Colorado State Senators Argue Contraception Kills

Wendy Norris

The proposed Birth Control Protection Act in Colorado would stem future assaults on contraception by conservative lawmakers and religious activists who argue birth control pills are an "abortifacient."

Semantics were the order of the day when conservative Republican state
senators in Colordado attempted to weaken a bill defining contraception arguing that
the state must first define that “life begins at conception.”

The proposed Birth Control Protection Act
(SB 225), introduced by state Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, is designed
to stem future frontal assaults on contraception by conservative
lawmakers and religious activists who argue birth control pills are an
“abortifacient,” or a substance that can induce an abortion. By legally
defining a “contraceptive or contraception as a medically acceptable
drug, device, or procedure used to prevent pregnancy” Boyd believes
she’s created a fail-safe to protect women’s reproductive freedom.

The challenge by Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, countered that
SB 225 “codifies the ability to destroy life after conception” because
some contraceptive methods prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.
Harvey said that contraception that prevents conception is OK in the
state statute but after the joining of egg and sperm it is
inappropriate and morally reprehensible as if birth control pills can
be programmed to act as heat-seeking missiles for free-floating zygotes.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, who backed Harvey at the podium,
has long-proposed defining pregnancy at conception rather than the
widely-held medical and scientific interpretation that hormone
excretion following the implantation of a fertilized egg in a woman’s
uterus determines pregnancy. But while Harvey carefully crafted his
opposition arguments, Lundberg raised the controversial “A” word
immediately. The Berthoud lawmaker asserted that Boyd’s bill uses
circular logic that “[contraception] is not abortive” — arguing instead
that birth control “terminates” the fertilized egg between the moment
of conception and implantation.

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Except, obstetric and gynecological experts report that from 60 to 80 percent of fertilized eggs fail to implant
naturally, completely outside the use of contraceptives. Likewise,
there is no scientific test to detect pregnancy at conception until
weeks after the egg implants in the uterus.

During the debate, Lundberg claimed only a small handful of other
states use what he termed the “convenient,” “not unanimous” and
“scientifically inaccurate” definition of pregnancy rather than the conservative Christian construct of conception. In fact, Missouri is the only state that has codified “life begins at conception” in its state constitution.

Despite their protests, Harvey and Lundberg are using a widely
repudiated conservative religious frame that hormonal and device
contraceptives cause abortion. That same tactic was initially voiced by
proponents of the so-called “Personhood Amendment
that sought to confer constitutional rights on fertilized eggs on the
2008 state ballot. That early semantic stumble was quickly backburnered by the personhood campaign after it became apparent that Colorado’s majority pro-reproductive choice electorate was in no mood for a referendum on contraception let alone an all out anti-abortion fight.

Although Amendment 48 was soundly defeated by a 3-to-1 margin, Boyd’s bill seeks to thwart continued states rights-fueled challenges to Roe vs Wade by anti-abortion activists.

“It’s a very simple bill actually,” Boyd told the Colorado
Independent moments before she introduced the legislation to the Senate
Health and Human Services Committee last week. “It keeps contraceptives
out of the [personhood] argument … I think we’re clearly stating what
contraception is and when you talk about preventing pregnancy that in
no way is abortion. This is designed to prevent the potential need for
anyone to seek an abortion.”

Lundberg and fellow ultra-conservative caucus members Dave
Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, and Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield,
panned the measure in committee but were defeated on a 5-3 party line roll call vote. Schultheis was pilloried after a Feb. 25 Senate floor discussion on SB 179 for remarking that HIV testing of pregnant women rewards promiscuity. He held his tongue during the committee debate on Boyd’s contraception bill the day after that firestorm.

At the behest of Gov. Bill Ritter and Catholic hospital
representatives, Boyd offered an amendment to her own bill to exclude
mifespristone, also known as RU-486, and other federally approved
pharmaceuticals that induce abortion from the proposed legal definition
of contraception.

Harvey’s amendment was ultimately beat back by Boyd with a title
ruling request, a legal maneuver to determine whether the challenge has
merit as a modification of the bill in question or goes too far afield
from the subject at hand. Legislative legal services ruled that
Harvey’s claim didn’t stand the test.

The bill passed on a voice vote and goes to third reading in the
Senate Thursday where, if approved, will move to the House to be
shepherded by co-sponsor Rep. Anne McGihon, D-Denver.

News Politics

Colorado Republicans Pick Anti-Choice County Commissioner for U.S. Senate Race

Jason Salzman

Darryl Glenn, an anti-choice Colorado Springs County Commissioner, defeated a pro-choice GOP rival and three other anti-choice Republicans in the race to take on pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet in November.

In Colorado’s Republican senatorial primary Tuesday, Darryl Glenn, a conservative county commissioner from Colorado Springs, scored a decisive victory over Jack Graham, a former Colorado State University official, who stood out from the GOP field of five candidates for his atypical pro-choice stance.

Glenn received about 38 percent of the primary vote versus nearly 25 percent for Graham, who finished second.

Glenn made no secret of his anti-choice stance during the primary election, describing himself in interviews as an “unapologetic Christian, constitutional conservative” and supporting “personhood” rights for fertilized human eggs (zygotes), a stance that could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception.

Consistent with this, Glenn is also opposed to the Roe v. Wade decision.

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Glenn frequently brought up his faith in interviews. For example, Glenn broke out from his Republican rivals at the GOP state convention in April, where he gave an impassioned speech during which he discussed Planned Parenthood and opposing abortion ​before delegates voted him on to the GOP primary ballot.

Asked about the speech by conservative radio host Richard Randall, Glenn said, “Well, that wasn’t me. That was the Holy Spirit coming through, just speaking the truth.”

Seriously?” replied the KVOR radio host.

Absolutely,” Glenn replied on air. “This campaign has always been about honoring and serving God and stepping up and doing the right thing.”

Political observers say Glenn’s position on abortion, coupled with his other conservative stances and his promise never to compromise, spell trouble for him in November’s general election against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

“Glenn’s stance on abortion isn’t necessarily disqualifying,” Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, which offers non-partisan election analysis, in Washington D.C., told Rewire via email. “Colorado has sent pro-life Republicans to the Senate. But, the cumulative effect of all Glenn’s conservative positions on social, economic, and foreign policy, as well as his association with Tea Party-affiliated groups and his lack of funding make it very, very difficult to see a path to victory for him.”

In the final weeks of the primary, Glenn was supported by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Glenn’s ties to the right wing of the Republican Party drew criticism during the campaign from GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He criticized Glenn for accepting the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which gave Glenn $500,000.

Duffy doesn’t expect the race to be “very competitive,” an observation that aligns with the “Democrat favored” assessment of the race by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. Last year, Bennet was widely considered one of only two vulnerable U.S. Senate Democrats.

“Darryl Glenn’s support for ‘personhood’ puts him on the wrong side of Colorado voters’ values, including many pro-choice Republicans and unaffiliated voters,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, in an email to Rewire. “Support for reproductive freedom crosses party lines in Colorado, as demonstrated by the landslide losses by three ‘personhood’ ballot measures. Glenn’s chances of beating pro-choice champion Michael Bennet were already slim. This puts it closer to none.”

Glenn did not immediately return a call for comment.

In 2014, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who is anti-choice, defeated pro-choice Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who hammered Gardner on his abortion stance throughout the campaign. 

Gardner threw his support behind Glenn Wednesday, reportedly saying to Roll Call that Glenn has fundraising challenges ahead of him but that he’s “winning when nobody expected him to.” And that, Gardner was quoted as saying, “bodes well for November.”

News Contraception

Colorado Contraception Program Overcomes GOP Opposition

Jason Salzman

In a reversal from last year, Colorado lawmakers on Thursday approved a state budget that includes funds for a program credited with reducing the teen birth rate by 40 percent and the teen abortion rate by 35 percent.

Funding has survived for a successful contraception program in Colorado after a group of Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in supporting the initiative.

A recorded vote on the amendment Thursday confirmed that four Republicans joined Democrats in killing the anti-LARC amendment, the Denver Post reported.

Both pro- and anti-choice advocates knew that Republicans in Colorado’s senate would offer an amendment this week to eliminate funds from a budget bill for a state program credited with reducing the teen birth rate by 40 percent and the teen abortion rate by 35 percent.

The question remained: Would Republicans, who have a one-seat majority in the state senate, hold ranks, as they did last year, and leave the program unfunded?

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The answer came Wednesday in the form of a senate voice vote against the amendment, offered by state Sens. Laura Woods (R-Westminster) and Tim Neville (R-Littleton), that would have eliminated $2.5 million for Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative. The program provides long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), to low-income people.

About 30,000 long-lasting contraceptive implants were distributed during a five-year pilot program under the state’s Family Planning Initiative. Participating clinics in 37 of Colorado’s 64 counties serve 95 percent of the state’s population.

During a brief debate on the senate floor Wednesday, Neville expressed his concern about the “use of widespread and temporary sterilization products on women and girls in Colorado.” Such “temporary sterilization,” he said, does “nothing to prevent the spread of STDs.”

“There is nothing to suggest that the psychological and medical risks and costs associated with the increased sexual activity will be managed or addressed by these funds or this legislation,” Neville said.

LARC usage does not result in increased sexual activity, studies show.

Some state GOP lawmakers have said they stood against funding for LARCs because they considered that kind of contraception to be abortion.

“I have no moral problem with contraceptives. The problem is when you kill the child,” state Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) told the Associated Press in November 2014.

Medical professionals have repeatedly shown that Lundberg’s assertion about LARCs is medically inaccurate.

Woods, the other sponsor of the amendment, tried to cut LARC funding despite warnings that her anti-choice positions could damage her re-election efforts in a swing district vital to GOP hopes of retaining control of the state senate.

Pro-choice advocates praised the vote to retain LARC money in the budget bill, saying it will offer Coloradans control of their fertility.

“Self-determination and the ability to be a parent when we are ready should not be a privilege,” said Cristina Aguilar, director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), in an email to Rewire. “All women should be able to make decisions about their bodies and their futures.”

Colorado’s house last week rejected a similar amendment, so now the state budget bill will go to Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who is expected to sign it.

House Republicans voiced similar opposition to the LARC funds.

Some opposed the program based on the incorrect argument that IUDs cause abortions.

“I would be fine with family planning,” said Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, as quoted in the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I would be fine with some kinds of birth control, but when the taxpayers are funding post-conception abortion pills, that crosses the line.”

Other Republicans, such as Rep. Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock), argued that “birth control is already covered by the Affordable Care Act,” and thus Colorado’s initiative is not needed—even though the program’s training and funds for some types of birth control are not covered by the national health-care law.

Pro-choice advocates said the LARC program should serve as a model for other states.

“Here in Colorado, we know what’s proven to work on women’s health care—access to low-cost, long acting reversible contraception and keeping medical decisions between women and their doctors,” said Karen Middleton, director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in an email to Rewire. “Funding the LARC program is one of the smartest things we can do for both individual women and public policy as a whole. We hope other states will follow Colorado’s lead.”

After Colorado Republicans rejected $5 million for the LARC program last year, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment undertook its own fundraising effort, raising enough money to keep the program going at a reduced level.

The original six-year LARC pilot program was undertaken in Colorado with support from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation.