It is unfortunate for Dan Maes, who recently eked out a narrow victory in the Republican state assembly’s vote for governor, that his last name rhymes with “ways,” for the cries of “Both Ways Maes” have already begun. He simultaneously wants and opposes abortion bans, at the same time and in the same respect.
Recently I pointed out that many Republicans endorse hard-core abortion bans. For example, Rand Paul wants to ban abortion at the national level — even in cases of rape and incest — ban common forms of birth control, and ban medical research involving embryonic stem cells. (He also wants to legally force nutrition for those in permanently vegetative states.) In Colorado, every leading candidate for governor and U.S. Senate has endorsed Amendment 62, the “personhood” measure that would grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs. (For a detailed description of what the measure would entail, and why it is terrible, see the paper written by Diana Hsieh and me.)
And yet something odd is going on in the Republican Party. For at the Colorado assembly, where the most hard-core Republican activists gathered, 74 percent of participants declared “that pregnancy, abortion, and birth control are personal private matters not subject to government regulation or interference.” Slightly more participants declared that fertilized eggs deserve legal protection and that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, prompting me to declare that Republicans are schizophrenic on the issue.
Maes is the latest Republican to fall victim to the affliction. In some (atypically useful) reporting from the Colorado Independent, Scot Kersgaard reveals Maes’s (shall we say) modified stance on the issue.
Kersgaard relates Maes’s interview with the Independent:
I am ardently pro-life, he said, but he added that “Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, and people tend to forget that. I would not try to undo that.”
Yet he said he not only favors Amendment 62, the personhood amendment, but that he voted for a similar amendment when it was on the ballot two years ago and that he signed the petition to get it on the ballot this time. Still, he says the amendment is largely rhetorical and that he believes its passage would have no effect on the availability of legal abortions in Colorado.
“People are overestimating the personhood amendment. It simply defines life as beginning at conception. That’s it. Who knows what the intent of it is? They are simply making a statement. That is all I see it as. Do they have another agenda? I don’t know.”
A cynic might note the interesting timing of Maes’s newfound perspective on “personhood.” Now that Maes is through with the religious right voters at the convention and must shift focus to the more-mainstream primary, he has softened his stance on abortion accordingly.
Yet Maes never has echoed the far-reaching stances of the religious right anti-abortion groups. In a survey from January, Maes clearly stated that he endorsed the “personhood” measure. Yet, when asked about birth control “that may prevent a fertilized egg or zygote from implanting in the uterus,” Maes answered, “I support the laws as they stand.” Yet, as I have noted, if fully enforced the “personhood” measure indeed would ban common forms of birth control, including the pill. Maes simply dodged other questions pertaining to abortion.
What are we to make of Maes’s statment that Amendment 62 “simply defines life as beginning at conception?” Clearly his statement is false. The measure would grant to fertilized eggs rights of safety, property, and due process. The measure says nothing about when life begins. (Technically, life precedes conception, because both the egg and sperm are alive.) Instead, the measure defines that personhood begins with conception.
Maes misspoke, then, for one of two reasons. Either he signed the petition for the measure without actually reading it — a sign of gross irresponsibility — or he is simply lying about what he knows the measure says. Offhand I do not know which option the less comforting.
Regarding Maes’s comment that Amendment 62 is “simply making a statement,” I wonder how many bills Maes intends to sign, should he be elected governor, based on what he thinks the “statement” of a bill is, rather than based on the actual language, meaning, and enforcement of a bill. Is Maes ignoring the horrific consequences of Amendment 62 simply because he wants to make a “statement?” That in itself makes an important statement about Maes’s approach to legislation.
Yet the fact that Maes performed so well at the convention says something both about his skills as a campaigner and the self-inflicted wounds his major competitor, Scott McInnis, suffers. Initially I wrote off Maes, yet he has proven himself in political battle. And, most of the time, Maes sounds like a reasonable and personable candidate.
Sometimes I even like Maes. Kersgaard reported: “He said the root of tea party unhappiness with the state of the country is that ‘people just feel that Washington is taking away their personal freedoms. They just want to be left alone.'”
My sense is that the “Dr. Liberty” side of Maes is stronger than the “Mr. Police State.” But such ideological schizophrenia is hardly comforting, whether in a candidate or in a party at large.