Thursday, May 23, 2019

Abortion cost Colorado Democrats in 2014. They’re counting on defeating Cory Gardner with it in 2020.

The Denver Post | By Justin Wingerter

One day in mid-2015, Mark Udall sat down with an interviewer and thought back on his failed re-election race the year before — on the man who barely beat him, on the money spent and, perhaps most notably, on the overwhelming focus his campaign had placed on abortion.

One day in mid-2015, Mark Udall sat down with an interviewer and thought back on his failed re-election race the year before — on the man who barely beat him, on the money spent and, perhaps most notably, on the overwhelming focus his campaign had placed on abortion.

“Here’s what’s changed: Trump’s election and the courts,” said Laura Chapin, a Democratic consultant who has advised NARAL and is now aiding Alice Madden’s campaign for Senate. “That has really supercharged this discussion because it’s not hypothetical anymore. They have a clear path, through the courts, to overturn Roe (vs. Wade).”

Whether the recent passage of stringent anti-abortion laws in Alabama and elsewhere poses an existential threat to American abortion rights remains to be determined. But Democratic consultants say Gardner’s confirmation of conservative judges gives him an anti-abortion record they can point to.

This month, Gardner has voted to confirm judicial nominee Wendy Vitter, who suggested abortion might cause cancer. He also voted for J. Campbell Barker, who legally defended a Texas anti-abortion law later struck down at the U.S. Supreme Court, and Michael Park, who legally defended an attempt at defunding Planned Parenthood in Kansas.

“Cory Gardner is putting Coloradans at risk by voting for President Trump’s rigid judicial nominees who would undermine health care protections and our basic reproductive freedoms — including Brett Kavanaugh,” said Colorado Democratic Party spokesperson Alyssa Roberts.

In 2014, then-U.S. Rep. Gardner was criticized for supporting so-called personhood bills at the state and federal level, which could have blocked access to contraception. But he rescinded that support during the Senate campaign and backed legislation allowing for over-the-counter oral contraception sales. He reintroduced the idea this March with a women’s choice message.

“Our legislation recognizes the need to make contraceptives affordable and accessible, and it’s time that Congress put politics aside to allow women the ability to make their own decisions about safe, effective, and long-established methods of contraception,” the senator said at the time.

Gardner’s office declined an interview request from The Denver Post this week. Asked about Alabama’s restrictions on abortion by Politico, he told the news outlet that he is pro-life but hasn’t read the Alabama law. Abortion should be left up to the states, the senator said.

When Gardner won in 2014 as a pro-life Republican, 59 percent of Coloradans told a Pew survey that abortion should be legal. The state had overwhelmingly rejected personhood. Mathematically, Udall’s decision to focus on abortion seemed to be a winning strategy, yet it wasn’t. Gardner sidestepped it then with a focus on contraception access, which he continues to talk about.

The Democrats who have lined up to challenge Gardner in 2020 are clamoring to show they are best suited to debate abortion politics with him and point out what they say is his anti-woman record.

“This may not be a place where the (Democratic) candidates differ but I’m going to try to make the case that I’ve got the best ability to not just unite the Democratic Party but reach across the aisle and carry our message across the state,” Andrew Romanoff, a former Colorado House speaker, said in an interview Monday.

Other candidates who have served in public office plan to point to their own records. Madden was a board member at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. Mike Johnston, a former state senator, has told donors he wants to codify abortion protections into law and repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer money for abortions. Former U.S. Attorney John Walsh, who was at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting in 2015, believes he’s best suited to quiz judicial nominees on abortion.

“John’s decades of legal experience in federal courtrooms — as United States attorney, federal white-collar prosecutor and private trial lawyer — uniquely qualify him to take on this crucial role as Colorado’s senator in order to protect women’s rights,” said Walsh spokesman Andrew Markoff.

Pastor and professor Stephany Rose Spaulding says Gardner has a “hatred for women’s health care.” Former diplomat Dan Baer has tried to lay Alabama’s law at the feet of Gardner, saying Republican legislatures “are walking through a door” opened by the Republican U.S. Senate. Several of the Democrats have vowed to never confirm a judge who doesn’t support abortion rights.

“When Cory Gardner ran, his supporters smeared Senator Mark Udall as ‘Mark Uterus’ because he was strongly pro-choice,” Baer said. “That nickname was meant as a slur, a sexist slur — it was about invoking sexism to make people uncomfortable by talking about a part of women’s bodies.”

In that 2015 interview, Udall said he was “confounded” that his attacks on Gardner’s abortion record didn’t stick with voters. “I could seemingly never get people to see the difference,” he said.

But there was a Udall television ad in 2014 that did work, according to Gardner’s campaign. It featured Udall on a ranch in blue jeans, espousing the virtues of rugged individualism and freedom that have defined the West. It did not mention Cory Gardner, or abortion.

Read the original article from The Denver Post

Contact | press@andrewromanoff.com


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