Category Archives: Reproduction, Sex & Abortion

Ted Cruz Would Ban Abortion Even for Rape Victims

Of the four Republicans currently leading the pack in the presidential race—Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio—one candidate would ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest. That candidate, it should surprise no one, is Cruz.

As I pointed out yesterday, Cruz signed Georgia Right to Life (GRTL) PACs’ “Statement of Principles.” Those principles state: “GRTL opposes abortion for pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.” Cruz signed his name agreeing “to uphold these principles and positions.” (Note: GRTL’s web page is down as of this writing; I’ve archived copies of the relevant documents.)

Just to be clear: Ted Cruz signed a document declaring that abortion should be outlawed even if a woman is brutally raped and does not wish to carry her attacker’s child to term.

Apparently, Cruz and his supporters live under the delusion that he can win the general election with that position.

Not even Marco Rubio shares Cruz’s position here. True, reports the Associated Press, previously Rubio denied that he’d allow exceptions for rape and incest. However, more recently, he has said, “I, as president, will sign a bill that has exceptions” for rape and incest.

Ben Carson advocates the use of the “abortion pill” RU-486 in cases of rape and incest.

Perhaps we should congratulate Cruz for making Trump appear to be the voice of reason on an issue (comparatively speaking); even Trump advocates an abortion ban with exceptions for “rape, incest, if the mother is going to die.”

Lindsey Graham bluntly points out the political problem for Cruz:

Anybody with that position [against abortion in the case of rape and incest] will get creamed. I would never tell a woman who’s been raped she’s got to carry the child of the rapist. . . . I appreciate your passion for the pro-life issue but you’re outside the mainstream and you cannot get elected.

(See also LifeNews.com’s report on Graham’s remarks on the matter elsewhere.)

Recently I described how Cruz is actively allying himself with religious conservatives, including some outright theocrats. Add that to his backing of “personhood” legislation, with its total ban on abortion, and I just don’t see how Cruz is electable.

An aside: As my long-time readers are aware, I have an affinity for Ayn Rand’s work. Rand called her philosophy Objectivism. What might Rand have made of the fact that there currently is an “Objectivists for Ted Cruz” Facebook community? We can get some idea from the fact that Rand denounced Ronald Reagan on the grounds that he opposed “the right to abortion” and allied himself with those who sought the “unconstitutional union of religion and politics.”

When it comes to allying with theocratic conservatives, Ted Cruz makes Ronald Reagan look like a piker.

April 27 Update: Following is my entire “Ted Cruz and Religion” cycle. Please note that my views about Cruz evolved considerably over time. Although I’m still very concerned about Cruz’s positions on abortion (and related matters) and his alliances with theocratic-leaning conservatives, I’ve also come to appreciate more deeply his many virtues, including his partial endorsement of the principle of separation of church and state. I became active in Republican politics toward the end of 2015, and I came to support Cruz over Donald Trump for the nomination.
· Why I Will Vote for Any Democrat over Ted Cruz
· Voting, Political Activism, and Taking a Stand
· Ted Cruz’s Dangerous Pandering to Theocrats
· Yes, Ted Cruz’s Policies Would Outlaw Some Forms of Birth Control
· Ted Cruz Would Ban Abortion Even for Rape Victims
· Ted Cruz Touts Support of Anti-Gay Bigot Phil Robertson
· Republican Religion Undermines Capitalism
· Ted Cruz’s Remarkable Nod to the Separation of Church and State

Related:

Yes, Ted Cruz’s Policies Would Outlaw Some Forms of Birth Control

Does Ted Cruz want to ban birth control? Stated so broadly, the answer obviously is no, he does not wish to ban all forms of birth control. However, if Cruz takes seriously the policies he explicitly endorses, then, yes, he does want to ban some types of birth control.

Cruz’s policies do not imply any restrictions of true contraceptives—forms of birth control that prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg, such as a condom—but they imply that any form of birth control that does or can act as an abortifacient—preventing an embryo from implanting or growing in the uterus—should be banned. That includes the copper IUD, among other things.

Arguably, Cruz’s policies imply that the hormonal birth control pill and hormonal IUD should be banned as well, because those things might sometimes act as abortifacients. It is unclear (to me) whether Cruz thinks the hormonal birth control pill and the hormonal IUD can act as abortifacients. The FDA thinks that they can, and many of Cruz’s allies claim that they can and that therefore they should be banned (details below).

Certainly Cruz’s policies would ban “the abortion pill” RU-486, brand named Mifeprex, which can be used “in the first 49 days of pregnancy.” We can pick nits over whether we should call drug-induced abortion a form of “birth control.” I think the way most people use the term “birth control,” and the most sensible use of that term, is to refer to any method that prevents a pregnancy from occurring or proceeding, except for a surgical abortion. Thus, birth control includes some methods that act exclusively as contraceptives and some methods that do or can act as abortifacients.

There is another problem with the language we must address: Most doctors consider a “pregnancy” to begin after fertilization, when an embryo implants in the uterus. So is it accurate to call a form of birth control that prevents implantation an “abortifacient,” even though pregnancy has not yet begun? I think it makes sense to use the term “abortifacient” in this context; otherwise, there’s no word to describe a form of birth control that acts after fertilization to prevent implantation. Certainly it makes no sense to refer to something that prevents implantation of an embryo as a “contraceptive”; it’s not preventing conception. By my schema, then, “contraception” and “abortifacient” cover all possible types of birth control (where some types can act as either a contraceptive or an abortifacient).

Before picking back up with the technicalities of birth control, let’s turn to recent discussions about Cruz’s views on on the matter. On November 30, someone asked Cruz about birth control. Cruz’s reply was both rhetorically masterful and deeply evasive. Here’s what he said (relying on ABC’s transcription):

Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. Look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voila. So, yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them, but it’s an utter made-up nonsense issue.

Now, listen, I have been a conservative my entire life. I have never met anybody, any conservative, who wants to ban contraceptives. As I noted, Heidi and I, we have two little girls. I’m very glad we don’t have 17. . . .

So what do you do [if you’re Hillary Clinton], you go, “Ah ha, the condom police. I’m going to make up a completely made-up threat and try to scare a bunch of folks who are not paying a lot of attention into thinking someone’s going to steal their birth control.” What nonsense.

On December 1, Clinton’s team replied with an article titled, “Ted Cruz says no one’s trying to ban contraception. Here are 5 times Ted Cruz tried to ban contraception.”

Note how both Cruz and Clinton rely on confusion about the terms at hand. Cruz says conservatives don’t want to “ban contraceptives”—ignoring the fact that many conservatives want to ban abortifacients and consider the pill and IUD to be abortifacients. And Clinton misuses the term “contraception” to refer to all types of birth control.

Clinton also promotes the confusion between banning something and declining to subsidize it with tax dollars or otherwise promote it with government force. I agree with Cruz that people should not be forced to subsidize birth control and that government ought not interfere with freedom of contract (which can involve employment policies regarding birth control). Three of Clinton’s five points pertain not to proposed bans but to taxes and employment regulations.

Clinton’s fifth point claims that Cruz wants to “try to ban emergency contraception.” But nothing in Clinton’s piece, or in the Salon article that Clinton references, support her claim.

Clinton’s remaining point, her first one listed, is that Cruz “supported a so-called personhood amendment, which could criminalize abortion and could ban some forms of birth control.” On this score Clinton is absolutely right—except that “personhood” not merely “could” but certainly would ban some forms of birth control (if implemented fully).

Let’s establish the facts showing that Cruz supports “personhood.” Georgia Right to Life PAC endorses Ted Cruz for president. The organization clearly lays out its “criteria for consideration of candidate endorsement” in its “endorsement guidelines.” Candidates must read proclaim that they agree with the organization’s “GRTL PAC Pro-Life Principles.” Those principles state, among other things, that RU-486 should be banned (except for possible “non-abortion related purposes”). This document also states that “personhood begins at the moment of fertilization” and that, by signing the document (as Cruz did), candidates agree to protect the “civil rights” of embryos from fertilization. Thus, the document implies, but does not explicitly state, that any form of birth control that may act as an abortifacient should be banned.

A media release from Georgia Right to Life confirms: “Senator Cruz received the endorsement after reviewing his activities supporting personhood and receiving his signed GRTL PAC Personhood Affirmation, which asks that candidates support a personhood amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

I don’t think anyone was confused about whether Cruz wants to ban Mifeprex; obviously he does. The major remaining question is whether he wants to ban the birth control pill or IUD.

So far as I’m aware, Cruz has never explicitly stated whether he wants additional legal restrictions or bans on any form of hormonal birth control pill or IUD. (I contacted Cruz’s campaign asking for clarification but never heard back.)

There are two related issues involved. First, does the pill or IUD, in fact, ever act as an abortifacient, or does it always act only as a contraceptive? Second, does Cruz believe that it does? If Cruz doesn’t think the pill or IUD acts as an abortifacient, then he can coherently claim he doesn’t want to ban them as a supporter of “personhood.” On the other hand, if Cruz concludes that the pill or IUD can act as an abortifacient, then, logically, by supporting “personhood” he has committed himself to seeking a ban.

Georgia Right to Life clearly states its view of the matter:

GRTL takes no position on birth control methods, which are contraceptive rather than abortive in their actions. We are opposed to those birth control methods which act as abortifacients. These could include forms of the pill which act to prevent implantation of the newly formed human into the lining of the womb; forms of the IUD, which can act the same; and prostaglandin suppository drugs, which act to cause delivery of whatever size baby the uterus contains.

Georgia Right to Life, then, certainly thinks that the “personhood” statement that Cruz signed does (or at least “could”) entail a ban on the pill and IUD.

Now, some people on the left ridicule conservatives who claim that forms of birth control that prevent implantation are “abortifacients.” For example, the Salon article that Clinton references in turn cites a document published by Princeton and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, which says this:

[U]sing emergency contraceptive pills (also called “morning after pills” or “day after pills”) prevents pregnancy after sex. It does not cause an abortion. (In fact, because emergency contraception helps women avoid getting pregnant when they are not ready or able to have children, it can reduce the need for abortion.)

Emergency contraceptive pills work before pregnancy begins. According to leading medical authorities—such as the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg implants in the lining of a woman’s uterus. Implantation begins five to seven days after sperm fertilizes the egg, and the process is completed several days later. Emergency contraception will not work if a woman is already pregnant.

That line of argument is deeply dishonest (and also deeply stupid, insofar as it ignores the obvious literal meaning of “contraception” as preventing conception). For religious conservatives who care about these issues, the entire discussion hinges on whether a form of birth control prevents fertilization or acts to destroy an embryo—whether or not it has implanted in the uterus. The document cited essentially plays a word game to artificially define “contraceptive” to include something that causes the destruction of a pre-implanted embryo.

The stronger argument is that “emergency contraception” is just that—contraception—and that it acts to prevent fertilization. That’s what Planned Parenthood maintains happens: “Emergency contraception pills work by keeping a woman’s ovary from releasing an egg for longer than usual. Pregnancy cannot happen if there is no egg to join with sperm.”

The main official page for Ella, a major brand of emergency contraception, claims the same thing, that the drug “works by preventing ovulation, even during the time in your cycle when you’re most fertile, for five full days following unprotected sex.” If that’s all that “emergency contraception” does, then there’s no reason to ban it according to to the commitments of “personhood.”

However, the FDA-approved prescription information for Ella claims that its methods of action are broader: “The likely primary mechanism of action of ulipristal acetate for emergency contraception is therefore inhibition or delay of ovulation; however, alterations to the endometrium that may affect implantation may also contribute to efficacy.”

In other words, if the prescription information is accurate, then Ella can act either as a contraceptive or as an abortifacient (in the sense that it can prevent implantation of an embryo).

So what about the standard birth control pill and the IUD? Here again, the official prescription information claims that they can act as an abortifacient (as defined here).

For example, the prescription information for Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo states: “COCs [combined oral contraceptives] lower the risk of becoming pregnant primarily by suppressing ovulation. Other possible mechanisms may include cervical mucus changes that inhibit sperm penetration and endometrial changes that reduce the likelihood of implantation.”

The prescription information for the Mirena IUD states: “Mirena may work in several ways including thickening cervical mucus, inhibiting sperm movement, reducing sperm survival, and thinning the lining of your uterus. It is not known exactly how these actions work together to prevent pregnancy.”

Obviously if the lining of the uterus thins, that could prevent implantation of an embryo. The language that it is “not known exactly” how the device works is not likely to comfort most advocates of “personhood,” who regard a just-fertilized egg as the moral equivalent of a born baby.

Nevertheless, writing for the Federalist, David Harsanyi confidently proclaims that, while “personhood” bans abortion in principle, “it certainly doesn’t ban condoms or the birth control pill.” But, somehow, I suppose that advocates of “personhood” measures will be more impressed with the official, government-approved prescription information than with Harsanyi’s groundless certitude.

But maybe the FDA-approved prescription information is wrong: Maybe the pill and IUD never act by preventing implantation. That’s what many people argue, at least regarding the pill and hormone-based (as opposed to copper) IUD.

Pam Belluck’s 2012 article for the New York Times argues that the pill and hormonal IUD, along with emergency contraception, don’t prevent implantation (or at least that there’s no reason to think they do).

She adds:

By contrast, scientists say, research suggests that the only other officially approved form of emergency contraception, the copper intrauterine device (also a daily birth control method), can work to prevent pregnancy after an egg has been fertilized.

So, by the logic of “personhood,” at least the copper IUD should be banned, along with the abortion pill, even if the regular pill and hormonal IUDs are found not to prevent implantation. (As Belluck adds, “Despite the accumulating evidence” about hormonal pills and IUDs, “several abortion opponents said they remain unpersuaded.”)

Of course, it would be very easy for Cruz to issue a statement along these lines: “I, Ted Cruz, believe that the abortion pill [should / should not] be banned; that emergency contraception [should / should not] be banned; that the hormonal birth control pill [should / should not] be banned; that hormonal IUDs [should / should not] be banned; and that copper IUDs [should / should not] be banned.”

If Cruz would issue such a statement, as I’ve asked him to do, that would count as definitive evidence of his views in these matters. (Of course, depending on Cruz’s answers, one might argue that they either comport or conflict with his stated position on “personhood.”)

I would be shocked if Cruz in fact issued such a clear-cut statement. After all, politics today is not about clearly articulating one’s views on the issues; it is about obfuscating one’s views in order to pander to as many voters as possible. And Cruz can obfuscate with the best of them.

Regardless, given Cruz’s explicit commitment to “personhood,” he has also logically committed himself to trying to ban the abortion pill and copper IUD—and, if they are found to sometimes act as abortifacients (a big “if”), the birth control pill and hormonal IUD.

Let’s see Cruz try to parse all that going into the general election, if he makes it that far.

April 27 Update: Following is my entire “Ted Cruz and Religion” cycle. Please note that my views about Cruz evolved considerably over time. Although I’m still very concerned about Cruz’s positions on abortion (and related matters) and his alliances with theocratic-leaning conservatives, I’ve also come to appreciate more deeply his many virtues, including his partial endorsement of the principle of separation of church and state. I became active in Republican politics toward the end of 2015, and I came to support Cruz over Donald Trump for the nomination.
· Why I Will Vote for Any Democrat over Ted Cruz
· Voting, Political Activism, and Taking a Stand
· Ted Cruz’s Dangerous Pandering to Theocrats
· Yes, Ted Cruz’s Policies Would Outlaw Some Forms of Birth Control
· Ted Cruz Would Ban Abortion Even for Rape Victims
· Ted Cruz Touts Support of Anti-Gay Bigot Phil Robertson
· Republican Religion Undermines Capitalism
· Ted Cruz’s Remarkable Nod to the Separation of Church and State

Related:

Ted Cruz’s Dangerous Pandering to Theocrats

As a free-market secularist, I see Ted Cruz, politically, as a split personality. On one hand (to list a few examples), he speaks eloquently for freedom of political speech,1 he opposes politically controlled health care (at least as manifest in ObamaCare),2 and he used his tenure with the Federal Trade Commission to move that agency in a direction less hostile to free markets.3 On the other hand, he makes religion a centerpiece of his politics; for example, for religious reasons he advocates various restrictions on abortion (although he has been remarkably cagey about how far he’d prefer to go with such restrictions).[Update: See my December 4 article about Cruz’s support for abortion bans.]

What most worries me about Ted Cruz as a presidential candidate are not those explicit elements of his platform that clash with the principles of liberty, but his open pandering to evangelical voters, even to outright theocrats. This matters, not only because Cruz will be beholden to the voters who elect him (if he wins), but because Cruz is actively supporting and helping to organize a religious-conservative movement likely to play a major role in American politics for many years. To those who, like me, worry that the Republican Party began to slide toward faith-centered politics many years ago, Cruz’s acceleration of that trend is frightening.

From the beginning, a centerpiece of Cruz’s strategy has been to win evangelicals to his side. In March, Cruz delivered his campaign announcement at Liberty University, a Christian institution (which, incidentally, features the “Center for Creation Studies” that promotes a “young-earth creationist view”).5 During his faith-heavy remarks, Cruz said, “Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting. They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.”6 This is a theme that Cruz has emphasized repeatedly.7

The fact that Cruz is so actively and thoroughly tying his campaign to the evangelical movement is by itself alarming. Cruz’s campaign has (as examples) issued news releases announcing the formation of a “national prayer team” and bragging that Cruz’s “Faith Leadership Team [includes] more than 200 faith leaders from around the nation.”8 When it comes time for Cruz (should he win) to nominate Supreme Court justices (among other things), it’s pretty clear where his loyalties will lie.

But Cruz has done far more than ally himself with mainstream evangelical voters; he has openly pandered to outright theocrats. Anyone who thinks my use of the term theocrat is hyperbolic or exaggerated is welcome to try to explain how treating abortion legally as murder, from the moment of conception, as many of Cruz’s allies wish to do, or arguing that states justifiably execute homosexuals or abortion providers at least in some circumstances, as at least two of Cruz’s allies do, is not theocratic in nature.

I must pause to distinguish my approach here from that of leftist provocateurs. (I consider myself to be on the political right, as Craig Biddle defines it, which I consider to be the natural home of rational secularists of the broadly Enlightenment tradition.)9 I am well aware of the Saul Alinsky-inspired techniques of character assassination10—indeed, I and my friends have at times been the targets of such attacks. My criticisms here include rather than exclude the relevant context, and I blame people only for what they have demonstrably said or done. I do not blame Cruz for the remarks that his allies make; I blame him only for actively allying himself, in the context of a presidential campaign, with people who express frankly horrific views. It is intellectually dishonest of leftists to make spurious character attacks on their opponents—and it is also intellectually dishonest of conservatives to rationalize away well-grounded criticisms of a conservative. Hopefully readers can bear that in mind as we proceed.

Troy Newman on “Bloodguilt”

First consider the case of Troy Newman. On November 19, Cruz’s campaign issued a news release bragging that Cruz picked up Newman’s endorsement. The release states:

Today, Presidential candidate Ted Cruz secured the endorsement of leading pro-life activist Troy Newman—a driving force in the recent effort to expose Planned Parenthood’s alleged sale of baby parts in a series of undercover videos. Newman is the President of Operation Rescue, one of the most prominent pro-life Christian activist organizations in the nation. . . .

“I am grateful to receive the endorsement of Troy Newman,” Cruz said. “He has served as a voice for the unborn for over 25 years, and works tirelessly every day for the pro-life cause. We need leaders like Troy Newman in this country who will stand up for those who do not have a voice.”11

Remember, then, that Cruz and Newman are not connected merely in some casual way; Newman has openly expressed his support for Cruz’s presidential bid, and Cruz has publicly welcomed that support and touted his political alliance with Newman.

So what does Troy Newman advocate? Consider some of Newman’s views as expressed in his book Their Blood Cries Out, which he coauthored with Cheryl Sullenger. That book states (among many other bizarre things): “[T]he United States government has abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty. This responsibility rightly involves executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge bloodguilt from the land and people.”12

Newman claims that this passage has been taken out of context. So what is the context? Here is how Newman’s own organization, Operation Rescue, explains it:

In that book, which was a theological study of the Biblical doctrine of bloodguilt, Newman and Sullenger discuss the Old Testament principle that required those who commit murder should be sentenced to death by a court of justice. They surmised that if indeed abortion is murder, then it would be acceptable, based on the Old Testament teachings, for governments to treat it as it does any other murder with those convicted through a court of law subject to the same punishments other murderers would face, including capital punishment.

Yet, not surprisingly, [Terri] Butler [an Australian critic] neglected to mention that later chapters in that now out of print book referenced the New Testament concept that mercy is preferable to judgement, and that repentance and restoration is available through Jesus Christ to all men who seek it.13

Notice that this is the explanation that’s supposed to make us feel comfortable with Newman’s remarks and persuade us that Newman is a perfectly reasonable fellow.

So is Newman’s organization claiming that state executions of abortion providers was justified only in Old Testament times, and that, today, “mercy” always should push aside “judgment”? No, it is not. Newman leaves open the possibility that “Old Testament teachings” might still be relevant for modern governments—and his book explicitly mentions the United States in the context of a government that may properly execute abortion providers.

The same release quotes Newman’s coauthor Sullenger, now Senior Vice President of Operation Rescue (under Newman): “There is a distinct difference between saying that the Bible gives the authority to governments to execute justice, as we explained in the book, and advocating that individuals commit murder of abortion providers.” Yes, there is a distinct difference. Newman and Sullenger advocate only state executions of abortion providers, not vigilante executions. So helpful of her to clear that up.

Incidentally, Sullenger herself did not always so keenly recognize the distinction between state-sanctioned violence and individual violence. The same Operation Rescue statement discusses “Cheryl Sullenger’s conviction in 1988 of conspiring to bomb an abortion facility in San Diego, California the previous year.” She “expressed remorse” for her actions, and she now works “within peaceful and legal means” to ban all abortion from the moment of conception and to empower government to execute abortion providers.

The same statement by Operation Rescue explains Newman’s earlier remarks about the Reverend Paul Jennings Hill, who murdered an abortion provider and his bodyguard in 1994 and who was subsequently executed for the crime.

At the time, Newman stated, “A Florida judge denied Rev. Hill his right to present a defense that claimed that the killing of the abortionist was necessary to save the lives of the pre-born babies that were scheduled to be killed by abortion that day.”

That was a perfectly reasonable position for Newman to take, Newman’s Operation Rescue assures us:

This statement has been frequently misinterpreted as “evidence” of Newman’s support for the position that murdering abortion providers is justifiable homicide. That is a gross mischaracterization of his statement.

Newman deplored the fact that Hill had murdered two people, but felt the need to express disappointment that the court refused to allow Hill to use the defense of his choosing. . . .

Do you see the distinction? Newman was not claiming that Rev. Hill’s execution of two people constituted “justifiable homicide”; he was merely claiming that Rev. Hill should have been able to argue in court that the executions were justifiable homicide. (Readers of Newman’s original 2003 release, with its language about “the innocent victims of abortion that Hill endeavored to rescue” and the “many examples where taking the life in defense of innocent human beings is legally justified,” might forgive Newman’s critics for thinking that Newman was defending Hill’s actions.)14

Bearing these background facts about Newman in mind, recall that Ted Cruz, currently one of the Republican frontrunners in the race to become the next president of the United States, said on November 19: “I am grateful to receive the endorsement of Troy Newman. He has served as a voice for the unborn for over 25 years, and works tirelessly every day for the pro-life cause. We need leaders like Troy Newman in this country who will stand up for those who do not have a voice.”

Contra Cruz, we do not need such leaders—nor do we need leaders who count such people as allies.

Kevin Swanson on “The Death Penalty for Homosexuals”

During the “Freedom 2015 National Religious Liberties Conference” held November 6–7 in Des Moines, Iowa, Ted Cruz appeared on stage with Colorado pastor Kevin Swanson to discuss religion in America. Swanson’s appearance at the conference was not incidental; Swanson’s organization Generations with Vision organized and sponsored the conference.15 Moreover, Swanson is listed as one of six “keynote speakers” for the conference, and, according to the schedule listed, he offered the introductory remarks, the “closing keynote,” and other talks—in addition to his interview with the three presidential candidates who attended (Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal joined Cruz there). It’s fair to say that Swanson hosted the conference and was its driving force.

At this very conference, Swanson said the following (you can watch the video of him):

Yes, Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. Yes, Romans, chapter one, verse thirty-two, the Apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death. His words, not mine. And I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. . . .

And I know, I’ve taken the counsel, many have told me this weekend, “You be careful. You choose your words carefully. We have presidentials coming down to this conference this weekend.” I understand that. But I am not ashamed of the truth of the word of God, and I’m willing to go to jail for it.

Then they ask me, “Yes, but do you advocate for our civil leaders to do this today?” And my answer is no. But why? Here’s why, because that’s not such a big deal. We are not to fear those who can kill the body. Yea, Jesus says, fear rather the one who can cast body and soul in hell forever.

The discussion concerning the capital punishment of homosexuals is nothing, is not all that important when contrasted with hellfire forever. You say, “Why wouldn’t you call for it?” I say it’s because we need some time for homosexuals to repent, that’s why.

He goes on to say that “there’s not much difference between adultery and homosexuality,” morally speaking; that he considers adultery to include “illegitimate” cases of divorce and remarriage; and that pornography is equally bad. He says (referring to others asking him the question), “Why don’t you call for it?”—with “it” referring to execution for “crimes” such as homosexuality. He answers, “America needs time to repent, of their homosexuality, of their adultery, and their porn addictions.”16

Quite obviously, here Swanson is calling for the future execution of unrepentant homosexuals by the state, after America has had “time to repent”—and only by the most fantastic act of evasion can a listener pretend that he said otherwise. He says that “civil leaders” should not execute homosexuals “today . . . because we need some time for homosexuals to repent” first. Then, after they (and the vast numbers of other “guilty” Americans) have had “time to repent,” government should execute unrepentant homosexuals (and apparently other “sinners” as well). That’s what Swanson clearly says and clearly means to say.

Notice the structure of Swanson’s argument. He claims that, today, American government should not execute homosexuals, because today American culture is too evil for that to happen. But, in the future, when America becomes morally virtuous (by his perverted religious understanding of the terms), then America will be ready to institute the death penalty for homosexuality.

Even those who pretend that Swanson did not really mean what he said still are left with the uncomfortable fact that the potential execution of homosexuals was a serious part of the discussion at this conference. The best-case scenario is that attendees seriously discussed whether government officials, in America, should execute homosexuals, and, if so, whether they should do so immediately or at some point in the future. That’s the sort of conference that Ted Cruz chose to attend and address as part of his political campaign for the presidency.

But did Cruz, despite the existence of the Internet, not know what he was getting into? Did he have no idea what sort of views Swanson espouses? No, Cruz knew exactly what sort of views Swanson espouses.

Before Cruz attended Swanson’s event, Cruz appeared on television with CNN’s Jake Tapper. Tapper said to Cruz:

You are speaking at a conference this weekend, the National Religious Liberties conference in Des Moines. It’s organized by a guy named Kevin Swanson. You’ve been very outspoken about what you deem liberal intolerance of Christians. But Kevin Swanson has said some very inflammatory things about gays and lesbians. He believes Christians should hold up signs at gay weddings, holding up the Leviticus verse, instructing the faithful to put gays to death because what they do is an “abomination.” I don’t hold you responsible for what other people say, but, given your concern about liberal intolerance, are you not in some ways endorsing conservative intolerance?

Cruz began his answer, “Listen, I don’t know what this gentleman has said or hasn’t said”—and then he proceeded to completely evade Tapper’s question.17 Even if Cruz was not aware of Swanson’s views prior to the interview with Tapper—which is wildly implausible—he certainly was aware of some of Swanson’s views prior to the conference, because Tapper told him about them. Cruz obviously was aware of Swanson’s views by the time of the conference and probably well before that (unless Cruz wishes to argue that he did not hear what Tapper said and that his campaign is run by idiots who do not watch his television interviews and do not know how to conduct simple Google searches).

Here is the most plausible interpretation of the facts: Swanson organized the event in question, Cruz knew that Swanson organized it, Cruz knew the sorts of views that Swanson espouses, and Cruz went to the event anyway in order to pander to the evangelical voters that Swanson attracts. Put bluntly, Cruz calculated that his political gain from rubbing shoulders with Swanson and his acolytes would outweigh the political damage of, well, rubbing shoulders with Swanson and his acolytes.

Incidentally, Swanson’s tirade about homosexuals was not the only lunacy on display at the conference. Another speaker at the event, a pastor, distributed literature calling for the death penalty for (you guessed it) homosexuals.18 Less horrific but also bizarre, another speaker explained how the Disney film Frozen encourages children to turn away from God and follow Satan.19 That’s just a taste. Given that Swanson’s organization planned the event, the fact that it attracted some of the most fanatical representatives of modern American Christianity (in addition to Swanson) should surprise no one.

Note that I am not claiming that Cruz agrees with Swanson; obviously he does not (because Swanson is a bloodthirty fanatic). What I am claiming is what is true: that Cruz intentionally sought an alliance with Swanson and with Swanson’s acolytes by attending and speaking at Swanson’s hate-filled event, even talking with Swanson on stage about religion in the context of Cruz’s political campaign. Is that not sufficiently damning?

It isn’t according to Cruz’s campaign spokesperson, Rick Tyler. In reply to Rachel Maddow, Tyler first claimed that Swanson’s remarks were “not explicit” enough to justify the concerns expressed (!), then claimed that Cruz should not be held “accountable for something he did not say nor believes.”20

But Tyler misses the point. Cruz should not be held accountable for what Swanson says; Cruz should be held accountable for actively allying himself with Swanson, considering what Swanson says. If that is not obvious to a man seeking to become president of the United States, it’s obvious that that man is unsuited to the position.

As Ted Cruz himself openly acknowledges, religious faith is a centerpiece of his campaign for the presidency. A major part of Cruz’s political strategy is to ally himself with evangelical leaders and voters—including the outright theocrats Troy Newman and Kevin Swanson. Anyone who takes seriously Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state” must condemn Cruz for these tactics and alliances.

April 27 Update: Following is my entire “Ted Cruz and Religion” cycle. Please note that my views about Cruz evolved considerably over time. Although I’m still very concerned about Cruz’s positions on abortion (and related matters) and his alliances with theocratic-leaning conservatives, I’ve also come to appreciate more deeply his many virtues, including his partial endorsement of the principle of separation of church and state. I became active in Republican politics toward the end of 2015, and I came to support Cruz over Donald Trump for the nomination.
· Why I Will Vote for Any Democrat over Ted Cruz
· Voting, Political Activism, and Taking a Stand
· Ted Cruz’s Dangerous Pandering to Theocrats
· Yes, Ted Cruz’s Policies Would Outlaw Some Forms of Birth Control
· Ted Cruz Would Ban Abortion Even for Rape Victims
· Ted Cruz Touts Support of Anti-Gay Bigot Phil Robertson
· Republican Religion Undermines Capitalism
· Ted Cruz’s Remarkable Nod to the Separation of Church and State

Related:

Endnotes

1. “Sen. Ted Cruz Objects to Democrats Attempt to Repeal Free Speech Protections,” Senator Ted Cruz, September 9, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXAYFzhNhQg.

2. “Senate Session, Part 2,” C-SPAN, September 24, 2013, http://www.c-span.org/video/?315212-2/senate-session-part-2.

3. Asheesh Agarwal and John Delacourt, “What No One Seems to Know About Ted Cruz’s Past,” PJ Media, September 30, 2015, https://pjmedia.com/blog/what-no-one-seems-to-know-about-ted-cruzs-past. Ted Cruz’s campaign web site lists a number of other issues on which Cruz is friendly to freer markets; see “Jobs & Opportunity,” Ted Cruz 2016, https://www.tedcruz.org/record/jobs-opportunity/ (accessed November 30, 2015). By contrast, Cruz’s positions regarding immigration are decidedly protectionist in nature; see “Cruz Plan to Top Illegal Immigration Highlights,” Ted Cruz 2016, https://www.tedcruz.org/cruz-immigration-plan-summary/ (accessed November 30, 2015).

4. See “Life, Marriage & Family,” Ted Cruz 2016, https://www.tedcruz.org/record/life-marriage-family/ (accessed November 30, 2015); see also Peggy Fikac, “Ted Cruz Says Questions about Mourdock Rape Comment Are ‘An Unfortunate Distraction from the Issues that Matter,’” Chron, October 31, 2012, http://blog.chron.com/txpotomac/2012/10/ted-cruz-says-questions-about-mourdock-rape-comment-are-an-unfortunate-distraction-from-the-issues-that-matter/ and Lisa Desjardins, “What Does Ted Cruz Believe? Where the Candidate Stands on 10 Issues,” PBS News Hour, July 1, 2015, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/ted-cruz-believe-candidate-stands-10-issues/.

5. “Center for Creation Studies, Liberty University, http://www.liberty.edu/academics/arts-sciences/creation/ (accessed November 30, 2015).

6. Ryan Teague Beckwith, “Transcript: Read Full Text of Sen. Ted Cruz’s Campaign Launch,” Time, March 23, 2015, http://time.com/3754392/ted-cruz-liberty-university-speech-transcript/.

7. See, for example, Abby Livingston, “Cruz to South Carolina Evangelicals: I’m One of You,” Texas Tribune, November 16, 2015, http://www.texastribune.org/2015/11/16/cruz-south-carolina-evangelicals-im-one-you/.

8. “Ted Cruz Announces Formation of National Prayer Team,” Ted Cruz 2016, November 19, 2015, https://www.tedcruz.org/news/ted-cruz-announces-formation-of-national-prayer-team/ (accessed November 30, 2015); “More than 200 Faith Leaders Endorse Ted Cruz for President,” Ted Cruz 2016, November 20, 2015, https://www.tedcruz.org/news/more-than-200-faith-leaders-endorse-ted-cruz-for-president/ (accessed November 30, 2015).

9. See Craig Biddle, “Political ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ Properly Defined,” Objective Standard, June 26, 2012, https://www.theobjectivestandard.com/2012/06/political-left-and-right-properly-defined/.

10. Linn Armstrong and Ari Armstrong, “The Saul Alinsky Connection: Obama’s Unprincipled Class Warfare Threatens the Nation,” AriArmstrong.com, September 16, 2015, http://ariarmstrong.com/2011/09/the-saul-alinsky-connection-obamas-unprincipled-class-warfare-threatens-the-nation/.

11. “Troy Newman, Activist Behind Planned Parenthood Videos, Endorses Ted Cruz,” Ted Cruz 2016, November 19, 2015, https://www.tedcruz.org/news/troy-newman-activist-behind-planned-parenthood-videos-endorses-ted-cruz/ (accessed November 30, 2015). Newman’s work with the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood is not at issue; in my view those videos raised some important questions about some of Planned Parenthood’s practices, leading to reforms within that organization.

12. Miranda Blue, “Anti-Planned Parenthood Activist Troy Newman’s Terrifying, Woman-Shaming, Apocalyptic Manifesto,” Right Wing Watch, September 14, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/anti-planned-parenthood-activist-troy-newmans-terrifying-woman-shaming-apocalyptic-manifesto. Those who do not trust Right Wing Watch as a source should notice that the author of the piece obviously obtained a copy of the book in question and quoted directly from it. In any event, I have ordered my own copy of the book. Rachel Maddow also published a piece about Newman and Sullenger; see “Ted Cruz embraces religious radicals with violent message,” MSNBC, November 24, 2015, http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/cruz-embraces-radicals-with-violent-message-573836355908.

13. “Operation Rescue’s Non-Violent History is a Matter of Public Record,” Operation Rescue, October 16, 2015, http://www.operationrescue.org/archives/operation-rescues-non-violent-history-is-a-matter-of-public-record/.

14. “Execution of Paul Hill Nothing Less than Murder,” Operation Rescue West and California Life Coalition, September 3, 2003, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20110930105903/http://mttu.com/Articles/Execution%20of%20Paul%20Hill%20Nothing%20Less%20than%20Murder.htm; this document lists Troy Newman as “Director, Operation Rescue West” and Cheryl Sullenger as “Director, California Life Coalition.”

15. See the web site for the conference at https://freedom2015.org; see a page for Generations with Vision discussing the conference at https://generationswithvision.com/Store/2015/11/freedom-2015-audio/; and see a page about Kevin Swanson’s role with Generations with Vision at https://generationswithvision.com/about/meet-our-director/.

16. Miranda Blue, “Kevin Swanson: No Death Penalty For Gays . . . Until They Have Time To Repent,” Right Wing Watch, November 7, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/kevin-swanson-no-death-penalty-gays-until-they-have-time-repent. I’ve written about the conference in question before, but I wanted to offer more details in this piece; for the earlier pieces see Ari Armstrong, “Why I Will Vote for Any Democrat over Ted Cruz,” AriArmstrong.com, November 25, 2015, http://ariarmstrong.com/2015/11/why-i-will-vote-for-any-democrat-over-ted-cruz/ and Ari Armstrong, “Voting, Political Activism, and Taking a Stand,” AriArmstrong.com, November 25, 2015, http://ariarmstrong.com/2015/11/voting-political-activism-and-taking-a-stand/.

17. Curtis Houck, “Tapper to Cruz: Are You ‘Endorsing Conservative Intolerance’ by Attending Event with Activist Pastor,” Newsbusters, November 5, 2015, http://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/curtis-houck/2015/11/05/tapper-cruz-are-you-endorsing-conservative-intolerance-attending. Regarding the signs that Kevin Swanson encourages his followers to hold at gay weddings, see Brian Tashman, “Swanson: Tell Gay Couples To Die On Their Wedding Day,” Right Wing Watch, September 5, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/swanson-tell-gay-couples-die-their-wedding-day.

18. Brian Tashman, “‘Death Penalty For Gays’ Literature At Right-Wing Conference,” Right Wing Watch, November 6, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/death-penalty-gays-literature-right-wing-conference.

19. Brian Tashman, “GOP Confab Ends With Call To Execute Gays Who Don’t Repent, Send Queen Elsa Back To Hell,” Right Wing Watch, November 10, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/gop-confab-ends-call-execute-gays-who-dont-repent-send-queen-elsa-back-hell.

20. “Rachel Maddow Show 11/26/2015,” November 26, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_ZFB-qlXBo. Maddow, with whom I often disagree on political matters, has done some hard-hitting work regarding Cruz’s association with Troy Newman and Kevin Swanson, and she provided a number of leads for my research.

How Various Media Botched an Abortion Story and Defamed GOP Rep. Barbieri

No one can reasonably question my pro-choice credentials—I’ve been a vocal opponent of the so-called “personhood” measures in Colorado; I’ve coauthored a paper defending a woman’s right to seek an abortion; and I’ve coauthored the article, “The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties.” So, as a matter of policy, on this issue I stand opposed to Idaho’s Republican state representative Vito Barbieri, who is anti-abortion and who advocates legal restrictions of abortion.

But just because Barbieri is wrong on the issues, doesn’t mean he deserves to be lied about and defamed—yet what various media outlets have done precisely is lie about Barbieri, take his remarks grossly out of context, and defame him.

I advocate legal abortion, but I do not advocate only that; among many other things, I also advocate honesty in media and basic human decency.  The media outlets in question have failed both those tests. Because initially I was suckered by their dishonest reports, and because I published a Tweet mocking Barbieri (which I subsequently corrected), I now feel some responsibility to help set the record straight.

The context, according to an Associated Press article by Kimberlee Kruesi, was that the Idaho legislature was hearing “testimony on a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine.” A doctor who testified against the bill, Julie Madsen, drew a comparison to a camera swallowed for a colonoscopy, which can be useful in telemedicine. To this, Barbieri sensibly inquired whether a camera might also be useful for a chemically-induced abortion—the topic at hand—and Madsen admitted it cannot be useful for that, because, she said, “swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina.” In other words, Madsen is the one who brought up swallowed cameras, and Barbieri is the one who pointed out that swallowed cameras are useless when it comes to investigating a pregnancy. As Kuesi reports, “Barbieri later said that the question was rhetorical and intended to make a point.” By any reasonable interpretation of the events, that is obviously what happened.

Yet numerous media outlets completely reversed the facts to make it seem as though Barbieri thought a swallowed camera might be useful for pregnancy, and that Madsen was “educating” him that the digestive tract is not connected to the vagina. But that was precisely the fact of which Barbieri was reminding Madsen, to point out that that portion of her testimony was, in his view, off-topic.

To get the flavor of the defamatory remarks that various “journalists” made about Barbieri, see articles published by the Washington Post, MSNBCSlate, Huffington Post, People, and Jezebel.

As soon as I read Barbieri’s remarks in context, it was pretty clear that various media reports about those remarks were flatly wrong. So I did something that is apparently unusual in the world of journalism today: I actually contacted Barbieri to get his side of the story. His comments square perfectly with the account I’ve given; here is what he emailed me, in full:

Thank you for contacting me in regard to my comments in the House State Affairs committee. Unfortunately, this is an example of the media taking an issue and warping it to fulfill their own agenda.

Please review the remarks made in context.

While discussing the efficacy of long-distance ‘telemedicine’, the doctor testifying was making an invalid comparison between two vastly different medical procedures, citing a colonoscopy was many times more dangerous than a chemical abortion. I was highlighting the absurdity of this comparison by taking her example of a patient swallowing a camera capsule to ascertain the condition of that patient’s digestive tract “from thousands of miles away” (her words) and, by asking my question, emphasizing that such technology could not be used in the case of a pregnant woman.

With respect to the issue at hand: It is a paramount responsibility of the Legislature to act for the benefit of the health and safety of all its citizens. To that end, and to protect the expectant mother, this bill proposed a physician must first physically examine her prior to dispensing these powerful chemicals. The first chemical will deprive the baby of nutrients which of course starves her/him to death and then, the second chemical, induces hemorrhaging thereby expelling the fetus. The expectant mother is home, alone, having no idea whether the amount of bleeding she is experiencing is normal for this procedure or is the product of a serious complication. This bill merely requires a doctor to physically examine the woman and should be at hand and available in the latter case.

Here is a transcript of the full exchange (with thanks to Betsy Russell, from the Spokesman Review, you can link to a copy of her blog “Eye on Boise” here):

Barbieri: “You mentioned the risk of colonoscopy , can that be done by drugs?”

Dr. Julie Madsen: “It cannot be done by drugs. It can, however, be done remotely where you swallow a pill and this pill has a little camera, and it makes its way through your intestines and those images are uploaded to a doctor who’s often thousands of miles away, who then interprets that.”

Barbieri: “Can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is?”

Madsen: “It cannot be done in pregnancy, simply because when you swallow a pill, it would not end up in the vagina.” (Hoots of laughter from the audience)

Barbieri: “Fascinating. That certainly makes sense, doctor.”

Again, thanks for sharing your perspective on this very important issue and know I will continue to be steadfast in protecting woman’s health as well as the unborn.

Rep. Vito Barbieri
District 2

Now, as a matter of policy, I think Barbieri is clearly wrong. Doctors are more than competent to determine whether telemedicine is safe and appropriate regarding chemically-induced abortions. (Further, doctors’ insurance providers will take steps to ensure they are competent; otherwise, the doctors would get sued.) Further, I think Barbieri’s concerns about bleeding are a mere rationalization to mask his deeper, anti-abortion agenda. On that point, Madsen’s comments are on-topic, for they show that Barbieri (apparently) wants to restrict telemedicine only with respect to abortion, not with respect to other medical conditions.

Barbieri’s policy position is, in my view, unjustifiable—which means that it can be defeated based on facts and logic. Defaming Barbieri, as various media outlets have done, only distracts attention away from the important issues at hand and makes Barbieri’s supporters quite legitimately feel persecuted by a dishonest media.

I will hold out hope that the journalists who defamed Barbieri are in fact journalists, and that they have enough journalistic integrity to publish corrections and apologize to Barbieri.

Why I Cannot Vote for “Personhood” Supporter Laura Woods

I confess that I tried not to look too closely at the Republican candidate for my Colorado senate district (number 19), Laura Woods, because I was afraid of what I might find. After gleefully witnessing the fall of Evie Hudack following her reckless, Bloomberg-inspired campaign against peaceable gun owners (after which Democrats replaced her with Rachel Zenzinger, now the Democratic candidate), I really wanted the seat to turn Republican.

After the fiascos of ObamaCare (implications of which played out in the state legislature), the Democrats’ persecution of gun owners, the Democrats’ war on energy producers and consumers, and other matters, this would have been an excellent year for the GOP to punish the Democrats and win back some seats. But, Republicans being Republicans (aka “The Stupid Party”), Republicans in my district nominated a candidate I cannot possible vote for.

Thus, just a couple of weeks after announcing I planned to vote a straight-Republican ticket, I now have to make an exception and declare that I cannot and will not vote for Laura Woods. The basic problem is that Woods enthusiastically endorses total abortion bans, including the insane and horrific “personhood” measure on the ballot this year.

(I won’t vote for Zenzinger either. I’ll probably just blank that vote, unless I can figure out how to write in “Turd Sandwich.”)

So congratulations to Mainstream Colorado, “Ashley Stevens, registered agent,” for prompting me to take a closer look at Woods and to thereby change my vote. (This is the first time I can recall in which a political ad has actually had any influence whatsoever on my voting.)

I’ll begin by reviewing a couple of campaign mailers I received from Mainstream. One ad cleverly borrows the language of the right by touting, “Freedom. Responsibility. Hard Work. These are the values Coloradans have cherished for generations.” The ad continues (in part), “Rachel Zenzinger believes women have the right to make their own health care decisions [but not their own self-defense decisions] with their family, their doctor and their faith—without government or bosses getting in the way.” Of course, the bit about “bosses” is a reference to the ObamaCare requirement forcing insurers to cover birth control. Although I don’t agree with Zenzinger on that issue, I definitely agree with her that women have a right to get an abortion.

Then comes the ad’s attack on Woods:

woodsa4

Laura Woods would take away a woman’s freedom to make her own health care decisions. . . . Laura Woods doesn’t think women are responsible enough to make their own decisions [except regarding their self-defense]. Woods supports an extreme plan that would ban all abortions, including in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger. The plan would criminalize doctors who treat women and allow law enforcement to investigate women who suffer miscarriage. She even supports a constitutional amendment that could ban common forms of birth control.

Although some of that language is imprecise and incomplete, it is essentially correct.

A second ad from the outfit makes the same basic claims.

woodsb2

So what are the facts behind the claims in question? Colorado Campaign for Life claims, “Laura Woods answered her Colorado Campaign for Life Survey 100 pro-life (sic).” (The organization also likens Woods’s opponent, Lang Sias, to the baby murderer Kermit Gosnell.) And Colorado Right to Life, which asks candidates if they “oppose all abortion,” affirms that Woods “has rigorously affirmed she is pro-life (sic).” As CBS Denver reports, Woods is a “staunch supporter of the Personhood ballot issue.”

As for why women have a right to get an abortion (and to use the birth control and in vitro fertility treatments of their choice),  and for why the “personhood” measure is not about personhood and is indeed anti-life rather than “pro-life,” see the detailed paper on the matter by Diana Hsieh and me.

The Denver Post’s Ridiculously Biased Story on Bob Beauprez and IUDs

If there’s one thing that makes me more angry than politicians endorsing stupid policies, it’s journalists writing biased and fact-distorting “news” stories. Frankly I usually don’t expect any better from politicians. But I do expect better from journalists, who are supposed to be the defenders of truth, justice, and America’s constitutional republic.

John Frank’s recent article in the Denver Post, “Bob Beauprez’s IUD Remark in Debate Generates Controversy,” represents the worst kind of biased (and frankly partisan) “reporting.”

By way of background, it is no secret that I advocate a woman’s right to get an abortion and that I strongly oppose the so-called “personhood” ballot measure. Indeed, I’ve spent many hours researching and writing about the “personhood” efforts over the years (see the paper I coauthored with Diana Hsieh). In 2006, the last time Beauprez ran for governor, I endorsed Democrat Bill Ritter over Beauprez, largely over “Beauprez’s religious stand against abortion.” This year, I have (tentatively) endorsed Beauprez over incumbent John Hickenlooper, partly because Beauprez has substantially run away from his efforts to outlaw abortion, and largely because I’m sick of Hickenlooper’s antics.

But whatever my personal positions, and whatever Frank’s personal position may be, intellectually honest people can at least be open and candid about the facts. On that score Frank has failed, miserably.

Frank correctly notes that, in a recent debate, “Beauprez suggested that intrauterine devices, known as IUDs, cause abortion.” Specifically, he said, “IUD is an abortifacient.”

Then Frank writes,

Beauprez drew a rebuke from experts in the medical community who called his assertion false. . . . The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and 10 other physician organizations, as well as the Federal Drug Administration, define IUDs as contraceptives that prevent a pregnancy. . . . Dr. Daniel Grossman, an ob/gyn who does reproductive research and who practices in San Francisco, said the definition of a pregnancy as the implantation of a fertilized egg is an established scientific standard. He said IUDs are not abortifacient.

But the relevant debate is not whether an IUD can kill a zygote once it has implanted in the uterus; rather, it is whether an IUD can kill a zygote before it implants in the uterus—and for Frank to ignore that issue is journalistic incompetence (or else intentional fraud). Basically, Frank is trying to trip up Beauprez on a definition, rather than address the substantive underlying issues.

So what are the facts? In 2012, Pam Belluck wrote for the New York Times:

By contrast [to hormonal birth control pills], scientists say, research suggests that the only other officially approved form of emergency contraception, the copper intrauterine device (also a daily birth control method), can work to prevent pregnancy after an egg has been fertilized.

A web site for Paragard, a brand of copper IUD, states, “The copper in Paragard . . . interferes with sperm movement and egg fertilization. Paragard may prevent implantation.” Implantation of what, you may ask? Obviously, of a zygote. And what happens if a zygote does not implant in the uterus? It dies. The FDA-approved prescription information for Paragard states, “Mechanism(s) by which copper enhances contraceptive efficacy include interference with sperm transport and fertilization of an egg, and possibly prevention of implantation.”

In other words, the copper IUD can work by preventing fertilization, and it can work by preventing the implantation of a (fertilized) zygote. If it works by the first means, it is a “contraceptive,” meaning that it prevents conception. But if it works by the second means, calling it a “contraceptive” is misleading, which is why the so-called “pro-life” crowd calls it “abortifacient.” But, by the definition of Frank’s “experts,” it’s not an abortion if it kills a zygote before it implants in the uterus. Well, they can define it that way if they want, but the definition used does not alter the underlying facts.

Let’s use another example to illustrate the point. I could define a “journalist” as a writer of news stories who gets his facts straight and who does not omit relevant facts. By that definition, John Frank is not a “journalist” (“hack” might be a better descriptive, at least in this case). But another common meaning of “journalist” is simply anyone who gets paid to write for a news organization. By that definition, Frank is a “journalist.” But real journalists (in the first sense of the term) do not play “gotcha” games with definitions as a way to obscure the relevant issues.

I believe the editors of the Denver Post do have integrity and do try to publish good, factually complete stories, so I call on them to issue a correction to Frank’s story.

Of course, as a matter of policy, it should matter not at all whether an IUD can act to prevent the implantation of a zygote. Women have a moral right to use the birth control methods of their choice and to seek an abortion if they wish to do so. A zygote is not a “person” and does not have rights. Frank does helpfully report that Beauprez said “in an interview after the debate” that “the use of IUDs [is] a ‘personal choice.'” Indeed it is—and it should continue to be.

Salzman: Both Beauprez and Gardner Supported Federal “Personhood”

As Jason Salzman points out at Bigmedia.org, both Bob Beauprez (Colorado Republican candidate for governor) and Cory Gardner (Republican candidate for U.S. Senate) endorsed federal “personhood” bills to give just-fertilized zygotes full legal rights. “Beauprez supported federal personhood legislation in 2005,” Salzman notes, and Gardner is a current sponsor of “personhood” legislation.

Salzman concludes: “The question left hanging is, why would Beauprez (and Gardner) support personhood at the federal level but oppose it in Colorado when the results here would be the same?”

The obvious answer is that both candidates reasonably believe that endorsing Amendment 67—this year’s “personhood” ballot measure in Colorado—would be political suicide. From a strategic standpoint, probably the worst thing to happen to Republican candidates this year in Colorado is to have run with “personhood” on the ballot. The measure will certainly bring more left-leaning women to the polls, and it will remind all voters that “personhood” is very much a live issue with many Republican candidates.

For more on why I oppose so-called “personhood” laws, see the papers Diana Hsieh and I co-authored for the Objective Standard and for the Coalition for Secular Government.

Good Grief: Now Free Tampons Are “A Human Right”?

Recent I asked, “Seriously, is there any good or service the left doesn’t want to turn into a welfare program?” Apparently the answer is no. In an op-ed for the Guardian, Jessica Valenti suggests that free tampons are a human right. She concludes, “Why aren’t tampons free?” (Hat tip to the Washington Examiner.)

To answer Valenti’s question, tampons aren’t free because they don’t fall from the sky from the Great Vagina God; someone has to produce them, and that costs money. If a tampon is “free” for one person, that means someone else is paying for it. And if government provides “free” tampons, that means government is forcing someone else to pay for them. Where is the feminist ideal of consent when it comes to forcing others to pay for your stuff?

But much of what Valenti writes makes a lot of sense. She’s right that access to menstrual hygiene products is extremely important, and she’s right that such products should not be subject to sales tax. (Of course, I hold that nothing should be subject to sales tax.)

I want to conclude by switching gears to address a related issue. I didn’t realize it at first, but the very heavy menstruation cycles my wife used to have were not normal. They made her weak and anemic. In fact, as we eventually learned, they were caused by uterine fibroids, non-cancerous growths in the uterus. My wife’s life changed radically for the better when she got fibroid embolization, a procedure performed by Dr. Brooke Spencer of RIA Endovascular. (My wife has given me permission to discuss her case, in the hopes of altering others to the availability of the procedure.) Ladies, if you have debilitating menstruation cycles, I suggest that you consider getting checked for fibroids—and that, if you have them, you explore the option of embolization. (Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or medical professional, and this post does not constitute medical advice.) For details read my report about my wife’s procedure.

Udall’s Half-Truths about Gardner’s Birth Control Stance

Over at Townhall.com, Katie Pavlich writes, “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.” The headline calls Udall a liar. But if Udall is a liar for telling half the truth, then so is Pavlich. So let’s get to the bottom of things.

Udall’s ad cites Garder’s “8-year crusade that would ban common forms of birth control.” Did Gardner lead such a crusade? Yes, he did, insofar as the so-called “personhood” measures he actively supported would have had that effect if passed and fully implemented. Gardner even circulated a “personhood” ballot initiative, as Personhood USA brags. For details about the impact of “personhood” on birth control, see the 2010 paper by Diana Hsieh and me. But, more recently, Gardner decided “he was wrong to support previous personhood efforts” because of their possible impact on birth control, reports Lynn Bartels for the Denver Post. In June, Gardner wrote an op-ed advocating the legalization of “oral contraception for over-the-counter purchases by adults.” That’s a very bold and a very pro-liberty move, and not one I’ve seen Udall support. Of course, Gardner still supports abortion bans.

So Pavlich misrepresented Udall’s claims about Gardner, but in his ad Udall did not reveal important facts about Gardner’s change of heart. “Half the truth is a great lie.”

Judge Tosses Alabama Abortion Regulations

“A federal judge Monday morning ruled that a portion of a 2013 Alabama law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a local hospitals posed an undue burden on women’s abortion rights, and was unconstitutional,” reports the Montgomery Advertiser. The courts also recently ruled against a similar regulation in Mississippi. For details on why such regulations are wrong, see the article by Diana Hsieh and me, “The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties.”

Help Support “No on 67” Policy Paper against “Personhood”

As those who follow my work know, I’ve written extensively against the so-called “personhood” proposals that seek to grant full legal rights to embryos and fetuses from the moment of conception. Diana Hsien and I coauthored a 2010 paper on the subject; we wrote a broader article for The Objective Standard; and I wrote a follow-up article for TOS’s blog. Now Hsieh is raising funds for her and me to update the 2010 paper in order to discuss the 2014 Colorado “personhood” ballot measure, officially Amendment 67. To read about the effort and to contribute funds to it, see the page at the Coalition for Secular Government.

Court Ruling Preserves Lone Mississippi Abortion Clinic

As Diana Hsieh and I discuss in “The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties,” conservatives in various states have sought to regulate abortion clinics out of existence, thereby borrowing a political tactic the left commonly uses in other contexts. The Onion satirizes such laws: “New Anti-Abortion Legislation Requires Doctors To Scale 18-Foot Wall Surrounding Clinic.” Partly as a consequence of such laws, Mississippi has only a single abortion clinic—Jackson Women’s Health Organization—which nearly shut down when its doctor was  unable to obtain admitting privileges to a local hospital, as state law requires, as Emily Le Coz reports for the Clarion-Ledger. But, as Le Coz reports, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a preliminary injunction against the law in question, (perhaps) “essentially dooming the state law that had threatened to close” the clinic.

Colorado’s “Personhood” Candidates Take a Beating

In the previous two election cycles, Colorado voters defeated so-called “personhood” measures—intended to outlaw all abortion from the moment of conception and also restrict birth control and in vitro fertility treatments—by overwhelming margins. In 2010 the measure went down 71-29; in 2008 it lost 73-27. If failed to make the ballot this year, but it was still very much a live issue in the 2012 elections. Democrats used the issue effectively to push its allegations that the GOP wages a “war on women.”

Paul Ryan took continual heat for his support for “personhood”; for but one example see an article by Colorado Pols. And Democrats hammered down-ticket Republicans relentlessly on the issue.

Joe Coors, who challenged incumbent Democrat Ed Perlmutter, got badly beat, 53-41 percent. Now, I don’t think Coors would have won even had the “personhood” issue not been on the table, and elsewhere Mike Coffman won despite his support for “personhood.” Nevertheless, the Democratic Party distributed the following mailer knowing it would move votes:

In my state house district, the Democratic challenger trounced the incumbent, Robert Ramirez, 51-43 percent. The left hit Ramirez with a relentless onslaught of mailers hammering him for supporting “personhood,” of which the following, distributed by an outfit called Fight Back Colorado, is an example:

There is no doubt that “personhood” shifted votes to Democrats up and down the ticket in Colorado, though of course it’s hard to say if that one issue made the difference in any given race.

Democrats honed this campaign strategy in 2010, when it defeated Ken Buck in the U.S. Senate race by attacking his abortion-banning stance.

As I’ve been pointing out for some time, Colorado demographically tends to be the type of place where people want government out of our wallets and out of our bedrooms. Unfortunately, the Republican Party in this state is dominated by a religious right that wants to outlaw all abortion and discriminate against gays—and that explains to a large degree why Democrats now control the entire state government, again.

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How the Left Paints the Right as Anti-Woman

The following article originally was published March 16 by Grand Junction Free Press.

The birth-control mandate that forces insurance companies to provide “free” birth control is an extensive forced wealth transfer scheme, compelling everyone who doesn’t use birth control to pay for others to use it. It is blatantly unjust, violating the rights of women and men as consumers as well as the rights of religious organizations that condemn the use of birth control. So how is it that Republicans are losing the issue so spectacularly? How is it that the left so successfully paints the right as “anti-woman?”

Some have suggested that the Obama administration shoved the birth-control mandate down the throats of religious institutions specifically to get a rise out of Republicans. It was a conscious political strategy, in this view. Whether or not Democrats intended that result, they achieved it. The Democrats left the animal skins and clubs lying about, and many Republicans gleefully dressed the part of troglodyte.

Rather than clearly and consistently answer, “Women have every right to purchase and use birth control, but they don’t have the right to force others to pay for it,” Republicans managed to come up with a rather different set of claims. Consider:

• Rick Santorum said that birth control is “harmful to women” and “harmful to society.” Birth control is “not okay,” he added; it is “counter to how things are supposed to be” because sex should be “for purposes of procreation” and not “simply [for] pleasure.”

• When law student Sandra Fluke publicly endorsed the birth-control mandate, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute” and suggested that she make sex tapes available. (He later apologized.)

• Newt Gingrich condemned “post conception birth control”—which notably can include the standard birth control pill—and endorsed banning it.

• Gingrich, Santorum, and Ron Paul all have supported the so-called “personhood” movement, which would totally ban all abortions from the moment of conception, ban the birth control pill, and ban standard types of in vitro fertility treatments.

The reason the left is able to paint the right as “anti-woman” is that there is more than a grain of truth to the claim.

The left successfully used the “anti-woman” tag in 2010 against Ken Buck, who lost the U.S. Senate race in Colorado. After Buck endorsed a “personhood” measure in Colorado (before backpedalling), Planned Parenthood ran ads proclaiming, “Colorado women can’t trust Ken Buck.”

Given the background debates, many voters found it easier to interpret even Buck’s innocuous comments in a sinister light. In response to the blatant gender-based attacks by his opponent Jane Norton, Buck joked that people should vote for him he doesn’t “wear high heals.” Attacking Buck over that comment was a cheap shot, but it was also a shot that Buck himself invited by entertaining the “personhood” agenda.

Now the Democrats are trying to beat the Republicans by “Ken Bucking” the lot of them. Democrats think that by winning the votes of independent women, they can win. And they’re probably right. As Rachel Maddow writes for the Washington Post, “Today’s Republican candidates are all Ken Buck now.” If Democrats can make the charge stick—and Republicans are making that all too easy—the Democrats win.

Unfortunately, rather than focus on individual rights, distracted Republicans allow the left to get away with various absurd lies about the mandate. One lie is that birth control paid through insurance is “free.” It is certainly not free for those forced to pay higher insurance premiums.

Another lie is that declining to force people who don’t use birth control to pay for others to use it somehow limits “access to birth control.” We think red wine is good for our hearts, but that doesn’t mean we should be able to force others to stock our wine cellars or that our “access” to red wine is limited if they don’t. There is a huge difference between having the freedom to buy something and having the “freedom” to help yourself to somebody else’s cash.

Yet another creative lie is that not forcing religious institutions to provide birth control would somehow impose “theocracy.” Every person, including those who join religious groups, properly has the freedom to voluntarily enter into contracts. Theocracy means imposing religious doctrines by force of law; the birth-control mandate imposes the comparable injustice of forcibly interfering with religious groups. (Of course, much of the controversy regarding religious groups arises from the phenomenon of employer-paid insurance, a relic of inane tax policies. But that is a separate discussion.)

The unfortunate fact is that neither the left nor the right defends the rights of individuals to control their own resources and bodies and contract by mutual consent. Where is the political leader who will take a pro-choice, pro-individual rights stand across the board?

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari blogs at AriArmstrong.com in the Denver area.

The Case for Abortion Rights

The latest issue of The Objective Standard has published an article on abortion rights by Diana Hsieh and me, “The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties.” While this article updates the discussion about the anti-abortion movement, it offers the basic, timeless case for abortion rights.I’ll offer a brief synopsis here.

The first part describes the modern abortion movement, which is basically divided into those who want to immediately declare the “personhood” of zygotes and fetuses from the moment of conception, and those who push for marginal restrictions on abortion.

The second main part discusses why abortion is important for millions of women. Some women need to get an abortion for reasons of health, rape or incest, or serious fetal deformity. Many more women justifiably seek an abortion because, due to their finances, family situation, emotional stability, or goals in life, they are simply not prepared for motherhood. Abortion bans would severely harm the lives and well-being of many women (and their doctors and supporters).

Then the paper address “The Moral Basis of Abortion Rights.” (Diana deserves the lion’s share of the credit for this section.) The basic idea is that individual rights apply in a social context, not to a being contained wholly within the body of another.

The final section ties abortion rights to all our other rights. Abortion bans negate a woman’s right to control her own body. Restrictions on abortion necessarily infringe rights of property, contract, and speech. Moreover, because restrictions on abortion obviously are rooted in sectarian faith, they open the door to more sectarian-based laws and to endless sectarian conflict.

I invite you to read the entire article. See also my follow-up post about Newt Gingrich’s anti-abortion zealotry.

Newt’s Nutty Abortion Stance

Today two articles came out slamming Newt Gingrich for embracing the hard-line anti-abortion “personhood” movement.

Paul Hsieh wrote the first for Pajamas Media. He emphasizes the fact that Gingrich’s proposals would ban the birth control pill and IUD. He writes, “If Gingrich (or any other ‘personhood’ supporter) wins the 2012 GOP nomination, the future legality of birth control pills and IUDs would immediately become a national political issue, to the detriment of the Republicans. Just as the ‘personhood’ issue tipped the swing state of Colorado in favor of the Democrats in 2010, it could also tip a few critical swing states in favor of Obama in 2012.”

I wrote the other article for The Objective Standard. Like Paul, I discuss the strategic foolishness of Republicans embracing the “personhood” movement, referencing Ken Buck’s loss of a U.S. Senate Seat. I also discuss Gingrich’s comments regarding birth control.

One additional point I make is that Gingrich’s proposals would subject women who get abortion to severe criminal penalties:

If, as Personhood USA asserts, a zygote is a person with the same right to life as a born infant or adult, then any action that intentionally kills a zygote, embryo, or fetus constitutes murder, as a representative of the organization emphasizedduring a November news conference. By the logic of the position and in accordance with existing murder statutes, abortion would be legally prosecuted as murder. Any doctor or husband who assisted in an abortion would be prosecuted as an accessory to murder. A Canadian anti-abortion group forthrightly argues that women who get abortions should face severe prison sentences. A Colorado supporter of Personhood USA explicitly calls for the death penalty for women who get abortions.

For a more detailed discussion of the issue, see the essay by Diana Hsieh and me, “The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties.”

Nanny Statist Sullivan Arrested for Consensual Crimes

Pat Sullivan, who as Arapahoe County Sheriff from 1984 to 2002 busted drug dealers and prostitutes, himself was recently arrested for attempting to trade meth for sex.

As CBS summarizes, “Today, he’s accused of offering methamphetamine in exchange for sex from a male acquaintance, and he’s locked up in the jail that bears his name, the Patrick Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility.”

Sullivan was a hard-core drug warrior. CBS continues, “In 2007 and 2008, Sullivan actively participated in state and local meth task forces, created to help the state deal with the drug problem.”

I mentioned the story to Jacob Sullum over at Reason, and Sullum looked up more details on Sullivan’s drug-warrior past. Sullum reviews a Denver Post story about how current drug warriors set up Sullivan with paid informants and surveillance. (As I mentioned on Twitter, ordinarily those who surveil consenting adults trading drugs for sex are justly regarded as perverted stalkers.) Sullum writes:

This sort of sleazy setup is an egregious waste of law enforcement resources, and it is manifestly unjust to threaten someone with six years in prison for attempting a peaceful, entirely consensual transaction with another adult. But that is par for the course in the war on drugs, a cause Sullivan enthusiastically served for many years. He led opposition to a 1998 medical marijuana initiative and calledasset forfeiture “an incredible tool” in the battle againt meth.

Thankfully, because of asset-forfeiture reforms that I helped to promote, the cops are less likely to steal Sullivan’s house or car over the alleged drugs.

But Sullivan was not merely a drug warrior, he also enthusiastically busted people for prostitution. Consider this February 6, 1990 article by theDenver Post:

Gerald Perry of the Denver Broncos turned himself in yesterday to begin serving a 15-day jail sentence for soliciting a prostitute. …

Sheriff Pat Sullivan said the offense that Perry was convicted of occurred in the portion of Aurora that is in Adams County. Perry was sentenced by an Aurora municipal judge to the Arapahoe County Jail, but in the order written by the court clerk, the Adams County Jail was specified….

He said the Broncos left tackle will be confined in the jail’s 12-cell medical unit except for meals and recreation periods.

“Someone of his stature and reputation would be disruptive” if placed in the facility’s general population, said Sullivan. …

The sheriff said that with time off for good behavior, Perry could walk out of the jail Feb. 14. “He gets six days of good time, as long as he’s good,” Sullivan said.

Reading that in light of Sullivan’s own recent arrest is downright creepy.

But Sullivan’s Nanny Statism did not extend only to drugs and prostitution, with which he was allegedly involved, but also to gambling. Consider this March 24, 1990 article by John Sanko in the Rocky Mountain News:

Gov. Roy Romer says he doesn’t want Colorado cities turned into miniature versions of Las Vegas or Atlantic City, where casino gambling is the name of the game. …

“I don’t think this is healthy, I don’t think it’s wise and I don’t think it’s needed,” Romer said of plans to bring casino-style gambling to eight small towns and allow electronic poker in others.

“It would put us on a slippery slope that we would not recover from and we would become a full-scale gambling state.”

Lawmakers who support the gambling plan scoffed, but Romer got no argument from Fort Collins District Attorney Stuart VanMeveren.

“It brings in prostitution , it brings in a lot of transients, it brings in a lot of other social problems,” VanMeveren said.

Speaking for the state’s law officers, Arapahoe County Sheriff Pat Sullivan said serious problems cropped up in the past just with fund-raising “casino nights” for charities.

We wouldn’t want low-life drug-dealing prostitutes doing something like raising money for charity through casino nights!

So as sheriff Sullivan fought drug use, prostitution, and gambling — the Nanny State trifecta — and he also advocated controls on civilian gun ownership. In an email today, Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners wrote:

One of the reasons I am so opposed to the government being involved in your Second Amendment rights is that it takes the power away from you and puts it in their hands.

In the hands of people like the former Republican Sheriff of Arapahoe County, Patrick Sullivan.

Sullivan made a habit of helping out groups like the Brady Campaign when it came to preventing law-abiding citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

He even testified before Congress for Handgun Control in favor of the Brady bill, and in the State Capitol against any concealed carry reform.

During his 18-year tenure as Arapahoe County Sheriff, Sullivan was a poster boy for big government…

But not only was Sullivan a major Nanny Statist, he was also a tax-and-spender. Vincent Carroll reviews for the Denver Post:

[Sullivan] agreed to participate in a political advertisement in 1992 against the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in which he pointed to a section of the amendment that he said “cuts cops and puts criminals back on the street.”

That claim was a lurid falsehood — which voters apparently sensed because they approved TABOR that year by a comfortable margin.

Given how little Sullivan cared for others’ freedoms, it’s a little hard to feel too sorry for him now that he has been arrested for consensual crimes.

And yet we must also remember all the violence Sullivan stopped as a peace officer, and all the innocent people he helped protect from harm.

Lovers of liberty must point out the basic injustice of Sullivan’s arrest, even though it’s the sort of police action Sullivan himself once endorsed.

Opponents Reply to ‘Personhood’ Push

Colorado’s anti-abortion “personhood” advocates held a media conference November 21 in which they announced their proposed language for the 2012 ballot.

Previously I posted video of the entire event. Here I add the replies by Monica McCafferty, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and Emilie Ailts, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.

For my criticism of the “personhood” proposals, see the paper I coauthored last year.

Anti-Abortion ‘Personhood’ Tries for Round Three

The so-called “personhood” movement has been knocked down badly in Colorado twice before in the 2008 and 2010 elections. By wide margins voters defeated ballot measures intended to ban all abortions. But the measures’ organizers are back with a new, slightly modified anti-abortion measure for the state’s 2012 ballot (assuming the group gathers enough signatures).

I attended the group’s November 21 media conference at the state capitol, filmed it, and asked a few questions. Please note that my purpose in filming the event was largely journalistic; my main goal was to record the views of the group’s participants. Of course I pressed some questions on matters that I find important. Embedded is the complete video of the event, plus some extra footage of Kristi Burton Brown answering questions.

My opposition to the “personhood” measures is well known (in the relevant circles); I coauthored a paper against the measures in both 2008 and2010.

The proposed 2012 measure is mostly the same as the previous measures, though it spells out some of its implications in greater detail. I posted thefour-page media packet distributed by the group’s organizers, including a page with the complete text of the new proposal:

From Personhood Nov. 21, 2011

The major difference for the 2012 measure is that it explicitly allows abortions to protect the life of the pregnant woman. One of the problems with the previous measures is that they left the life of the woman in a precarious state under certain conditions. See the section of the 2010 paper, “Abortions to Protect a Woman’s Health.” The new measure states:

Medical treatment for life threatening physical conditions intended to preserve life shall not be affected by this section. … “Medical treatment for life threatening physical conditions intended to preserve life” includes but is not limited to treatment for cancer, ectopic and molar pregnancy, twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, and placenta previa.

This language would give doctors some much-needed latitude to perform abortions to save the life of the woman. (Note that the measure’s supporters are loath to call these “medical treatments” abortions, but that’s what we are in fact talking about.)

But what if a doctor needed to perform an abortion only to protect a woman’s long-term health, as opposed to her life? Abortions under such circumstances would be banned if the measure were passed and fully enforced. And ambiguous cases would be decided by prosecutors and the courts.

Still, the measure’s supporters have made a serious effort to address one of the concerns with the earlier measures. Unfortunately, the remaining problems with the measure are manifold and severe. Consider:

* Obviously, the measure would totally ban all elective abortions.

* The measure explicitly says that abortions would be banned even in cases of rape or incest.

* The measure would ban all forms of birth control “that kills a person”; i.e., that can prevent a zygote (post-fertilized egg) from implanting in the uterus. Notably, that includes the birth control pill, the IUD, and “morning after” drugs.

* The measure would ban all fertility treatments “that kills a person”; i.e., that involves the destruction of embryos created outside the womb. In practice, the measure would shut down most fertility procedures that involve creating embryos outside the womb and limit such treatments to the wealthy and to those with rare physiological conditions.

* The measure would subject women who get abortions (along with those who assist her) to severe criminal penalties, counting an abortion legally as “murder.”

* While the 2012 language explicitly protects women with “spontaneous miscarriages,” the entire problem is that it would be the responsibility of coroners, prosecutors, and the courts to distinguish natural miscarriages from intentional harm to the fetus. So the new language changes nothing on that score.

One thing that bothered me about the media conference is Burton-Brown’s insistence that her opponents are liars. But it is Burton-Brown herself who has been consistently cagey about the implications of the “personhood” measures. During the conference, she flatly refused to state whether “personhood” would ban the birth control pill (hint: if consistently enforced it would). In any case, neither Burton-Brown nor anyone else has found a single factual error in the paper coauthored by Diana Hsieh and me (though obviously the “personhood” crowd disagrees with our analysis of the basic facts). In general, people ought not call their opponents liars unless they have really good evidence that such is the case; Burton-Brown presented no such evidence (though I have not evaluated all the claims of all of the opponents of “personhood”). Indeed, the main reason for the 2012 rewrite is to address various criticisms.

Obviously I’ll have much more to say about Colorado’s 2012 “personhood” measure in the coming months. For now, it suffices to say that it is the identical measure as before, only with more verbiage, with the notable exception of the language about “life threatening physical conditions.” It richly deserves defeat again, and I do not doubt that Colorado voters will oblige. The problem is that, if unchallenged, it softens the ground for incremental abortion restrictions leading to a long-run total ban.

Meanwhile, Team Obama rejoices as the Republican Presidential candidates fall all over themselves endorsing such wildly unpopular nonsense.

November 29 Update: See the replies by Monica McCafferty, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and Emilie Ailts, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.

A Note on the Hancock Affair

Michael Hancock was elected mayor of Denver on June 7. On June 2Complete Colorado courageously or irresponsibly (depending on one’s point of view) ran a story with the following headline, “Mayoral Candidate Hancock Linked to Prostitution Ring.” Soon after midnight today (June 11) the Denver Post published its own story on the matter, following stories by9News, 7News, and other outlets.

Hancock said in a video released by the Post that he has never hired a prostitute.

The purported evidence allegedly linking Hancock to a local prostitution ring (now under investigation) comes from a former owner of the illegal service. Hancock’s (misspelled) name appears in the records along with his phone number.

If Hancock is innocent, then his lawyer is doing an excellent job making him look evasive. Assuming he is innocent, this is a serious frame-up, and I’d be interested to learn what sort of possible criminal penalties the framer might be facing if caught.

I can think of a couple of scenarios by which Hancock’s name and number might have ended up in the records (other than him hiring a prostitute). This is purely speculative and hypothetical on my part. But, conceivably, somebody could simply have forged the records, which would have been fairly easy to accomplish. Or, conceivably, somebody could have “borrowed” Hancock’s phone to set up the initial contact, then called from a different number to hire the prostitutes. As the Post reports, the records contain the line, “Calls from diff #’s (pay ph.).”

But here my purpose is not to try to figure out the correct scenario, for I lack the evidence to do that. Instead, I’d like to make a broader political point.

It is certainly not inconceivable that some city employee has hired a prostitute. Indeed, I’d be quite surprised if that were not the case, and so would everyone else. The same general investigation has already brought down a judge, Edward Nottingham. As the Post reports, the same prostitution records “are believed to include many elite Denver professionals.”

What I find disturbing about this is that Americans now expect a significant portion of the population, including a significant portion of elected officials, to knowingly break the law and then chuckle about it, whether it’s hiring a prostitute or smoking a joint. And yet these same laws we openly mock in some cases destroy people’s lives, whether through a nasty prison sentence, a fatal no-knock raid, or the inherent violence of the black market.

Now, as I have argued, I believe prostitution is immoral even though it should be legal. Where it involves consenting adults, it’s not the sort of thing over which we as a society should be launching criminal investigations or throwing people in jail. Where it does not involve consenting adults, it is a vicious crime that should be forcibly stopped.

I do think voters should weigh whether they want to support candidates known to have hired prostitutes, just as in our personal lives we should weigh whether we want to become friends with people who hire prostitutes. Generally the answer should be no.

But, again, if we wish to live in a free society, we must restrict the field of the illegal to a small subset of the field of the immoral. The only acts that should violate the criminal code are those that violate the rights of others (and I mean the actual rights, not the make-believe “rights” to tell everybody else what to do).

Outside prostitution, certain other sorts of “victimless crimes” can be perfectly moral even though illegal; consider brewing beer during Prohibition. Come to think of it, Denver’s former mayor, John Hickenlooper, now the governor of Colorado, made his name brewing beer, an activity once outlawed by the very state he now leads.

Ultimately, it does not actually much matter whether Hancock hired a prostitute. It does matter very much that whether someone becomes the target of a criminal investigation depends to a very large degree on arbitrary enforcement and blind luck.

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Anonymous commented June 13, 2011 at 7:09 AM
“Limited Government Conservatives” are the driving force behind this victimless hunt.