] Thank you.

VOTER: Well, and I think you need to let people know that you did that. Because there are, I don't know, in this day and age, (inaudible) it might be a better approach than the Personhood thing.

GARDNER: Good to see you. Thank you.

VOTER: Thank you.

It's not quite a reaffirmation of Gardner's support for the Life at Conception Act, the "Personhood" federal legislation Gardner is a co-sponsor of that would have the same impact on so-called "abortifacient" birth control as the state-level Personhood amendments Gardner has disavowed. But make no mistake: the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, an arbitrary ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, would still directly challenge the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Roe v. Wade upheld abortion rights for a longer period based on the standard of fetal viability outside the womb. Pro-choice advocates note that most abortions performed this late address severe medical problems either with the mother or the fetus.

All of this helps explain why Gardner didn't appear at all eager to be discussing this issue in front of a tracker. Gardner's answer will please the anti-abortion groups who are rushing to shield him from criticism over his abandonment of Colorado's Personhood amendment. But for Gardner's larger objective of escaping the danger the issue of abortion represents to his campaign for the U.S. Senate, it's the last thing he needs.

And this won't be the last time he has to answer these uncomfortable questions.

Under Gardner’s abortion bill, doctor could have faced more jail time than rapist

(Collateral damage in the "War on Women" – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Cory Gardner.

Cory Gardner.

It's been widely reported that Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner sponsored a bill in 2007 that would have outlawed all abortion in Colorado, including for rape and incest.

But there's a detail about the ramifications of Gardner's legislation that's gone unreported, and it's important because it illuminates, in a tangible way, just how serious his bill was about banning abortion.

Let's say a woman was raped, became pregnant, and wanted to have an abortion.

Under the Gardner's proposed law, a doctor who performed her abortion would face Class 3 felony charges.

If the raped woman found a doctor willing to break the law and perform an illegal abortion, and if both the rapist and the doctor got caught by police, what would have been the potential charges and punishments against the rapist and the doctor?

I put that question to Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado.

"A class 3 felony is punishable by 4-12 years in the penitentiary," Silverstein told me via email. "Sexual assault is at 18-3-402 of the criminal code. It is a class 4 felony (18-3-402(2)), except when it is a class 3 felony (18-3-402(3.5)), or when it is a class 2 felony (18-3-402 (5)).

"When sexual assault is a class 4 felony, it is punishable by 2 to 6 years in the penitentiary.

"A class 2 felony is 8 – 24 years in prison. These penalties can be found at 18-1.3-401 (1)(a)(III)(V)(A).

"It looks like to get sexual assault into the class 2 category, there has to be serious bodily injury to the victim or the crime has to be carried out with use of a deadly weapon, or the assaulter made the victim believe there was a deadly weapon (even if there was not one)."

So, as I read Silverstein's answer, it looked to me like a doctor who performed an abortion on a raped woman could actually have gotten in more serious legal trouble than a rapist.

To make sure I had this right, I asked Silverstein if he agreed with me that under Gardner's bill, the doctor could have faced a more serious charge than the rapist, though this would not always be the case.

"Yes," replied Silverstein, "the least aggravated category of sexual assault is a lesser category of felony."

(An early version of this story stated that the hypothetical rape was also incest.)

Gardner Tries, Fails To Buzzsaw Abortion Questions

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

A surprisingly good story today from the Pueblo Chieftain's Pete Tucker draws GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner out once again on the issue of his longtime, recently-reversed support for the "Personhood" abortion ban ballot initiatives in Colorado. Much of this story is behind the Chieftain's paywall, but we strongly encourage a read if you have access. In today's story, conversation turns once again to Personhood, and Gardner tries…well, you tell us what the best term is to describe what Gardner tries to do here:

Udall’s recent advertisements have criticized Gardner’s position on the so-called “personhood amendment” and attacked him as a candidate who wants to outlaw birth control.

Gardner said both assertions are false. He said he doesn’t support the personhood amendment and said he does support women’s rights to birth control, calling the accusation “nonsense.” [Pols emphasis]

What Gardner's campaign wishes more than anything is that this conversation would stop right there. Gardner would prefer the statement that he "doesn't support Personhood" to end all discussion about this issue, except maybe with a brief segue into birth control so Gardner can burnish his "women's issue" credentials with his come-lately proposal to make the pill available over the counter.

But unfortunately, as Tucker continues, the conversation doesn't end there:

Udall’s campaign said Monday that its point is that Gardner remains a sponsor to the federal personhood amendment and that his reversal on a state law was one of political expedience. Gardner said he won’t respond in ads to Udall’s attacks, saying a tit-for-tat advertising war prevents him from focusing on his own message. He also said Udall can’t campaign on the economy or health care.

But Udall’s staff noted Gardner already has run an ad responding to the accusations over women’s issues.

In the ad, Gardner responds to the personhood issue, noting he reversed his decision on the state proposal, [Pols emphasis] then goes on to attack Udall’s support for Obamacare.

And folks, one more time–why did Gardner reverse his position on the Colorado Personhood ballot measures right after getting in the U.S. Senate race? Because he had apparently "just discovered" that Personhood could outlaw common forms of birth control! And why is his continued cosponsorship of the federal Life at Conception Act a problem? Because it has the same language as Colorado's Personhood amendments!

If you're looking for the part of this story where Gardner says the perfect thing to defuse this obvious contradiction and comes out looking trustworthy…we're sorry to tell you, it doesn't exist. Gardner cannot truthfully reconcile his message on abortion with his stridently anti-choice record in politics, because it would be politically suicidal to do so. Gardner calls these attacks the product of a "tired playbook," but he has no defensive play–and every story that honestly explores the question makes that more glaringly obvious.

And when even a friendly newspaper like the Pueblo Chieftain can't hide that, he's got a problem.

Politico is latest media outlet to let Gardner slide on personhood inconsistency

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Cory Gardner.

Cory Gardner.

The latest reporter to ask senatorial candidate Cory Gardner why he's un-endorsed the state personhood amendments but has yet to un-cosponsor a proposed federal personhood law is Politico's Paige Winfield Cunningham, who reported Wednesday:

Gardner now says he was wrong to back personhood because it could ban some forms of contraception. He’s even urging the Food and Drug Administration to make birth control pills available without prescription. But he is still listed as a sponsor of a federal personhood bill. His campaign didn’t respond to questions about the discrepancy.

In the absence of a response by Gardner, or his spokespeople, Cunningham should have cited the Gardner campaign's previous erroneous statement that the federal personhood bill, called the Life at Conception Act, is simply a declaration that life begins at conception, and it would not ban abortion, even for rape and incest, like Colorado's personhood amendments aimed to do.

Here's what Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano told The Denver Post's Mark Matthews July 15.

"The federal proposal in question simply states that life begins at conception, as most pro-life Americans believe, with no change to contraception laws as Senator Udall falsely alleges."

(more…)

Conservatives Freak Out Over New Udall Ad

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall's campaign is out with another ad slamming opponent Cory Gardner for his longstanding support for banning all abortions even in cases of rape or incest–and also for Gardner's renounced backing of the Personhood abortion bans in Colorado, which could have banned certain forms of so-called "abortifacient" birth control in addition to banning all abortions. Udall's latest ad on this subject could be the hardest-hitting yet, and that has seriously upset conservatives allied with Gardner. The religious Life News reports:

Pro-abortion Colorado Sen. Mark Udall has released a campaign ad trashing pro-life Congressman Cory Gardner, who is challenging the abortion advocate in one of the hottest Senate races in the country.

Gardner, a pro-life Congressman from Colorado, hopes to help pro-life advocates gain control of the Senate from Reid and to put it back in pro-life hands. Gardner is a longtime pro-life advocate who maintains a 100% pro-life voting record in the House…

Udall's new "Backwards" TV ad against opponent Cory Gardner, a Republican congressman, features a woman holding a girl that looks about five or six years old while discussing abortion.

After the ad's narrator criticizes Gardner's "history supporting harsh anti-abortion laws," the mother, with the girl in her lap, says: "I want my daughter to have the same choices I do."

The conservative Daily Caller's Alex Pappas is shocked, we say:

Udall’s new “Backwards” TV ad against opponent Cory Gardner, a Republican congressman, features a woman holding a girl that looks about five or six years old while discussing abortion.

And don't even get FOX News contributor Katie Pavlich started:

In an ad released today attacking his opponent, Republican Congressman Cory Gardner, Udall claims Gardner wants to "ban common forms of birth control." This statement is completely false.

First, Supreme Court precedent set through Griswold v. Connecticut makes banning birth control pretty much impossible (you can read more about this in my new book Assault and Flattery: The Truth About the Left and Their War on Women). Second, Gardner actually supports making many pill forms of birth control and contraception over-the-counter. An over-the-counter position provides women with more access to birth control, not less and is very far from a "ban" on anything.

Remember, the best outrage always includes a book plug. Ms. Pavlich is right that a Supreme Court decision, Griswold v. Connecticut, upheld women's rights to contraception–much like Roe v. Wade upheld a women's right to abortion. But it occurs to us that comparison doesn't help Pavlich's argument much, since conservatives want Roe v. Wade thrown out. We assume Pavlich never spoke to the organizing proponents of the Personhood abortion bans in Colorado to find out that they very much did intend to ban "abortifacient" birth control. This would amount to a challenge to the Supreme Court's Griswold v. Connecticut decision, but that's not a stretch when you realize that Personhood is meant to challenge Roe v. Wade.

Gardner's disavowal of support for Colorado's Personhood initiative rests on the dubious claim that he "didn't know" Personhood could have these secondary effects on access to birth control. It's hard to call this a fictional consequence when Gardner himself admitted to it. As we've discussed in detail, this has been a well-known consequence of Personhood ever since 2008. Again, the proponents of Personhood knew this, and made no attempt to conceal their desire to ban "abortifacient" birth control at the time.

A ban on abortifacient birth control is also a potential consequence of the federal Life at Conception Act that Gardner remains a cosponsor of to this very day, despite unsupported claims otherwise from Gardner's campaign. As for Gardner's latest proposal for over-the-counter birth control pills? It was made under duress as a response to this crisis situation–as an attack on Obamacare, and with no real consideration for what it would mean as a substitute to the zero-copay birth control already available through Obamacare. For example, who's going to install an intrauterine device (IUD) over the counter?

So what are we left with with all of these facts in view? Well, Udall has another campaign ad out attacking Gardner on one of his gravest vulnerabilities–longstanding support for banning abortion, as well as the Personhood bans that could go even farther. The central offense in Udall's ad is a mother and her daughter, with the mother saying she wants her daughter to have "the same choices" she did. The presence of the young daughter in this ad especially outrages conservatives, who would rather think that Democrats want all children aborted, or that all young Democratic girls are taught loose morals via birth control and easy abortions–or whatever the problem is here.

But the outrage seems to be meant to conceal something Gardner's campaign doesn't want to discuss honestly.

Can you come up with a better explanation for Gardner supporting Fed Personhood bill?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Cory Gardner.

Cory Gardner.

I may be the only person in the universe who spends his quiet moments in the shower trying to figure out the puzzle, left unsolved by local and national reporters, of why Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner hasn't un-cosponsored federal personhood legislation, which aims to ban all abortion, even for rape and incest.

Gardner's been jumping up and down and screaming that he no longer supports personhood amendments here in Colorado, even saying so in a TV commercial, but he's not backing off the federal personhood bill, called Life at Conception Act.

Gardner spokespeople have told reporters that the federal legislation "simply states that life begins and conception," and it would have not real-world impact on abortion or contraception.

But if you take one minute and read the bill, you'll see that it actually factually aims to make personhood the law of the land. And other co-sponsors of the bill agree.

So what's up with Gardner?

(more…)

Gardner Camp Responds to Cosmopolitan Article by Ridiculing Magazine

Last Thursday we wrote about a story from Cosmopolitan magazine discussing the Personhood issue in Congress, with a focus on Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner's struggles with flip-flopping on the issue. Here's the money quote from that story:

[Gardner has] built his entire political career on support of personhood," Personhood USA president Keith Mason told Cosmopolitan.com. "I think he's just listening to some bad advice, and he's playing politics."

A few hours after our post first appeared on Colorado Pols, Gardner's campaign responded via Twitter in just about the worst possible manner — by (SURPRISE!) making fun of women's magazines. From Jill Filipovic of Cosmopolitan:

This week, journalist Ada Calhoun published a piece on Cosmopolitan.com about personhood bills, wildly unpopular right-wing legislation that would outlaw abortion and, potentially, some forms of birth control and in-vitro fertilization. She highlighted the Senate race in Colorado between pro-choice candidate Mark Udall and his anti-abortion opponent, Cory Gardner, who supported state personhood legislation until he didn't, and who remains a co-sponsor of federal personhood legislation. Udall's press team tweeted the article. In response, Sam Stookesberry, Gardner's deputy press secretary until last month, responded:

Cosmo Tweets

You may want to adjust those blinders

That kind of condescension is de rigueur when you write in lady-mag land. If your outlet brands itself as a "women's publication," the automatic assumption is that it's lowbrow, apolitical, superficial, or all of the above. And there's certainly plenty of content in traditional women's magazines and websites that fits the bill.

But mainstream "serious" media, with its regular forays into rape apologia and marginalizing female accomplishment, isn't exactly an enjoyable place for the feminist-hearted either. And while beauty tips, fashion spreads, and sex advice are staples of women's publications, so is an abundance of serious reporting and thoughtful writing from excellent journalists. Calhoun, for example, has written for The New York Times, New York Magazine, NewYorker.com, and the New Republic — and that's just the "N" section of her resume. Put her in Cosmo, though, and suddenly "hard-hitting journalist" becomes a sarcastic reproach instead of an accurate characterization…

The reaction to an article's placement also serves as a handy litmus test: Whether a person engages with the work sincerely or whether their go-to response is to brush it off because it appears in a women's publication alongside celebrity, fashion, and sex coverage offers a pretty clear read on how they view women more generally. [Pols emphasis] Which makes smarmy dismissals from conservative men fairly predictable — if especially rich when those men's patronizing tweets are published alongside their own less-than-hard-hitting style advice.

As we wrote last week, it would be foolish to dismiss something that appears in Cosmopolitan magazine — which boasts a readership of a female demographic that Gardner desperately needs in order to have any hope of defeating Sen. Mark Udall in November. It is completely irrelevant if some individuals — primarily men — brush Cosmo off as unimportant. Cosmopolitan magazine isn't trying to influence an audience of conservative men…even if that's all Cory Gardner's campaign can think about.

Other co-sponsors of Life at Conception Act say it aims to enact personhood at federal level

(Oops. – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Cory Gardner.

Cory Gardner.

Senatorial candidate Cory Gardner's spokespeople are saying that a federal personhood bill cosponsored by Garder, called the Life at Conception Act, is not a real personhood bill because it "simply states that life begins at conception" and would not actually outlaw abortion or contraception.

If so, you'd expect other co-sponsors of the Life at Conception Act to agree with Gardner. But this is not the case.

After co-sponsoring the same Life at Conception Act in March, 2013, four months before Gardner signed on, Rep. Charles Boustany, (R-LA) issued a statement saying:

“As a Member of Congress, I take the cause of fighting for the unborn just as seriously. That’s why I cosponsored H.R. 1091, the Life at Conception Act. This bill strikes at the heart of the Roe v. Wade decision by declaring life at conception, granting constitutional protection to the unborn under the 14th Amendment.”

Boustany's comment comports with the actual factual language of the bill. It's an attempt to outlaw all abortion, even for rape and incest, via the 14th Amendment.

I've made multiple attempts to reach the House sponsor of Life at Conception Act, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), for his take on his own bill, but I have yet to hear back. [Hint to a reporter who might be reading this: Would you please give him a call?]

But Sen. Rand Paul is the Senate sponsor of the Life at Conception Act, which is identical to the bill co-sponsored by Gardner. And this is how Paul described his own bill in March of last year.

"The Life at Conception Act legislatively declares what most Americans believe and what science has long known-that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward." [BigMedia emphasis]

(more…)

Today In BS: Yes, Colorado Personhood is Federal Personhood

A story from KUNC's Bente Birkeland showcases a key emerging lie from Republicans in defense of U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner. As readers know, Gardner disavowed his longstanding support for Colorado's "Personhood" abortion ban ballot initiatives shortly after entering the U.S. Senate race. Gardner claims that despite supporting Personhood over repeated elections, he never realized the measure could outlaw commonly used forms of so-called "abortifacient" birth control.

Although Gardner has withdrawn his support for the Personhood abortion bans, he remains a sponsor of the federal Life at Conception Act. A big reason is that the process of formally removing one's self as a cosponsor of congressional legislation requires an appearance on the floor of the House–a public statement that would be jumped on by abortion opponents and supporters alike.

Via KUNC, here's what Team Gardner is saying when asked about this contradiction:

Polls show the U.S. Senate race is deadlocked. The Republican Party said Democrats are forcing the issue because abortion isn’t a topic at the top of most voters’ minds this election cycle.

Its job and the economy on the minds of women voters said Owen Loftus, a spokesman for the Colorado Republican Committee. He doesn’t think the personhood proposal will hurt Gardner – even though Gardner still supports a similar federal measure.

“It’s not personhood federally. The Democrats like to say it is personhood, but it’s not,” said Loftus. [Pols emphasis]

Cory Gardner thinks you are, in a word, stupid.

Cory Gardner thinks you are, in a word, stupid.

​As we and others have repeatedly explained, that is a completely false statement. Both the Colorado Personhood abortion bans and the federal Life at Conception Act would ban all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest, as well as commonly-used forms of birth control. The federal Life at Conception Act cosponsored by Gardner reads as follows:

The terms "human person" and "human being" include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, [Pols emphasis] cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.

And once again, here is 2008's Amendment 48, the Colorado Personhood abortion ban ballot measure backed by Gardner:

Person defined. AS USED IN SECTIONS 3, 6, AND 25 OF ARTICLE II OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION, THE TERMS "PERSON" OR "PERSONS" SHALL INCLUDE ANY HUMAN BEING FROM THE MOMENT OF FERTILIZATION. [Pols emphasis]

It is the language in both the Life at Conception Act and Colorado's Personhood amendments conferring rights from "the moment of fertilization" that would result in the same outcome–prohibition of "abortifacient" forms of birth control. It really is that simple. There is no hidden language in the federal Life at Conception Act making the distinction GOP spokesman Owen Loftus suggests exists. H.R. 1091 is three paragraphs long. Colorado's original Personhood initiative, Amendment 48, is the one sentence you see above.

Bottom line: Gardner's campaign is not being honest, and they are counting on the press having neither the time nor inclination to check the facts. It appears that Republicans all the way up the food chain are ready to repeat this falsehood rather than trap Gardner. Even though the facts are not at all difficult to understand.

If it were us writing these stories, we wouldn't stand for being lied to like this.

Cory Gardner: So, Cosmo Says You’re Whack…

Cosmo-July14

Guess which key demographic reads Cosmo?

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal wrote at length on a subject we have been intimately familiar with in Colorado: Congressman Cory Gardner's Personhood problem. It has now been more than 4 months since Gardner first tried to flip-flop on Personhood (but only the "Colorado" kind), and he's had a hell of a problem with the issue ever since. Gardner has tried hard to distance himself from the issue — which was the point of the flip-flop to begin with — but things have gone so bad that 4 months later Personhood is still dogging the Republican Senate nominee. He's now being criticized by Cosmopolitan magazine, which is a problem for a lot of reasons.

Since we all agree that women are probably the key to winning statewide races in Colorado, a new story out today should absolutely scare the hell out of the Gardner campaign — not just for what it says, but for where it says it: Cosmopolitan magazine. Ada Calhoun writes this week about the federal "Life at Conception Act," which Gardner sponsors and which is pretty much the exact same thing as the Colorado Personhood ballot measures:

A bill introduced in the House of Representatives last year has major criminal implications for women. If it passes, women could be prosecuted for seeking an abortion or even for taking a drug and then having a miscarriage. It would also outlaw IVF and any form of contraception that could theoretically prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, including Plan B, the IUD, and the pill…

…More than anywhere else, the debate over personhood is playing out in Colorado, the home base of Personhood USA. There, Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, has been pounding his challenger, Cory Gardner, with ads calling him out for his support of personhood. Gardner responded in a commercial that he no longer supports personhood after he "listened" to his constituents. But Udall's campaign launched a website that shows Gardner with a cartoon of the federal personhood bill perched on his shoulder, and Planned Parenthood Votes released an ad calling Gardner "still wrong for women's health." Gardner's campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

"Colorado might be a little unique because Coloradans know what this means," says James Owens, deputy communications director for the Udall campaign. "We've had two ballot initiatives on [personhood] in the last six years, and they've failed by overwhelming margins. So when people hear that there's a congressman running to represent the entire state who still has his name on a federal personhood bill, they know what that means for their access to birth control and safe access to abortion."…

"[Gardner has] built his entire political career on support of personhood," Personhood USA president Keith Mason told Cosmopolitan.com. "I think he's just listening to some bad advice, and he's playing politics." [Pols emphasis]

Whoa. That quote from Personhood USA president Keith Mason is a doozy. When you call out Gardner for basing "his entire political career on support of personhood," it absolutely kills Gardner's hopes of trying to make this look like a reasonable re-think of a controversial issue. And it's not like there isn't a preponderance of evidence against Gardner on this "change of heart."

Cory Gardner's Personhood twist

Cory Gardner is all tied up over Personhood.

Not that we're surprised this isn't going well. Take a look at what we wrote in late April, and notice how you could use the same paragraph months later:

Look, we get it. We understand the idea here. Rep. Cory Gardner was obviously concerned that his longtime support of the Personhood issue — both in Colorado and in Congress — would be a significant problem in his quest to defeat incumbent Sen. Mark Udall in November. From a broader perspective, it probably seemed like a wise move to try to distance himself from his Personhood past. But Gardner and his campaign team didn't spend enough time thinking this through.

Not only has the Personhood issue failed to fade for Gardner, but his clumsy handling of the flip-flop has actually made things worse for his candidacy. And from what we hear, some high-level Republicans are quietly growing nervous about Gardner's silly mistakes.

If Gardner loses his bid for the U.S. Senate largely because of the Personhood issue, he'll have nobody to blame but his own campaign. Personhood was going to come up in this campaign one way or the other, but Gardner's own arrogance at thinking he could just tell people he "changed his mind" has kept this as a top issue as we enter August and the busiest time of the campaign season. He should never have tried to flip-flop on an issue as seemingly black and white as Personhood, but now he's living with the consequences. 

Look, we get it. We understand the idea here. Rep. Cory Gardner was obviously concerned that his longtime support of the Personhood issue — both in Colorado and in Congress — would be a significant problem in his quest to defeat incumbent Sen. Mark Udall in November. From a broader perspective, it probably seemed like a wise move to try to distance himself from his Personhood past. But Gardner and his campaign team didn't spend enough time thinking this through.

Not only has the Personhood issue failed to fade for Gardner, but his clumsy handling of the flip-flop has actually made things worse for his candidacy. And from what we hear, some high-level Republicans are quietly growing nervous about Gardner's silly mistakes.

- See more at: http://coloradopols.com/search/personhood/page/3#sthash.kmsDckbY.dpuf

Intensifying personhood debate should put media spotlight on Gardner, who stood with personhood when it was first launched

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The kickoff rally to oppose Amendment 67, which would add "unborn human beings” to Colorado's criminal code and wrongful death act, is set for tomorrow at 12:15 p.m. on the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol, exactly 45 minutes after proponents of the Personhood-USA-backed measure stage a counter protest at the same location.

If you re-wind just over six years ago to the State Capitol, you'd find a related news event taking place: the 2008 personhood amendment was picking up its first real legitimacy. Personhood activists staged a press conference with, as Channel 7 reported at the time, "some of Colorado's most conservative leaders," including Bill Cadman, Mike Kopp, and Josh Penry. (Watch it here.)

Also present was then State Rep. Cory Gardner, who you can see on the left of the screen shot below.

Gardner and the others got a shout-out from Kristi Burton, the initiator of the 2008 personhood effort, in a subsequent news release about the event:

Colorado for Equal Rights and State Senator Scott Renfroe organized a press conference in which ten state legislators gave their public support to the Colorado Human Life Amendment. Endorsements were given by State Senators Scott Renfroe, Greg Brophy, David Schultheis, Mike Kopp, Josh Penry, Ted Harvey, and Bill Cadman and State Representatives Kent Lambert, Jerry Sonnenberg, and Corey Gardner.

Colorado for Equal Rights applauds the courage of these state legislators in stepping out and taking a stand for those people who have no voice…the unborn. As Senator Greg Brophy stated, "Clearly it's always the right time to take the stand for the sanctity of life."

The underlying politics of this year's Personhood-backed amendment is obviously a major part of the story. And no one illustrates the shifting politics better than GOP senatorial candidate Gardner.

Tomorrow's events provide an excellent opportunity for reporters to clarify how Gardner's position on Amendment 67, which he's said he opposes, squares with his position on federal personhood legislation, which he cosponsored in July of last year.

Recently, Gardner's spokesman told The Denver Post that the federal bill is simply an expression of belief, not a proposed law. This is factually incorrect, and journalists should find out directly from Gardner what his own thinking on the legislation is. If it turns out he opposes it, will he un-cosponsor it by making a speech? If he supports it, what does he think the federal legislation would actually do, if anything?

WSJ: Gardner Pinned By “Personhood”

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

An excellent story from the Wall Street Journal's Beth Reinhard today explains in depth to a national audience the ongoing problem faced by GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner we've been talking about for months–his halfway flip-flop away from longstanding prior support for the "Personhood" abortion ban initiatives that have failed repeatedly on the Colorado statewide ballot. In addition, Gardner faces growing questions about his continued sponsorship of the federal Life at Conception Act, which contains matching language from the Personhood abortion bans that would also outlaw common forms of birth control. Today's WSJ story is behind a paywall, so here's a teaser–go subscribe, or find a friend with a subscription to read the whole thing:

Rep. Cory Gardner, the Republican candidate for a Senate seat in Colorado, is trying to move away from the thorny issue of "personhood."

His problem is that neither his foes on the left nor some friends on the right will let him.

Shortly after entering the race against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in February, Mr. Gardner disavowed his past support for the idea at the heart of the personhood movement, which is to give a fertilized egg the same rights as a person, thereby outlawing abortion and some forms of birth control. In backing away, he even called for the sale of birth control over the counter…

"Cory Gardner is a big disappointment, since he was firmly on our side, and now he's throwing that away for greater political aspirations," said Jennifer Mason, a spokeswoman for Personhood USA, the lead sponsor of the ballot question. [Pols emphasis]

Mr. Gardner has said he changed his mind because Colorado voters twice rejected constitutional amendments on the issue, in 2008 and 2010. He also said he hadn't realized that access to birth control could have been affected. Mr. Gardner is listed as a co-sponsor of a House bill that says life begins at conception.

As we discussed last Wednesday, Gardner's continued sponsorship of the federal Life at Conception Act, while claiming to have disavowed Colorado's Personhood abortion bans, creates a major conflict. Both the Personhood abortion ban amendments and the Life at Conception Act contain the same language about human life beginning "at the moment of fertilization." This language is what would have the consequence, either intended or not, of outlawing so-called "abortifacient" forms of birth control. Denver Post reporter Mark Matthews asked Gardner's campaign about this apparent contradiction, and was told by Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano that the federal abortion ban bill would make "no change to contraception laws as Senator Udall falsely alleges."

But that's not true. It's the same language. At some point, this false distinction is going to burn Gardner's campaign yet again.

In the meantime, as the WSJ makes clear, Gardner still has a big problem. Even the most GOP-friendly polling in this race shows that this issue has already given Gardner's opponent Sen. Mark Udall a commanding lead with women voters. On the other side, the pro-life right wing is equally upset with Gardner's "pandering" to the left by backing off of what was previously a no-compromise stand against abortion under any circumstances.

Bottom line: there's a very simple reason why Gardner and his campaign affects exasperation with having to answer questions about banning abortion over and over, wondering aloud why reporters can't come up with "something else to talk about."

Like Ken Buck before him, this could be the issue that sinks Cory Gardner.

Gardner says Udall “trying to distract voters” with issues that aren’t “top of mind”

(Do men care about it? No? Okay then. – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

On a Denver radio show over the weekend, GOP senatorial candidate Cory Gardner accused his Democratic opponent, Sen. Mark Udall, of “trying to distract voters” by spotlighting Gardner's stances on abortion and contraception, which "aren't top of mind for people."

I would have enjoyed hearing Gardner say that to room full of women, but, alas, Gardner's words fell on talk radio, which skews male and old. And Craig Silverman, who hosted the KNUS 710-AM show on which Gardner made the comments, didn't offer any words of rebuttal, from himself or any critic, male or female.

A response from a Planned Parenthood representative–or anyone–from Texas, where new anti-choice laws will reduce the number of abortion clinics to eight statewide by Sept. 1, might make a particularly good radio debate on this topic.

As I reported today on RH Reality Check about Gardner's comment that Udall is “trying to distract the voters with issues that, quite frankly, aren’t top of mind for people:”

Gardner’s statement reflects comments he made during his first congressional campaign in 2010, when he defeated Betsy Markey, a pro-choice Democrat trying to hold her seat in a Republican-leaning congressional district.

In response to Markey’s attacks on his hardline anti-abortion positions, including his support of Colorado’s failed “personhood” amendment in 2008, Gardner said at the time, “Right now the only person talking about social issues in this campaign is Betsy Markey.” He promised reporters not to pursue an anti-abortion agenda if elected to Congress.

After winning the election, however, Gardner co-sponsored bills to redefine rape, defund Planned Parenthood, and to define a “person” in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to include all human development, beginning at the fertilized egg (zygote) stage.