Coffman Planned Parenthood Needle Threading Goes Badly

UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark with an astute observation:

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Still from Rep. Mike Coffman's 2014 ad using Planned Parenthood's logo.

Still from Rep. Mike Coffman’s 2014 ad using Planned Parenthood’s logo.

9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman follows up on Friday’s big story, the vote by the GOP-controlled U.S. House to defund Planned Parenthood–a vote that included Colorado’s Rep. Mike Coffman voting in favor despite the fact that he used the organization’s logo in a campaign ad last year:

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colorado,) who voted last week in favor of a bill to de-fund Planned Parenthood, is defending his use of a Planned Parenthood logo in an ad for his 2014 re-election campaign.

“Coffman was praised for protecting women from violence,”the ad’s narrator said, while a logo for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund appeared on screen beneath the congressman’s face.

The ad sought to take credit for Coffman’s support of the Violence Against Women Act.

Democrats argue that the goal of using the logo was to appeal to voters who support Planned Parenthood and see Coffman’s vote to defund the organization as hypocritical…

There’s no nice way to say it, but the response to this very straightforward question from Coffman spokesperson Cinamon Watson may well go down as one of the more preposterous political comebacks of contemporary American politics.

“Using Planned Parenthood’s expression of support is not the same thing as saying it’s a good organization,” said Coffman’s spokeswoman Cinamon Watson in an email to 9NEWS. [Pols emphasis]

Got that? Mike Coffman uses praise for himself from “bad” organizations in campaign ads–because, well, he doesn’t have to explain! We assume this to mean if Westboro Baptist Church or Iranian President Hassan Rouhani were to say something nice about Coffman, we’d see that in a future ad too. Right? After all, Coffman doesn’t need to support you back in order to use your support in a campaign ad. Or something.

Back in reality, we all know that’s nonsense, and we know exactly what Coffman was hoping to get out of invoking Planned Parenthood in a positive light in a campaign ad. Even giving Coffman the benefit of the doubt that the recent heavily edited undercover videos attacking the organization “changed his mind” doesn’t wash, because everyone familiar with his record knows Coffman has always been a stridently anti-abortion politician. Coffman’s vote Friday to defund Planned Parenthood only makes an ad where he used their logo in a positive light look more deceptive–yet another case of Coffman’s words failing to square with his long record of deeds.

To be honest, the best thing to do in this situation is probably not to comment at all. Because this didn’t help.

Republicans Vote to Defund Planned Parenthood; Budget Deal at Risk

UPDATE: Liberal group ProgressNow Colorado slams Coffman with the Planned Parenthood logo he used in an ad last year:

“Just a year ago, Mike Coffman was so desperate to run away his right-wing image that he misleadingly used Planned Parenthood’s logo in a campaign ad,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Today, Coffman proved that his claims that he stands with women and their families were nothing more than a smokescreen to protect his political career.”

“The far right’s latest assault on women’s reproductive rights following the release of heavily-edited, consistently debunked videos is just the latest attempt by anti-abortion extremists to ban reproductive choice with no exceptions for the life of the mother, or cases of rape or incest,” said Runyon-Harms. “For too long, Mike Coffman has tried to play both sides of this issue in order to please his right-wing donors while scrambling to keep his competitive congressional seat. With today’s vote, Coffman proves to everyone that he doesn’t stand with women at all. He stands in the way.”

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Ugh

Ugh

Congressional Republicans have voted in favor of stripping federal funding from Planned Parenthood, with Colorado’s delegation splitting their vote equally across party lines.

The House vote was not entirely unexpected, though it remains unclear how today’s vote will ultimately affect the federal budget. But first, the Washington Post reports on two anti-choice votes:

One bill passed Friday, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, would impose criminal penalties on medical personnel who fail to aid an infant born after an attempted abortion. The other, the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, imposes a one-year moratorium on federal funding for the group, which Republicans say will allow for a thorough investigation of its practices. Any funding, supporters said, would be redirected to clinics that do not offer abortions…

…Democrats pointed out that Planned Parenthood has long been prohibited from spending federal money on abortions, thanks to appropriations riders dating back to the 1970s. And in a floor debate Friday, they called the bill an attack on women’s health care and noted that other health-care providers would be unable to absorb all of Planned Parenthood’s hundreds of thousands of patients.

“This bill is dumb, it’s foolish, and it’s mean-spirited,” said Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.). “The bill is based upon lies and exaggerations. If you want to have a truthful debate, then let’s talk about the 400,000 Pap smears, the 500,000 breast exams, the 4.5 million STD and HIV tests that Planned Parenthood does each year.”

We’re all in favor of a “truthful debate,” though we’d rather not discuss Pap smears at length in this space. Instead, we’ll direct you to Politico and the ramifications of the larger federal budget deal:

Republican leaders who are eyeing a rarely-deployed, fast-track budget procedure as a way to defund Planned Parenthood and stave off a government shutdown appear to be in for a rude awakening.

The idea is aimed at placating conservatives by giving them a way to pass legislation to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding and decouple the issue from the entire federal budget. But conservatives are balking at the proposal to use the majority-vote reconciliation process, calling it a “ruse” that, in the end, would leave Planned Parenthood’s federal funding intact and amount to little more than a feel-good exercise.

In a nutshell, this has turned into one hell of a political clusterfuck for the Republican Party. Vulnerable incumbents such as Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) are now on record seeking to defund Planned Parenthood entirely, and it looks like none of this will avert the second federal shutdown in three years.

Solid work, Boehner.

Call For Mike Coffman To Fight For Planned Parenthood, Against Shutdown

As Republicans in Congress prepared to vote on legislation to defund Planned Parenthood this week, setting up a confrontation that could result in a shutdown of the federal government, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, called on Rep. Mike Coffman to fight against any attempt to either defund Planned Parenthood or endanger continued construction of the VA medical center in Aurora.

“Last year, Mike Coffman used Planned Parenthood’s logo in his own campaign ads to falsely imply they supported him,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “But when anti-abortion activists started circulating misleading, doctored videos attacking Planned Parenthood this year, Coffman went on talk radio to pile on the baseless criticism. Now, Coffman’s colleagues are threatening to shut down the government to attack Planned Parenthood’s funding, which could once again endanger the VA Aurora hospital construction project. How many times will Coffman’s Republican colleagues in Congress threaten to punish our veterans to score political points before he says enough?”

“Mike Coffman has tried to have it both ways for years, but he finally has to take a stand now to avoid political catastrophe,” said Runyon-Harms. “It’s time for Rep. Coffman to denounce any attempt by his colleagues to defund Planned Parenthood, and to make clear that any legislation that would threaten completion of the Aurora VA medical center is a nonstarter. The voters in Coffman’s district deserve better than empty posturing and excuses.”

How will the Planned Parenthood attacks play in next year’s election?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

komen-planned-parenthood4-1For an RH Reality Check post yesterday, I interviewed some familiar pundits for their take on the question of whether continued attacks on Planned Parenthood, including the recent demand by 30 GOP state lawmakers for an investigation of the women’s health organization, will affect candidates in next year’s election in Colorado.

They offered a range of opinion on the topic, but I think it’s fair to say that, outside of pleasing hard-core Republican voters, the Planned Parenthood attacks were deemed neutral at best and damaging at worst to the GOP’s electoral efforts next year in Colorado. For example:

“Given what we know at this point, it seems to me that Planned Parenthood is the wrong organization for Republicans to go after, because it has a great deal of good will,” said Norman Provizer, Professor of Political Science at Metropolitan State University of Denver. “Overall, from a political perspective, I think it’s an act of desperation to find a battle you think you might win after a long string of losses on the social issues front. But it’s the wrong organization to go after.”

“It is going to highlight the women’s issue again, which could be damaging to Republicans” continued Provizer.

The others I interviewed (Jennifer E. Duffy, Senior Editor at the Cook Political Report; Prof. Robert Loevy of Colorado College; Political analyst Floyd Ciruli) had somewhat different opinions, which you can read here, but most saw the attacks as dicey, from a political perspective, for Republicans who want to reach beyond the base voters.

A related question, which Duffy addresses briefly in my piece, is, what will Democrats do in response to the Planned Parenthood controversy going forward? Michael Bennet has voted against stripping federal funds from the organization, and you’ve seen some Dems defending the group.

But will we see more proactive responses from Dems as we approach the election, assuming no evidence of actual factual wrongdoing emerges? As yet, no such evidence has been produced.

Everyone knows how important women voters are in Colorado and how determined the anti-choice activists are to push their agenda forward. That combination will likely keep the Planned Parenthood controversy in play through next year.

Health Department To Colorado Republicans: You’ve Got Nothing

Rep. Dan Nordberg (R).

Rep. Dan Nordberg (R).

Last week, following the announcement by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman that there would be no investigation into the fetal tissue donation practices of Planned Parenthood in Colorado–a formerly uncontroversial practice, recently scandalized by an hidden camera sting campaign against the organization–some 30 Republican Colorado legislators headed up by Rep. Dan Nordberg of Colorado Springs responded with a letter to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment demanding they investigate anyway.

Yesterday, they got their response from CDPHE:

Dear Representative Nordberg:

As requested by Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) Executive Director Dr. Larry Wolk, this letter responds to your August 26, 2015 request for an investigation of Planned Parenthood and its affiliates for alleged violations of Section 25-2-111.5 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

Upon review of your letter, we note that your request is based solely on a reference to a brief and edited video distributed by the Center for Medical Progress. [Pols emphasis] We appreciate your concerns and are committed to upholding the laws we are charged with enforcing. At this time, CDPHE has received insufficient information to commence an investigation. Should full, unedited, and raw footage, or other material evidence, be provided to CDPHE, the Department will consider such information and determine whether further action is warranted.

Numerous states have already conducted their own “investigations” of Planned Parenthood in the wake of the so-called Center for Medical Progress’ releases of heavily edited videos they claim provide evidence that Planned Parenthood “sells” fetal tissue for medical research. Although selling such tissue for profit is illegal, both federal and Colorado state laws specifically allow for costs of handling and transportation to doctors and health care organizations to be reimbursed. Every single one of the videos released so far have either been edited into investigatory uselessness–or, when released unedited, feature Planned Parenthood employees clearly and repeatedly affirming these tissue donations follow the law.

As a result, the states that have finished their “investigations,” even red states like Indiana and Georgia, have found no violations of the law. That’s not a hinderance for other red states like Arkansas, though, who aren’t even bothering with an inquiry before simply electing to cut off Planned Parenthood’s funding. Which is, of course, something that state’s Republican governor would be happy to do under basically any pretext.

The truth is, Colorado’s reality-based refusal to join the Planned Parenthood bashing party is exactly what’s frustrating Rep. Dan Nordberg and the dozens of Colorado Republican lawmakers who signed his letter asking CDPHE to reconsider. Their request isn’t about the facts, it’s about capitalizing on the emotional reaction to these overhyped, deceitfully edited videos. Indeed, the objective is for the emotional reaction to trump the facts.

And no, it’s not a responsible way to govern. But this isn’t about that either.

Gazette rejects reasonable response to its inaccurate editorial trashing Planned Parenthood

(Citizen Kane would be proud – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Michael Merrifield.

Sen. Michael Merrifield.

In an op-ed in the Colorado Springs Independent yesterday, Colorado State Sen. Michael Merrifield writes:

On Sunday, Aug. 9, the Colorado Springs Gazette published an editorial that contained many of the same falsehoods about Planned Parenthood that are being spread by the extremists who made the hoax video.

I submitted a column to correct the record about the work Planned Parenthood does for Coloradans and nationally. The Gazette refused to run it — a disservice to its readers and the community I represent. I’m glad the Colorado Springs Independent has higher standards for public discussion.

It’s true that the Gazette’s editorial was full of misinformation at best, lies at worst. The Gazette didn’t even come close to informing us that no evidence exists showing that Planned Parenthood has broken any laws.

Instead, the newspaper quotes directly from undercover videos that are so altered that they have no use as evidence against Planned Parenthood.

The newspaper musters up the audacity to state Planned Parenthood has an “apparent practice of selling the organs of aborted babies.” Even if you accept what you see in the full videos, there’s no evidence that Planned Parenthood does anything other than offer fetal-tissue for research purposes for the cost of processing. That’s legal.

Next, the Gazette claims there’s an “overwhelming and growing body of evidence” that “abortion providers solicit the sale of human organs.” There is no such body of evidence much less a growing one. There’s no proof that the tissue is provided by donors on anything but a voluntary basis.

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Colorado GOP Tries To Keep Planned Parenthood Rage Alive

komen-planned-parenthood4-19NEWS’ Kyle Clark reported last night that, although she no doubt really wanted to, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has announced that there will be no investigation by the state of Colorado into the fetal tissue donation policies of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains:

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman says state law requires the investigation be conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, or CDPHE, which told 9NEWS Tuesday that it has no plans to investigate Planned Parenthood.

Coffman said Wednesday in a written statement that she views CDPHE’s decision as the “final response” to calls for investigation.

Abortion opponents had hoped Coffman, a pro-life Republican, would join other attorneys general who have launched independent investigations into Planned Parenthood.

Coffman’s decision not to investigate Planned Parenthood is noteworthy also because Colorado is one of only a few states where Planned Parenthood acknowledged having a fetal tissue donation program.

As Clark reiterates in last night’s story, consensual donations of fetal tissue are legal both under Colorado and federal law. It’s illegal to sell fetal tissue, but not illegal for clinics to receive a nominal fee to cover expenses for the storage and transport of the tissue. Colorado State University and other research organizations that was acquired such tissue have used to to perform lifesaving medical research on a variety of human diseases–research that has been vitally important to public health and relatively uncontroversial, until anti-abortion activists began posting heavily edited undercover videos earlier this year.

Rep. Dan Nordberg (R).

Rep. Dan Nordberg (R).

But as resident GOP-slanted “reporter” Valerie Richardson at the Colorado Statesman writes, local Republicans are not giving up on the chance to vilify Planned Parenthood a little while longer:

Thirty Colorado Republican legislators called Wednesday for a state investigation into Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and whether it is involved in “the sale and transfer of fetal body parts.”

“A civilized society cannot allow unethical and illegal medical practices such as the harvesting of aborted human organs and babies for monetary gain. I would hope that even proponents of abortion would agree to that much,” said state Rep. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs, in a press release…

“Planned Parenthood is not above the law,” Nordberg said. “The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has a duty to enforce state statutes and I expect them to do their job, regardless of any congressional investigation.”

The letter, signed by 22 state House members and eight state senators, calls on Wolk to investigate possible violations of state law and “take necessary legal action to end such practices.”

Given the political makeup of Congress, the “inquiries” underway against Planned Parenthood today by Republican-controlled congressional committees are likely to employ the most sensationalist language possible to describe fetal tissue donation for medical research. But at least with regard to the “evidence” released so far by anti-abortion activists, there’s nothing that points to any actual violation of the law–and it’s hard to see any legitimate inquiry determining that there was. In general, the recent undercover video releases against Planned Parenthood have succeeded only in firing up the existing anti-choice base, not in fomenting any broader opposition to the organization or its work.

And barring anything unexpected, that will be the story of this request by a majority of Colorado GOP legislators to “investigate” Planned Parenthood–a few more protests, a press conference next January, and legislation that pays no more attention to the relevant facts than today’s press release. Legislation that will die in the Democratic-controlled House, of course, but not before Republicans use it to motivate their base.

But as we’ve said about the national push to demonize Planned Parenthood using these discredited videos and the same anti-abortion “torture porn” they’ve been circulating for years, this stuff motivates the Democratic base too. The proof can be seen every time an abortion ban ballot measure goes down to overwhelming defeat in Colorado, and with the notable exception of “Con Man Cory” Gardner in 2014, usually taking Republican politicians down with it.

What will this all look like by November of 2016 to general election voters? We’re pretty sure Dan Nordberg hasn’t even given that a moment’s consideration. And that should make smart Republicans very nervous.

Jeb! Bush Just Makes Stuff Up About Planned Parenthood

UPDATE: Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado’s Cathy Alderman weighs in:

“Jeb Bush clearly does not understand Colorado women and their health. In our state Planned Parenthood serves more than 80,000 Coloradans, the majority of which are women. Colorado women trust Planned Parenthood, and depend on them to get the health care they need.”

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Jeb!

Jeb!

Reports are starting to come in from Republican presidential candidate Jeb! Bush’s town hall in Englewood today–though nominally focused on veteran’s issues, Jeb! reportedly answered questions on a number of topics.

As Democratic-leaning fact-checking site Correct the Record reports, not very factually:

Hot off of insulting immigrant families, today Jeb turned his scattershot firepower back to women’s health at a town hall in Englewood, Colorado.

“I don’t think Planned Parenthood ought to get a penny because they’re not actually doing women’s health issues,” Jeb said. [Pols emphasis]

This is a shock to the one in five American women who have used Planned Parenthood’s health services at least once in their lives. In addition to 900,000 annual cancer screenings, Planned Parenthood provides 4.5 million annual STI tests and courses of treatment. Though Jeb and other Republican politicians paint Planned Parenthood to be solely a provider of abortion services, 80 percent of Planned Parenthood’s client services go toward helping prevent unplanned pregnancies in the first place and abortion services make up 3 percent.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund, as you can expect, was ready to call BS on the assertion that they don’t provide care for women’s health issues besides abortion services–with ample statistics:

“It’s clear Jeb Bush shouldn’t be making health care decisions for anyone — just look at what he did to women’s health in Florida. However this does beg the question — if providing millions of women each year with birth control, breast exams and pregnancy tests and more doesn’t count as women’s health in Jeb Bush’s world, what does?”

Planned Parenthood is one of the nation’s most trusted providers of high-quality, affordable reproductive health care for women, men, and young people. In 2013, Planned Parenthood’s nearly 700 nonprofit health centers provided a total of 10,590,433 services, including:

Providing 2,131,865 women with reversible contraception, including 1,440,495 emergency contraception kits
Provided 378,692 Pap tests
Provided 487,029 breast exams and care
Screened 87,988 women whose cancer was detected early or whose abnormalities were identified
Provided 34,739 HPV Vaccinations
Performed 2,095 LEEP procedures
Provided 1,128,783 Pregnancy Tests
Provided 18,684 Prenatal Services
Provided 327,653 Abortion Procedures
Provided 47,264 Urinary Tract Infections Treatments

Oops! Politico:

While the group gets a large amount of attention for abortion services, Planned Parenthood says such services make up 3 percent of the health care it provides, according to its latest annual report. The clinics also provide preventive health services, such as breast and cervical cancer screenings, as well as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

Tuesday was not the first time Bush has drawn criticism for comments regarding Planned Parenthood. He remarked last month that he was “not sure we need half a billion dollars in funding for women’s health programs” writ large.

Bush later said that he “misspoke” in lumping other health organizations together with Planned Parenthood…

And that, dear reader, is how you take an issue that’s a no-brainer with your base of support and turn it into a liability. Now, the story isn’t about Jeb! engaging in the popular, even obligative Republican pastime of beating up on Planned Parenthood.

The story is how Jeb! still can’t get his facts straight.

Despite Gardner’s claim, people in Colorado would suffer if Planned Parenthood were defunded

(Basically, Cory Gardner thinks you’re stupid – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

After he voted to defund Planned Parenthood, Sen. Cory Gardner hopped on the radio said, not to worry, no one in Colorado will suffer if the health organization loses federal funding.

“We voted to take the money from Planned Parenthood and distribute it to the community health clinics around the state of Colorado,” Gardner told KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis Aug. 13, vowing that the investigation of Planned Parenthood in Congress will continue. “There are nine times more community health clinics than there are Planned Parenthood clinics, and so they provide more access to women and men across the state.” (Listen to Caplis belowAug. 13 and also on Kelley and Company here on Aug. 10.)

It’s true that there are many more community health centers than Planned Parenthood clinics in our state. But this doesn’t mean that throwing more money at the community health clinics would provide equal or greater access to healthcare than what’s available now.

First of all, studies have shown that the community health center (CHC) network and federally qualified health center (FQHCs) network don’t offer all types of birth control and reproductive health care. That’s why many large community health centers actually factually refer patients to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood specializes in reproductive health care–while community health centers offer a wider range of services.

So it’s not surprising that even though Planned Parenthood operates just 10 percent of all publicly funded family clinics, 36 percent of patients seeking family-planning services turn to Planned Parenthood.

Poor people on Medicaid go disproportionately to Planned Parenthood for these services, and it’s unlikely that the safety net and the health care system, as currently configured, could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients. This means that defunding Planned Parenthood would weaken our country’s already weak safety net.

(more…)

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

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

CSU President Tony Frank.

CSU President Tony Frank.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

Terrible Anti-IUD Press Silences Colorado Senate GOP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sen. Cory Gardner (left).

Sen. Cory Gardner (left).

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

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

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

Gardner wasn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gardner, Senate GOP Rush To Vote Against Planned Parenthood

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug Lamborn Says Burn Those “Baby Body Parts”

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hb1468revised

Medical waste incinerator.

Medical waste incinerator.

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

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

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

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