News Media

“Personhood” Movement Not About Outlawing Birth Control?

Robin Marty

In a Newsweek puff piece on Keith Mason, the leader of Personhood USA, the article lets himget away with a few whoppers.

Newsweek calls their profile of Personhood USA’s Keith Mason a chance for him to tell “his side of the story.” But in telling his side unopposed, Mason is able to sneak in a few whoppers unchallenged.

The article reports that “The group has helped spark 22 ‘personhood’ bills and ballot initiatives; while none has passed, in each ballot vote on person-hood, the margin of defeat has declined.” While technically true, the statement paints the opposite picture than what has really occurred in the votes. The first two attempts were in Colorado, and while the 2008 amendment gathered 27 percent support, that was during a presidential election with massive Democratic turnout. 

Colorado’s second attempt was allegedly more successful percentage wise, but it was the result of a Republican wave election across the country during a midterm election with a greater ratio of conservative to liberal voters than two years prior. Yet the person-hood amendment only gained 3 percent support, not quite cracking 30 percent. In fact, fewer people voted for person-hood in Colorado in 2010 than in 2008 — in 2008 the amendment received 618,779 votes in favor of it, and in 2010 it received only 509,062.

Mississippi’s amendment 26 was defeated by a vote of 58 to 42 percent in a state so anti-choice its only abortion clinic may soon be shut down by unnecessary regulations. That state was expected to be the most fertile and favorable ground for passage of a “person-hood” amendment in the country, yet voters still rejected it. Since that vote, the effort has continued to stall out in numerous states as more and more people realize the extent of interference in their personal lives these laws represent.

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Mason also states he “does ‘not oppose contraceptives,’” and that banning birth control isn’t one of the motives behind the amendments. Yet the group uses accuses reproductive rights networks of promoting “lethal birth control services,” and has as their legal representative Gualberto Garcia Jones, a lawyer formerly with American Life League, an organization that campaigns against Planned Parenthood and considers oral contraception the downfall of society.

Even those who analyzed the Colorado Personhood amendment were certain that it was meant to outlaw birth control as well. 

Kristi Burton Brown of Personhood Colorado sponsored the 2008 amendment. Together with Gualberto Garcia Jones, she wrote the 2012 language.

In April 2011, Mrs. Brown wrote a post for her personal blog entitled “Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? In a Word, Yes”.

The Birth Control Pill really DOES cause abortions, or it would never need to be outlawed by a law in favor of unborn children’s personhood… The IUD acts in a similar way to the Pill and also causes abortions.

Brown’s post references the work of Dr. Walt Larimore, a pro-life OB who has published articles in medical journals concluding that “the available evidence supports the hypothesis that when ovulation and fertilization occur in women taking OCs, postfertilization effects are operative on occasion.”

It couldn’t be clearer that Kristi Burton Brown wrote the proposed Colorado amendment with the intention to ban the usage of hormonal birth control.

That’s the problem with letting someone tell “his side” of the story.  It leaves a lot of “facts” unchallenged.

News Politics

Republican’s ‘Personhood’ Embrace Could Cost GOP Control of Colorado Senate

Jason Salzman

State Sen. Laura Woods was a sponsor of a so-called personhood bill that would give legal rights to a fetus, effectively outlawing abortion in Colorado.

A Colorado state senator, whose re-election race in November will likely determine whether Republicans retain control of the chamber, is sponsoring anti-choice legislation that could very well harm her bid in a swing district, state observers say.

State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Westminster) was a sponsor of a so-called personhood bill that would give legal rights to a fetus. The bill aimed to ban abortion in much the same way as three failed “personhood” ballot initiatives in Colorado would have outlawed it.

The legislation, referred to as the “Protect Life at Conception Act,” was nixed by Democrats in the Colorado house last week.

Woods is also among the sponsors of a bill requiring doctors to offer pregnant patients an ultrasound before they can have an abortion and to wait 24 hours before performing an abortion.

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The bill, which is awaiting committee action and is referred to as “A Woman’s Right to Accurate Health Care Info Act,” ensures “women have the opportunity to see or forego [sic] the opportunity to see the ultrasound.”

Woods sponsored similar so-called personhood and ultrasound bills last year, and both went down in committee.

Colorado has a Democratic governor, and the state house is likely to remain under Democratic control, state observers say. Losing Woods’ state senate seat would leave the GOP a minority in that chamber, with Democrats controlling 18 of 34 seats if Woods can’t secure re-election.[

Professor Robert D. Loevy, professor emeritus of political science at Colorado College, told Rewire that Woods’ anti-choice positions could hurt her in the upcoming general election—if she sticks with them.

“Her anti-abortion actions will make her popular among the Republicans who tend to go to caucuses and vote in primaries and who tend to be very conservative and anti-abortion,” Loevy said. “But when you get to the general election, being anti-abortion can be detrimental to you, particularly in a swing district.”

Woods took strong anti-choice positions during her primary run in 2014, and she has not moved away from them.

During her 2014 primary, Woods shared a Facebook post comparing her Republican opponent, Lang Sias, to Kermit Gosnell, a rogue abortion provider serving a life sentence. Woods apologized for sharing the post.

After defeating Sias, Woods moved on to the general election, where she won her seat by about 650 votes—a 1 percent margin—against then-state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger (D), who is running against Woods again this year.

Woods, during her 2014 general election campaign, didn’t back away from her staunch anti-choice stances, hiring a campaign consultant with ties to Colorado’s failed “personhood” amendments.

Her support of a “personhood” abortion ban on Colorado’s 2014 ballot caused one local libertarian blogger, who normally supports conservative candidates, to write that he would not vote for her.

Asked to comment on whether Woods has backed away from her anti-choice positions during her time in office, Karen Middleton, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, points to a Facebook post shared by Woods with the comment “interesting,” two days after three people were killed at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

Woods’ post depicted Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the House of Lords in England in the name of enhancing religious freedom for Catholics in the 1600s. Under a drawing of Fawkes was the quotation, “The mind of a slave asks is it legal? The mind of a free man asks is it right?” The post has since been deleted.

“Senator Woods has held extreme anti-choice views for a long time, but she really put them into words when she blamed Planned Parenthood for the domestic terrorism attack at the clinic in Colorado Springs,” Middleton told Rewire, referring to the Fawkes post. “Between advocating violence against doctors and patients and her sponsorship of both personhood and mandatory transvaginal ultrasound bills, we’re sure voters will hold her accountable in the next election. As will we.”

Denver Post analysis of her voting record revealed Woods to be one of the eight most conservative lawmakers in the Colorado legislature, despite representing a district that’s evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters. The Post described the group of eight as “essentially a Colorado version of the congressional ‘Freedom Caucus,’” a group stacked with legislators hostile to abortion rights.

Woods, who used to comment on conservative talk radio under the name “Laura Waters,” did not return a call from Rewire seeking comment on how she thinks her anti-choice stances will be received in her district in November. She told the Denver Post last year that she thinks she’s “representing all Coloradans well.”

“If you’ve looked at my voting record at all, what you will know is I’m an independent thinker,” Woods told Denver Post reporter John Frank in January. “I bucked my leadership, I bucked the party, I bucked the caucus … if it didn’t line up with my principles or my district.”

News Politics

Ted Cruz Doubles Down on False Claim That ‘Nobody Is Suggesting Banning Birth Control’

Ally Boguhn

Cruz has been a vocal proponent of defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides millions of people with access to contraception.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), facing criticism from conservatives, claimed that his comments about the availability of contraception and its role in his family had been taken out of context, but insisted that the GOP is not hell-bent on eliminating access to birth control for millions of people.

Cruz, in an interview last week with Catholic news network EWTN, defended comments he made at a campaign event while responding to an audience member who questioned the GOP’s policies on access to contraception. Cruz, speaking at the December event in Iowa, provided an anecdote about how his family only had two children, and preferred it that way, as evidence that Republicans weren’t trying to end access to birth control.

“Now listen, I have been a conservative my entire life,” Cruz said at the time. “I have never met anybody, any conservative who wants to ban contraceptives.”

Speaking with EWTN lead anchor Raymond Arroyo on Thursday, Cruz was forced to explain his statements when the host played back the senator’s comments and noted that “some larger families took offense at that statement, they say it’s less than pro-life.”

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Cruz suggested that the comments from the event had been taken out of context. He claimed that he had been joking about a “political attack” from Democrats alleging that Republican lawmakers were trying to ban birth control, which he asserted is a “deliberately deceptive” attack.

“I am unequivocally pro-life, I think every life is a precious gift from God that needs to be protected from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death,” Cruz explained. “But the Democrats didn’t wage that battle on the issue of life; instead they did it on contraceptives, and it was deliberately deceptive, they were trying to scare young women into thinking some politician is going to come take their birth control away from them.”

“Nobody is suggesting banning birth control,” Cruz concluded.

Republicans have long championed rolling back access to contraception, having gone as far as to threaten to hold the federal government hostage to attempt to block the Affordable Care Act’s contraception benefit.

Thanks in part to the GOP’s efforts to restrict funding, ten states prohibit certain entities, such as those that may provide abortion services, from receiving funding for family planning. House Republicans in June 2015 attempted to cut all federal funding for Title X, the only federal program devoted specifically to providing low-income people with family planning services such as contraception.

Cruz has worked tirelessly to roll back access to contraception. The senator in 2015 pledged support for Georgia Right to Life’s “personhood” legislation, which defines life as starting at fertilization and could outlaw many common forms of birth control if enacted.

Cruz has also been a vocal proponent of defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides millions of people with access to contraception, and praised Texas’ decision to pull Medicaid funding from the organization while encouraging other states to do the same.

To avoid addressing the issues, Cruz pivoted to allege that Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns at the center of a court battle against the ACA’s contraception benefit, is being forced to pay for “abortion-inducing drugs” under the federal law. Cruz has made similar statements suggesting a false equivalence between hormonal birth control methods and abortion care.

As Rewire legal analyst Jessica Mason Pieklo explained, Little Sisters of the Poor has no legal duty to provide contraception, and even if the group loses its case against the ACA’s contraception mandate, “it still won’t have to provide its employees with contraception coverage, and there’s nothing the administration can do about it.”