Remembering Roe in Denver: Real People, Real Stories

Wendy Norris

Colorado women at a "Remember Roe" event tell of the driving forces behind their advocacy for choice in a state in which "personhood" threatens Roe, and conservative lawmakers try to kill a bill banning gender rating in insurance policies.

Desperate and alone, Kathy* confided to a fellow student that she was pregnant and needed to terminate her pregnancy. But getting an abortion was still illegal in the United States then and her options for professional medical care were extremely limited.

Several young women in her dormitory at the University of Colorado-Boulder took up a collection to get Kathy to an abortion clinic in Mexico. She returned to Colorado soon after and while recovering in a local hotel room, Kathy began to hemorrhage severely.

"She had been butchered," said Cindi Coleman, who served as a freshman residence hall leader and helped gather funds for the procedure.

The girls panicked. As Kathy became increasingly ill, they sought advice from a trusted older student in the dorm. She convinced them to bring Kathy to a nearby hospital where she was treated for injuries sustained during the botched abortion.

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The secrecy and fear of those events 40 years ago still haunt Coleman who told me her friend’s harrowing story in hushed tones at a commemoration event for the 37th anniversary of Roe v Wade in Denver Thursday hosted by Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Nearly losing her friend to a botched abortion motivated Coleman to be a driving force in the pro-choice movement. And her decades of activism has helped protect a woman’s right to choose on both the local and national stage — through the National Council of Jewish Women, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and the Denver-based coalition, Protect Families Protect Choice, that soundly defeated the 2008 anti-abortion Colorado constitutional amendment to enact "personhood" rights for fertilized eggs.

The "personhood" movement is the latest threat to Roe. It attempts to broadly ban abortion, outlaw contraception that interferes with implantation and restrict in-vitro fertilization under a conservative legal strategy to attack the Supreme Court’s decision on 14th amendment equal protection and due process grounds.

Against the latest backdrop of fierce ideological and hypothetical arguments surrounding Roe, Kathy’s story serves as a stark reminder of the very personal consequences of the need for safe, legal comprehensive reproductive health care access.

Being a mom is joyful but very difficult. Roe matters to me because it allows for women to become the best mothers than possibly be. Save Roe. — a handwritten note left on the PPRM Roe v Wade remembrance wall.

For Melina Hernandez, a law student at the University of Denver and patient of Planned Parenthood, her activism was inspired by the knowledge that others before her, like Cindi, fought for her right to reproductive freedom.

The turning point for Hernandez was a discussion with a mentor who expressed concerns about the waning priority of younger generations engaged in pro-choice activism.

"I stumbled into it when I began to realize there were political reasons I had health care access," said Hernandez recounting her mentor’s advice to remember how hard her foremothers worked to ensure future women could obtain contraception, cancer screenings, sex education and confidential health care services.

[Roe] means self-determination, ease of mind control over one’s own destiny. —a message to supporters on the PPRM Roe v Wade remembrance wall.

John Bosley attended the event to combat the stereotype that defending Roe is a woman’s issue. The Westminster, Colo., resident married his high school sweetheart 10 years ago and it was her reproductive health advocacy that ignited his own need to get involved.

"Men have just as much responsibility to support this," said Bosley who uses Facebook to chat about the issue with conservative friends. And his approach seems to resonate with other men by focusing the discussion on bedrock American principles of freedom and self-determination by asking: "Do you stand for people having choice without interference from the government or the church?"

For the 300 people who were expected to attend the Denver Roe event the fight for reproductive health continues under the mantle of Bosley’s question.

Among the more contentious issues in Colorado is a second attempt by religious conservatives to place a state "personhood" initiative on the 2010 ballot. Meanwhile, conservative state lawmakers are working to thwart a bill to ban gender-rating of health insurance policies— a discriminatory practice that allows insurers to charge women up to 59 percent more than men. When freedom of choice becomes a numbers game with more expensive costs and less comprehensive care, everybody loses. 

I am a moral decision-maker, perfectly competent to make my own decisions. Anything less is an insult. — from the PPRM Roe v Wade remembrance wall.

*Kathy is a pseudonym used to protect her privacy.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Clarifies Position on Federal Funding for Abortion: Is ‘for the Hyde Amendment’

Ally Boguhn

The Democratic Party voiced its support for rolling back the restriction on federal funding for abortion care in its platform, which was voted through this week.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Hillary Clinton’s running mate, clarified during an interview with CNN on Friday that he still supports the Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

During Kaine’s appearance on New Day, host Alisyn Camerota asked the Democrat’s vice presidential nominee whether he was “for or against” the ban on funding for abortion. Kaine replied that he had “been for the Hyde Amendment,” adding “I haven’t changed my position on that.”

Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, told CNN on Sunday that Kaine had “said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment.” Another Clinton spokesperson later clarified to the network that Kaine’s commitment had been “made privately.”

The Democratic Party voiced its support for rolling back the restriction on federal funding for abortion care in its platform, which was voted through this week.

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“We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment,” reads the platform.

Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard that he was not aware that the party had put language outlining support for repealing Hyde into the platform, noting that he had “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Clinton has repeatedly said that she supports Hyde’s repeal, calling the abortion care restriction “hard to justify.”

Abortion rights advocates say that Hyde presents a major obstacle to abortion access in the United States.

“The Hyde amendment is a violent piece of legislation that keeps anyone on Medicaid from accessing healthcare and denies them full control over their lives,” Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said in a statement. “Whether or not folks believe in the broken U.S. political system, we are all impacted by the policies that it produces. Abortion access issues go well beyond insurance and the ability to pay, but removing the Hyde Amendment will take us light years closer to where we need to be.”

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

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Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.