How Abortion Cost Ken Buck the U.S. Senate Race

Ken Buck’s anti-abortion stance cost him the U.S. Senate seat in Colorado.

True, Buck had other problems. He made a few gaffes, as when he jokingly said he should win because he he doesn’t wear high heels (a response to his primary opponent’s many references to gender), and when he likened homosexuality to alcoholism. The left unfairly attacked Buck for his prosecutorial work on a gun case and a rape case. Moreover, the Democrats did a good job getting out the vote for Michael Bennet.

But Buck’s anti-abortion position made more difference than any of those other things, alienating many women and independent voters. And it was only in the context of Buck’s perceived antagonism toward women’s right to control their own bodies that the “high heels” comment and the claims about a mishandled rape case gained traction.

A couple of claims Buck simply could not rebut, because they were true: he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and he initially endorsed Amendment 62, the so-called “personhood” measure, even though he later backtracked and said he wasn’t taking positions on state ballot measures.

The result? Bennet “led Buck with female voters, 56 percent to 40 percent, according to the [exit] polls, and… Bennet beat Buck among unaffiliated voters in the polls, 52 percent to 41 percent.” Moreover, “Bennet also did better among Republicans than Buck did among Democrats in the polls.” My guess is that the number of Republican women to voted for Bennet or at least declined to vote for Buck was substantial.

Buck whined after the election, “I wasn’t going to derail my message to have an election decided on abortion, or any social issue, for that matter.” But when you endorse a ballot measure that would totally ban abortion (along with various forms of birth control and fertility treatments), what you’ve done precisely is make the election largely about abortion.

Consider some of the other relevant news about the issue.

“Gov. Bill Ritter… agreed [with Republican Mike Rosen] that Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck’s hard-line stance on abortion helped cost him the election.”

“Ken Buck Hit Hard On Birth Control, Abortion In New DSCC Ad.”

Bennet ran partly on “protecting [women’s] rights to safe, legal abortion.”

“Rape, incest victims rally against Buck.”

“Ken Buck: Opponents rally rape and incest survivors to decry his abortion policy.”

“Dem ads on reproductive rights aim to sharpen Sen. Bennet’s appeal to women.”

Bennet “seems to be the only candidate that’s not anti-abortion… I’m not really excited about him as a candidate — he’s kind of overspent in Washington.”

Or consider a first and second ad hammering Buck on his anti-abortion stance and related issues.

Or consider a few of the flyers mailed to my wife, an unaffiliated voter. These mailers, paid for by Planned Parenthood Action Fund, take some unfair shots at Buck but effectively hammer him on abortion. And they clearly link Buck to Amendment 62 and note that Bennet opposed the measure.





‘Personhood’ Blue Book Challenge Lacks Merit

I never have liked the Blue Book. It forces Colorado taxpayers to finance the distribution of beliefs with which they disagree, thereby violating their freedom of conscience. The state’s Constitution (V(1)(7.5)) requires that “the nonpartisan research staff of the general assembly shall prepare and make available to the public… a fair and impartial analysis of each [ballot] measure, which shall include a summary and the major arguments both for and against the measure.” Moreover, “any person may file written comments for consideration.”

Such language is a recipe for conflict. Calling the research staff “nonpartisan” doesn’t make it so. Proclaiming that it shall issue “a fair and impartial analysis” doesn’t mean that it will. Allowing “any person” to file comments invites trolls as well as idiots. The Blue Book guarantees biannual strife and litigation, and this year is no different.

The assembly should mail out a notice of elections with the language of the proposals, and nothing more. It should leave the analysis of the measures to outside individuals and groups. To accomplish this end, the legislature should refer a measure to the ballot in 2012 correcting that section of the Constitution.

But, all that said, the recent Blue Book challenge brought by the advocates of Amendment 62 (“personhood”) is utterly without merit. Or, rather, it has a great deal of merit as a publicity stunt, but legally it is groundless.

Electa Draper has the story for the Denver Post. (See also the story in the Denver Daily News.) Draper writes, “Sponsors of Amendment 62… sued the Colorado Legislative Council on Tuesday afternoon to stop distribution of its 2010 State Ballot Information Booklet.”

Gualberto Garcia-Jones, a leading proponent of the measure, said, “They have not included a single word — not a single word — of our arguments.”

His statement is ridiculous.

As is standard, the Blue Book summarizes the arguments for and against the measure, in three sections each. While Garcia-Jones might complain that the “Arguments For” the measure are not as detailed as he would like, certainly they do offer the gist of the case.

It is worth pointing out that the “Arguments Against” section also fails to offer the most fundamental and compelling arguments against the measure. For details, see the paper by Diana Hsieh and me. Certainly, as an opponent of the measure, I have as much legitimate grounds to complain about the Blue Book’s language as Garcia-Jones does (which again illustrates the absurdity of a legislative body issuing “a fair and impartial analysis”).

In part, Garcia-Jones dislikes the Blue Book because it tells the truth about Amendment 62. Draper writes:

Garcia-Jones said that the Blue Book’s arguments against Amendment 62 are false because it could never, as the booklet states, cause women to be denied medical treatment for a miscarriage. The amendment could not, he said, put doctors and other health professionals at risk of legal action for providing medical care to women of childbearing age.

It is also demonstrably false, Mason said, that “the beginning of biological development” has no established legal meaning and is not an acceptable medical or scientific term, as the Blue Book states. Supporters said they provided statements by scientists and lawyers to the contrary.

But the “personhood” proponents ignore the fact that these claims are made in the “Arguments Against” section. They also ignore the fact that the claims in question are legitimate.

Let us review the exact language of the Blue Book:

Arguments Against

1) Amendment 62… could be used to prohibit or limit access to medical care, including abortions for victims of rape or incest, and even when a woman’s life is in danger. Amendment 62 may also limit access to emergency contraception, commonly used forms of birth control, and treatment for miscarriages, tubal pregnancies, cancer, and infertility. The measure may restrict some stem cell research that could lead to life-saving therapies for a variety of disabilities and illnesses.

2) Amendment 62 allows government intrusion in the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship and could limit the exercise of independent medical judgment. The measure could restrict a doctor from using certain medical procedures and treatments. Further, “the beginning of biological development” cannot be easily and conclusively pinpointed. Therefore, the measure may subject doctors and nurses to legal action for providing medical care to a woman of child-bearing age if that care could affect a “person” other than the identified patient.

3) The effects of Amendment 62’s change to the constitution are unclear. The measure applies certain rights from “the beginning of biological development,” a term which is not defined within the measure, has no established legal meaning, and is not an accepted medical or scientific term. …

It is important to notice that, among those many claims, the only ones the proponents of Amendment 62 took issue with pertain to treatment for miscarriages and the meaning of “the beginning of biological development.” Most of the rest of the points are quite obvious and beyond dispute. Amendment 62 would ban every elective abortion, including for rape, incest, and terminal fetal deformity. It would ban every form of birth control that could prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, including the pill, IUD, and “morning after” drugs. It would ban fertility treatments and medical research involving the destruction of embryos. Nobody disputes these points. The remaining points of contention involve medical intervention and the meaning of terms.

As Diana Hsieh and I exhaustively explain, Amendment 62 would indeed sometimes threaten the health and lives of pregnant women. Garcia-Jones specifically mentions medical treatment for miscarriages. True, if the doctor knows the miscarriage has already occurred (and therefore that the embryo is already dead), he would have no fear to intervene. The problem is that a doctor might face criminal prosecution for intervening prematurely, before a miscarriage. Thus, the language of the Blue Book on that score is correct.

What of the dispute over the meaning of the phrase, “the beginning of the biological development of that human being?” As Diana Hsieh and I argue, the phrase is indeed ambiguous. While I do not doubt that “personhood” advocates could find innumerable quack doctors and scientists to testify that the phrase obviously pertains to the moment of fertilization, in fact it does not. Certainly the point is quite appropriate for the “Arguments Against” section.

The “personhood” challenge to the Blue Book is ridiculous. But it is an effective way to abuse the legal system for free publicity.

Am. 62 Would Ban the Pill and Endanger Women

Note: The following column originally appeared in the September 17 edition of Grand Junction Free Press. However, as a September 19 story from the Denver Post reports, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Ken Buck has backed off of his support of Amendment 62. Allison Sherry of the Post reports:

Buck said Saturday through his campaign spokesman that he will now vote against the measure. In an earlier interview, he said he did not understand until recently that passage of the amendment would likely outlaw some common contraceptive methods, like the IUD or birth control pills that can reduce the chances of implantation for a fertilized egg.

“This isn’t how I looked at the personhood amendment,” Buck said. “I’m not in favor of banning common forms of birth control.” … No longer would Buck introduce a constitutional amendment to ban abortion — though he says he would still support one — and he now says he would be willing to vote to confirm even pro-choice judicial nominees.

Therefore, the following article should be read with Buck’s qualified stance in mind.

Am. 62 would ban the pill and endanger women

We feel sorry for anybody whose job is to try to defend Ken Buck’s position on birth control. We really do. Because it is a ridiculous position.

Let’s back up a minute. This fall Colorado voters will face Amendment 62, known as the “personhood” amendment. The purpose of this proposed constitutional change is to grant a fertilized egg the same legal rights as a born infant or adult.

Of course, the measure could not be fully enforced so long as the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision remains in force. Challenging that ruling is the stated intention of the measure’s backers.

If enforced, Amendment 62 would totally ban abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, and fetal deformity. It would allow medical intervention that would harm an embryo or fetus only to save the life of the woman. However, because doctors can rarely perfectly predict the risks, the measure would threaten doctors with criminal prosecution if they could not prove the woman’s life was in imminent danger.

If an embryo is a person with full rights, then any intentional abortion must be deemed murder, and punished accordingly.

Amendment 62 would also outlaw the “in vitro” fertility treatments that help around a thousand Colorado women bear children each year. That’s because such treatments often create more embryos than a woman can safely implant. The rest are frozen or destroyed.

For a comprehensive critique of Amendment 62, see the new paper by Diana Hsieh and Ari at

One of the implications of Amendment 62 is that it would ban common forms of birth control, including the pill, IUD, and “morning after” drugs. Methods that prevent fertilization such as the condom would remain legal. The pill, while it usually acts to prevent fertilization, can also prevent implantation if fertilization occurs. Under Amendment 62, that would be deemed murder.

Don’t take our word for it: the manufacturers of the popular brands of pill Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Trinessa both claim the pill can “reduce the likelihood of implantation.”

Which brings us back to Ken Buck, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. According to the Christian Family Alliance of Colorado, Buck endorsed Amendment 62. Colorado Right to Life says that Buck is “very strongly pro-life and pro-Personhood,” and “he is on record supporting Personhood.”

One might think that, by simple logic, Buck would say forthrightly that he wants to ban the birth control pill, because it can prevent implantation. But Buck is a politician, so of course he can’t just come right out and state clearly what he believes.

In one campaign statement, Buck called charges that he “wants to ban common forms of birth control” a “lie.” The statement claims that “oral contraceptive pills… do not result in killing a fertilized egg.”

To drive home the point, Buck’s statement linked to an article by Unfortunately for Buck, that article states that the pill can prevent “fertilized eggs from implanting into the wall of the uterus.”

This is a problem, because Buck has endorsed Amendment 62, which regards the birth control pill as murder.

A September 1 piece by 9News claims that Buck supports “some forms of the pill” that don’t “keep a fertilized egg from implanting.” The piece credits Buck spokesman Owen Loftus.

So we contacted Loftus to ask him which forms of the pill don’t prevent implantation.

Loftus mentioned two sources, Planned Parenthood and Wikipedia. But both of those sites say the pill can prevent implantation (though Wikipedia notes the matter is controversial).

Loftus said he thought the “combination oral contraceptive” fits the bill. But manufacturers of the two “combination” pills listed above say their products can prevent implantation, and Loftus was unable to name any brand that operates differently.

Finally, we asked, “If it is shown that a form of birth control can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, would Ken Buck oppose that form of birth control?” Loftus replied, “Ken believes that life begins at conception, so, alright.”

We asked, “Is that a yes?” Loftus replied, “That’s my answer… Ken is going to Washington D.C. to fight runaway spending and create jobs, and that’s what his campaign has been all about.”

So, in other words, when political spokespersons find themselves in a corner, they dodge the question and change the subject.

But the measure’s sponsors are not as coy. Personhood Colorado, the main group behind the measure, condemns “chemical abortifacients” and says that “barrier methods… will not be outlawed.” A document endorsed by Personhood USA states that “all hormonal contraceptives have the capability to cause an abortion,” including the pill.

So Buck has two choices, if he wishes to give an honest answer. He can either state that he wants to ban the pill because it can “cause an abortion” by preventing implantation, or he can revoke his endorsement of Amendment 62 and admit that fertilization does not create a person with full legal rights. Which will it be? [Again, as noted above, Buck qualified his stance since publication of this column, and he now says he will vote against Amendment 62 and does not favor banning the birth control pill.]

Amendment 62 Destructive and Flawed, New Paper Shows

Media Release * New Paper Vs. Am. 62 * Sept. 7, 2010
Coalition for Secular Government

Amendment 62 Destructive and Flawed, New Paper Shows

In a comprehensive new paper available now at, political writer Ari Armstrong and moral philosopher Diana Hsieh, PhD, show why Amendment 62, the “personhood” measure, should be defeated.

“Amendment 62 is ideologically flawed and horribly destructive in its consequences,” Armstrong said. “If passed and enforced, the measure would ban abortion, the birth control pill, common fertility treatments, and embryonic stem cell research. It would threaten women, their partners, and their doctors with severe criminal penalties for terminating a pregnancy, even in cases of rape, incest, terminal fetal deformity, and risks to the woman’s health.”

Hsieh added, “Even though voters defeated 2008’s measure by wide margins, ‘personhood’ advocates are persistent and consistent, and they take advantage of the weak arguments offered by many abortion-rights activists. The new paper shows why women have the right to get an abortion, why rights begin at birth, not conception, and why the case for ‘personhood’ is fundamentally flawed.”


Buck Still Needs to Qualify Stance on Birth Control

It is now clear that Ken Buck would, if he could, ban at least some forms of birth control, including the pill in at least some forms. But Buck still has not completely clarified his position on birth control. [See the update below for news about Buck’s modified stance.]

On August 28, I wrote a post titled, “Yes, Buck’s Policies Would ‘Ban Common Forms of Birth Control.'” In that post, I quote a spokesperson for Buck’s campaign, who erroneously stated that “oral contraceptive pills for women… do not result in killing a fertilized egg.” The very citation provided by that spokesperson shows that the pill can do precisely that. Therefore, under Amendment 62, which Buck has endorsed, the pill would be banned.

But Buck offered a more refined position to 9News:

Buck believes life “begins at conception,” so birth control methods that don’t impact that (i.e. condoms, some forms of the pill) are fine with him. Others that would keep a fertilized egg from implanting like hormone-based birth control methods, some other forms of the pill, IUDs, RU-486 and what’s known as the morning-after pill, are not supported by him. (Source: E-mail from Buck spokesman Owen Loftus to 9NEWS, Aug. 26)

So apparently Buck favors some sort of “pill” that is not “hormone-based” and that would not prevent the implantation of a zygote. At this point Buck needs to list which “forms of the pill… are fine with him.”

In the section of the new paper by Diana Hsieh and me devoted to birth control, we evaluate Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Trinessa, Mirena, Plan B, and ella. In each case the birth control can prevent implantation of a zygote, according to statements from the manufacturers or the FDA. We quote others who say any form of the pill can do the same.

So if Buck knows about some sort of birth control pill that acts differently and does not ever prevent the implantation of a zygote, the onus is on him to name it. Otherwise, I’ll regard it as the Unicorn Pill, something that sounds good in Buck’s imagination but that does not actually exist. Until he can name the pill he has in mind — and I have the chance to evaluate it — Buck should state forthrightly and without qualification that he wants to ban the birth control pill.

September 8 Update: In a telephone interview yesterday, Buck spokesman Owen Loftus was unable to name a single brand of pill that never prevents implantation. He initially claimed that the “combination” pill fits, but then I verified that the types of pill that I’ve already researched are “combination” pills that can prevent implantation. He also offered me two additional citations — Planned Parenthood and Wikipedia — each of which states the pill can prevent implantation (though Wikipedia notes the matter is controversial). At any rate, neither of those sources is as reliable as the ones Diana Hsieh and I cite in our paper on the “personhood” movement, in the section, “Bans of Common Birth Control Methods.”

September 19 Update: The Denver Post reports that Buck has changed his position, saying he will vote against Amendment 62 and that he does not favor outlawing the birth control pill.



Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 9:16 PM
Girls with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) take BC pills to prevent ovulation. No ovulation, no conception, no cysts.

Ari September 9, 2010 at 5:10 AM
While that shows an additional medical value of the pill, it does not show that taking the pill always prevents ovulation.

Anonymous September 9, 2010 at 8:15 AM
The real issues in this race are out-of-control spending and out-of-control government intrusion. Ken Buck has vowed to repeal Obamacare or at least fight its funding until it can be repealed.

Michale Bennet said he’d risk his job to vote for socialized medicine. It is our job to make sure Bennet loses his job.

Abortion is pretty much settled law and a U.S. Senator is likely to have no impact on the issue. You can never get 100% in a representative. I think 99% is darn good.

Yes, Buck’s Policies Would ‘Ban Common Forms of Birth Control’

As reported by Michael Sandoval for National Review Online, Ken Buck’s campaign has responded to Senator Bennet’s attack ad. It’s not clear to me who wrote the text that Sandoval quotes; it uses first-person pronouns while referring to “Ken Buck” in the third-person. Nevertheless, I will consider the text to constitute Buck’s approved policy statement.

Neither Sandoval nor Buck deny that Buck wants to ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest. What is at issue is Buck’s views on birth control. Here is the relevant text from Sandoval’s article:

‘Buck wants to ban common forms of birth control.’

This is a lie. It is difficult to understand where this lie comes from. It may come from Ken’s position that life begins at conception. However, the ‘common forms of birth control’ — presumably, condoms for men and oral contraceptive pills for women — do not result in killing a fertilized egg. I am not a doctor, but a Google search brought up this hit about how female oral contraceptives work:

Buck is either disingenuous on the issue or else profoundly confused.

As I have reported, Buck endorsed the “personhood” measure, now slated as Amendment 62 for this fall’s ballot.

My source was the “Christian Family Alliance of Colorado,” which reports on its web page that Buck supports the “personhood” initiative. If for some reason this is mistaken, the Buck should correct the record immediately. I personally would be thrilled to hear that Buck in fact denounces rather than endorses Amendment 62; unfortunately, I don’t think that’s actually the case.

Nobody thinks Amendment 62 would ban condoms; that’s just a diversion. However, according to the sponsors of Amendment 62, the measure certainly would ban any form of birth control that could damage a zygote, and the birth control pill certainly qualifies, as I have noted. Indeed, the pill that my wife took until recently says on its prescription information that it can act by “making it difficult for a fertilized egg to attach to the lining of the womb (implantation).”

Indeed, if we look at the very citation provided by Buck’s campaign, it states that, with the pill, “The lining of the uterus is also affected in a way that prevents fertilized eggs from implanting into the wall of the uterus.”

Assuming that Buck in fact endorses Amendment 62, then he in fact wants to ban the birth control pill, IUD, and “morning after” drugs. Either that, or Buck lacks the integrity to own up to the consequences of his endorsements. Which is it, Ken?

Why Sam Alexander is Wrong on ‘Personhood’

In an August 15 letter to the Denver Post, Sam Alexander offers the following argument in favor of Amendment 62, the “personhood” measure that will appear on November’s ballot:

As an obstetrician/gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist, I can assure [Ed] Quillen [see his article] that human development — from the embryo to the fetus, infant, child and adult stages — is an uninterrupted continuum; a human being is always present. We do not value human beings based upon functional capacity, but upon the intrinsic properties which make us human. Consequently, all human beings in a liberal democracy should be treated with the respect due a person, with full rights and dignity.

Alexander ignores two fundamental facts. First, a zygote is a clump of largely-undifferentiated cells without any human organs or capacities. Second, until birth, a zygote, embryo, or fetus is wholly contained within the woman’s body and utterly dependent on her body for sustenance. Thus, while there is no doubt a “continuum” of development from fertilization through adulthood, an individual person with legal rights emerges at birth. (Until that point, the law properly supports a woman’s desire to protect her fetus from outside aggression, as an extension of her body.) For the more complete case, read the paper by Diana Hsieh and me (or the soon-to-be released updated version of the paper).

I do think it’s worth pointing out the obvious logical fallacies that Alexander commits in his letter.

Consider the following statements: “Stubble grows into a beard; therefore, stubble is a beard.” “An acorn grows into an oak tree; therefore, an acorn is an oak tree.” “A caterpillar develops into a butterfly; therefore, a caterpillar is a butterfly.” “An adult human develops into a corpse; therefore, an adult human is a corpse.”

Like Alexander’s statement, these are all examples of the logical fallacy known as the “argument of the beard” or the “continuum fallacy.” Something can in an “uninterrupted continuum” develop into something else and yet be become a basically different thing. That is precisely what happens when an egg is fertilized and develops into a born infant. The obvious fact that a zygote (in the proper environment) develops into a born infant — a person — does not imply that a zygote is a person.

Alexander’s second logical fallacy is an equivocation on the term “human being.” The cited paper explains:

In fact, the advocates of Amendment 48 [now Amendment 62] depend on an equivocation on “human being” to make their case. A fertilized egg is human, in the sense that it contains human DNA. It is also a “being,” in the sense that it is an entity. …[T]he fact that an embryo is biologically a human entity is not grounds for claiming that it’s a human person with a right to life. Calling a fertilized egg a “human being” is word-play intended to obscure the vast biological differences between a fertilized egg traveling down a woman’s fallopian tube and a born infant sleeping in a crib.

Finally, Alexander appeals to his own authority, when in fact his expertise shed no light whatsoever on the (faulty) conclusions he draws.

Given the obviously deficient arguments Alexander offers in his letter, might I suppose that he has underlying motives for endorsing “personhood” that he did not mention in the letter?



Elisheva Hannah Levin August 20, 2010 at 4:53 PM
Very interesting. No doubt that there is a continuum of development from fertilized egg to a human baby making its way with great help from its mother into the world. But I think the real argument is about the right of the already born woman who carries the child to make determinations about her own health and happiness. Being the mother of two children who made it to birth and beyond, I can say that pregnancy is not easy, and not without risk. In the religious tradition in which I was raised, this last is the reason why the issue of abortion is generally left to the discretion of the mother–she carries the child and she takes the risk. I cannot imagine that someone quite outside of the situation has any say in the matter, since he neither takes the risks nor suffers the consequences of pregnancy.
It is not that I do not value my children, but if push had come to shove, I value my own life more. And in the case of a very risky pregnancy where the mother has other children already born, what of them? She has already put a great deal of energy and effort into their lives and well being, and to choose to risk those lives for the sake of an unknown risk makes no biological sense whatsoever.
My guess is that abortion has been around a very long time.

By Endorsing Horrific ‘Personhood’ Measure, Republicans Court Defeat

The following article originally was published May 28, 2010, by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

By endorsing horrific ‘personhood’ measure, Republicans court defeat

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

All we can figure is that Colorado Republicans have a political death wish. What else can explain candidates like Scott McInnis and Jane Norton falling all over themselves to endorse the wildly unpopular, absurdly drafted, and life-damaging “personhood” measure headed for the ballot this fall?

Amendment 62, a slightly redrafted version of 2008’s Amendment 48, would, if passed and fully enforced, ban all abortions, even in cases of risks to the woman’s health, rape, incest, and fetal deformity. It would outlaw the birth control pill, the IUD, “morning after” medications, common fertility treatments, and some types of medical research.

It would subject women with suspicious miscarriages to possible criminal prosecution. It would require doctors to sacrifice the health of a woman to the survival of a zygote or fetus, which would inevitably result in the death of some women. It would require women to carry pregnancies to term against their wishes, by government force. [See details.]

And the sponsors of this nightmarish police-state proposal have the audacity to call it “pro-life.” We can think of no other measure more harmful to the lives of actual people ever to gain ballot approval.

The measure may do better than the 27 percent of votes it gained last time. In 2008, Republicans were dispirited; this year they are energized. Voters, sick of big-spender George W. “Bailout” Bush and the shenanigans of state Republicans, decided to give the Democrats a chance. The Democrats proceeded to further muck up everything from health care to car manufacturing to foreign policy.

Moreover, the new measure replaces 2008 language about “the moment of fertilization” with a confusing line about “the beginning of biological development.” While the measure’s sponsors declare that still means fertilization, no doubt some voters will imagine otherwise. (We might as well call the proposal the Lawyer Enrichment Act for all the court disputes it would generate.)

Given that 73 percent of Colorado voters opposed the measure last time, obviously leading Republican candidates must endorse it now. Apparently Republicans think they can win in this state by alienating not only most Hispanic voters but most women (and their concerned male friends) as well.

Republicans seem to have forgotten that, in 2008, John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin for her evangelical credentials hardly helped the ticket. Meanwhile, Republican Marilyn Musgrave lost her Congressional seat largely because of her obsession with faith-based politics, and Democrats successfully hammered various anti-choice Republicans running for state legislature.

Apparently this year Republicans in tough races fear the religious right in the primaries more than they fear mainstream voters in the general election. Such Republicans hope that people are so fed up with the Democrats that they’ll momentarily forget about Republican craziness.

We already knew that Ken Buck (candidate for U.S. Senate) and Dan Maes (candidate for governor) endorsed “personhood.” Your senior author heard McInnis, the frontrunner for governor, endorse the measure. The Daily Sentinel reported that Jane Norton, the leading Republican for U.S. Senate, also endorsed it. (Cinamon Watson, a spokesperson for Norton, confirmed the endorsement; see your younger author’s report at

We do not doubt that Maes and Buck are True Believers: they believe that God forbids abortion. (That is hardly the Christian consensus, and more importantly law should not be based on sectarian dogmas.) The endorsements of McInnis and Norton look remarkably like pandering to us. [See the update about Maes.]

Previously Norton called for abortion bans with possible exceptions for “rape, incest, and life of the mother,” exceptions which at least in the first two cases clash with the “personhood” measure. For once we side with Colorado Right to Life and “question Jane Norton’s sincerity on this issue.”

Interestingly, a new survey from Public Policy Polling shows Senator Michael Bennet taking the lead for the first time. We wonder whether Bennet can sustain that lead by attacking Norton over “personhood.” (The same outfit shows a tied governor’s race.)

Scott McInnis’s endorsement is more bizarre. As the Denver Post reported, back in 1998 McInnis was on the Advisory Board of Republicans for Choice. A letter to the Federal Election Commission shows McInnis’s name on the group’s letterhead. “Scott has no memory of that,” according to his spokesperson.

True, McInnis also built an anti-choice voting record, earning a zero rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, for voting for such incremental measures as a partial-birth abortion ban except to save a woman’s life. Yet we are supposed to believe that, in twelve years, McInnis has evolved from a pro-choice Republican to endorsing a measure outlawing the birth control pill as well as all abortions.

Frankly, we don’t know which prospect is more frightening: that McInnis is pandering to the religious right, or that he really supports Amendment 62.

It remains to be seen whether, this year, Colorado Republicans will get away with threatening to impose dangerous sectarian dogmas by government force. But, over the long term, freedom-loving Coloradans aren’t going to stand for it.

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits from the Denver area.



revereridesagain June 7, 2010 at 6:42 PM
These people have all but completely dropped the fiction that they have any concern whatever for the lives of individual women, or for anything else but their pathetic hopes centered on the fantasy of life-after-death “salvation” via adherence to their religious dogmas. They show an ever-increasing willingness to literally sacrifice the lives of others to this end, and if it furthers their political ambitions in the meantime, so much the better. Such people deserve not only voter rejection in the political sphere but contempt and shunning. A politician who tries to enact legislation outlawing all birth control measures and condemning women to pregnancy-related deaths holds no higher status than a home invader who bursts through your front door bent on killing you for his own gain and should be treated accordingly. In this context, of course, via the voting booth rather than a shotgun, but the principle applies.

Maes Afflicted with GOP’s Abortion Schizophrenia

It is unfortunate for Dan Maes, who recently eked out a narrow victory in the Republican state assembly’s vote for governor, that his last name rhymes with “ways,” for the cries of “Both Ways Maes” have already begun. He simultaneously wants and opposes abortion bans, at the same time and in the same respect.

Recently I pointed out that many Republicans endorse hard-core abortion bans. For example, Rand Paul wants to ban abortion at the national level — even in cases of rape and incest — ban common forms of birth control, and ban medical research involving embryonic stem cells. (He also wants to legally force nutrition for those in permanently vegetative states.) In Colorado, every leading candidate for governor and U.S. Senate has endorsed Amendment 62, the “personhood” measure that would grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs. (For a detailed description of what the measure would entail, and why it is terrible, see the paper written by Diana Hsieh and me.)

And yet something odd is going on in the Republican Party. For at the Colorado assembly, where the most hard-core Republican activists gathered, 74 percent of participants declared “that pregnancy, abortion, and birth control are personal private matters not subject to government regulation or interference.” Slightly more participants declared that fertilized eggs deserve legal protection and that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, prompting me to declare that Republicans are schizophrenic on the issue.

Maes is the latest Republican to fall victim to the affliction. In some (atypically useful) reporting from the Colorado Independent, Scot Kersgaard reveals Maes’s (shall we say) modified stance on the issue.

Kersgaard relates Maes’s interview with the Independent:

I am ardently pro-life, he said, but he added that “Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, and people tend to forget that. I would not try to undo that.”

Yet he said he not only favors Amendment 62, the personhood amendment, but that he voted for a similar amendment when it was on the ballot two years ago and that he signed the petition to get it on the ballot this time. Still, he says the amendment is largely rhetorical and that he believes its passage would have no effect on the availability of legal abortions in Colorado.

“People are overestimating the personhood amendment. It simply defines life as beginning at conception. That’s it. Who knows what the intent of it is? They are simply making a statement. That is all I see it as. Do they have another agenda? I don’t know.”

A cynic might note the interesting timing of Maes’s newfound perspective on “personhood.” Now that Maes is through with the religious right voters at the convention and must shift focus to the more-mainstream primary, he has softened his stance on abortion accordingly.

Yet Maes never has echoed the far-reaching stances of the religious right anti-abortion groups. In a survey from January, Maes clearly stated that he endorsed the “personhood” measure. Yet, when asked about birth control “that may prevent a fertilized egg or zygote from implanting in the uterus,” Maes answered, “I support the laws as they stand.” Yet, as I have noted, if fully enforced the “personhood” measure indeed would ban common forms of birth control, including the pill. Maes simply dodged other questions pertaining to abortion.

What are we to make of Maes’s statment that Amendment 62 “simply defines life as beginning at conception?” Clearly his statement is false. The measure would grant to fertilized eggs rights of safety, property, and due process. The measure says nothing about when life begins. (Technically, life precedes conception, because both the egg and sperm are alive.) Instead, the measure defines that personhood begins with conception.

Maes misspoke, then, for one of two reasons. Either he signed the petition for the measure without actually reading it — a sign of gross irresponsibility — or he is simply lying about what he knows the measure says. Offhand I do not know which option the less comforting.

Regarding Maes’s comment that Amendment 62 is “simply making a statement,” I wonder how many bills Maes intends to sign, should he be elected governor, based on what he thinks the “statement” of a bill is, rather than based on the actual language, meaning, and enforcement of a bill. Is Maes ignoring the horrific consequences of Amendment 62 simply because he wants to make a “statement?” That in itself makes an important statement about Maes’s approach to legislation.

Yet the fact that Maes performed so well at the convention says something both about his skills as a campaigner and the self-inflicted wounds his major competitor, Scott McInnis, suffers. Initially I wrote off Maes, yet he has proven himself in political battle. And, most of the time, Maes sounds like a reasonable and personable candidate.

Sometimes I even like Maes. Kersgaard reported: “He said the root of tea party unhappiness with the state of the country is that ‘people just feel that Washington is taking away their personal freedoms. They just want to be left alone.'”

My sense is that the “Dr. Liberty” side of Maes is stronger than the “Mr. Police State.” But such ideological schizophrenia is hardly comforting, whether in a candidate or in a party at large.

Rand Paul Wants Total Abortion Bans

Rand Paul, son of Congressman Ron Paul, recently made news when, after winning the Kentucky GOP primary for U.S. Senate, he declared that private discrimination should be legal on the basis of property rights and free association.

Yet Paul believes the government should control women’s bodies by preventing them from obtaining abortions and common forms of birth control. He thinks a store owner has the right to keep out black patrons, but he does not think a woman has the right to control her own reproductive functions. He doesn’t think government should interfere to stop private racism, but he thinks government should throw women and their doctors in prison for facilitating abortions.

The logical conclusion of abortion bans is that government agents should forcibly restrain women to prevent them from getting abortions. After all, if abortion is murder, as advocates of abortion bans routinely claim, then driving down the street to obtain an abortion is morally and legally equivalent to driving down the street with a loaded shotgun to blow your neighbor’s head off. Police have every right to arrest and forcibly restrain threatening individuals. If abortion is murder, then a woman who declares her intent to get an abortion has threatened murder and must be strapped down if necessary to ensure delivery.

But a fertilized egg is not a person. A fertilized egg does not properly have the legal rights of a born infant. Abortion is not murder. Women have every right to take birth control drugs or obtain an abortion. Abortion bans place a woman’s body under the control of the government and threaten to unleash a heavy-handed police state. (For a more complete case against abortion bans, see the paper written by Diana Hsieh and me.)

As a would-be abortion banner, Paul is the enemy of liberty, property rights, and free association.

Consider what Paul writes on his web page:

I am 100% pro life. I believe abortion is taking the life of an innocent human being.

I believe life begins at conception and it is the duty of our government to protect this life.

I will always vote for any and all legislation that would end abortion or lead us in the direction of ending abortion.
I believe in a Human Life Amendment and a Life at Conception Act as federal solutions to the abortion issue. I also believe that while we are working toward this goal, there are many other things we can accomplish in the near term. …

In addition, I believe we may be able to save millions of lives in the near future by allowing states to pass their own anti-abortion laws. If states were able to do so, I sincerely believe many — including Kentucky — would do so tomorrow, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

Before 1973, abortion was illegal in most states. Since Roe v. Wade, over 50 million children have died in abortion procedures.

I would strongly support legislation restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe v. Wade. Such legislation would only require a majority vote, making it more likely to pass than a pro-life constitutional amendment.

I would support legislation, a Sanctity of Life Amendment, establishing the principle that life begins at conception. This legislation would define life at conception in law, as a scientific statement.

As your Senator, there are many ways I can help end abortion. I will fight for each and every one of them.

Paul helpfully includes links to two Kentucky surveys on abortion and related matters.

In response to a survey from the Kentucky Right to Life Association Political Action Committee, Paul supported the following positions:

* A nation abortion ban.

* Abortion bans even in cases of rape and incest.

* Possible bans on “chemical abortions, such as RU-486, the abortion pill, and other drugs known to prevent the newly created human being from attaching to his/her mother’s womb (implantation).” Notably, the birth control pill and the IUD can prevent implantation. (The survey asks whether the responder is “morally and/or medically opposed to chemical abortions,” which does not necessarily imply support for outright bans.)

* Bans on the medical use of embryonic stem cells.

* Legally required “nutrition and hydration” for “cognitively disabled people, like Terri Schiavo.” The survey dishonestly conflates the condition of Schiavo, who was in a vegetative state for many years, with any sort of “disability.”

In response to the Northern Kentucky Right to Life 2010 Election Candidate Questionnaire, Paul supported the following positions:

* A national abortion ban.

* Criminal penalties for anyone who facilitates an abortion, except “to prevent the death of the mother who is suffering from a physical pathology.” (No exception is made for abortions that would merely protect the health of the woman.)

* Bans on the medical use of embryonic stem cells.

* Bans on the “withdrawal from an infant, incompetent, or comatose person of food and water,” “except in cases where death is imminent and the patient cannot assimilate food or water.” As with the last survey, this one dishonestly conflates people with slight medical conditions with the medically brain-dead.

In light of Paul’s views on abortion, reproduction, and end-of-life decisions, nobody should be asking whether Paul advocates too much liberty.