Federal presidential-election-year campaigns are heating up in Colorado now that the boundaries of the state’s congressional districts have been updated. Yet, so far, Mike Coffman and Scott Tipton, the Republican representatives of new more-competitive districts Six and Three, have yet to articulate for the record their stands on “personhood,” the hard-line anti-abortion proposition that has become a litmus-test issue in Colorado after having landed on the ballot as an initiative in the last two general elections and after clearing hurdles to speed toward the ballot again this year.
Media outlets and organizations on the left and right are already trying without success to nail down Coffman and Tipton on the issue. Calls to both representatives placed by the Colorado Independent went unanswered this week. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains spokesperson Monica McCafferty told the Independent her organization has yet to get either congressman to go on the record. Likewise, a Colorado Right to Life staffer told the Independent that her organization had no news to relate on lawmakers’ positions.
“[T]he only info we have right now is a reminder to you that supporting the dismembering of unborn children is a crime against humanity and against God for which some day all pro-choice people will answer,” wrote a staffer named Donna.
The lack of information on where the lawmakers stand is telling. Colorado Right to Life is diligent in getting elected officials to go on the record. The group’s questionnaires go out early and often and the CRTL blog includes an exhaustive list of where state and federal candidates stand on abortion rights.
In 2010, the group raised doubts about Coffman’s commitment to ending abortion, citing his absent support for federal personhood measures. And the group flagged Tipton as untrustworthy on the issue, reporting that he avoided responding to the organization’s surveys over the last three years.
“[Tipton] has lied to us and others about having responded… His website says he is pro-life but he approves of abortion in cases of rape or incest. Scott Tipton is NOT PRO LIFE and is lying in order to get your vote!”
The latest Colorado personhood initiative, pushed by Personhood USA, the Colorado-based national organization, has just won a ballot title setting over objections. Opponents have filed suit to have the title language reviewed. Assuming the initiative backers aren’t held up in court, they will have to collect roughly 76,000 valid signatures of support from Coloradans.
The initiative would grant full legal rights to fertilized human eggs, outlawing abortion in all cases as well as some of the most popular forms of birth control, including the pill. It could also endanger biomedical research and the fertilization industry in the state. Coloradans defeated the proposal in landslides in 2008 and 2010.
A personhood ballot initiative pushed in Mississippi was roundly defeated this year but supporters of the initiative say they are taking the fight to the state legislature there and believe they have enough support among lawmakers to place a personhood law on the books.
Mississippi already has passed some of the nation’s most strict anti-abortion laws, raising questions over the need for yet another stiff statute.
Laws on the books there include “a mandatory waiting period and a requirement that doctors perform ultrasounds on pregnant women to discourage abortions…. Mississippi only has one abortion clinic,” reports the Hattiesburg American, “So, one might wonder, what’s the point? Everything that can legally be done to discourage abortion has been done.”
As personhood supporters are quick to concede, getting a personhood law on the books is mainly part of a legal strategy aimed at overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v Wade decision.
Nearly all of the major Republican candidates for president this year support personhood.
In a recent appearance with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Cecil Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, discussed how extreme mainstream Republicans have become on the topic of women’s reproductive health, where the the question has moved beyond abortion to contraception.
“Used to be in the Republican primary, the whole question was whether you wanted to overturn Roe or not. Now, that’s not good enough. Everyone is for ending access to birth control,” Richards said.
Richards pointed out how difficult it would be to win over women in a general election once a candidate goes on record that he or she is in favor of outlawing the pill.
In 2008 most Republican candidates in Colorado opposed personhood as “too extreme” but, in the Tea Party campaigns of 2010, all of the major Republican candidates for office supported personhood, at least during the primary season. Senate candidate Ken Buck backpedaled during the general election campaign, saying he didn’t understand that personhood laws would ban popular birth control methods.