News Abortion

Why Is Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman Suddenly Disappointing His Personhood Supporters?

Jason Salzman

You'd expect Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) to join fellow House Republicans in supporting an abortion ban, but his decision to back exceptions for rape and incest, when he ardently opposed such exceptions previously, raises questions for the Congressman.

After pointing to Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) as a model of a winning candidate in a swing district who “maintained his 100 percent pro-life position,” including his opposition to abortion in cases of rape, Jennifer Mason, communications director of the anti-abortion group Personhood USA, is now disappointed by Coffman’s statement yesterday that he “strongly” supports the “exceptions for rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother” that were included in a House bill banning abortion after after 20 weeks post-fertilization.

Coffman joined nearly all House Republicans in supporting the abortion ban, and he issued a statement yesterday reiterating his “yes” vote, as well as his support for the rape and incest exceptions included in the proposed law.

Coffman’s support for the legislation shouldn’t have surprised reporters, given his track record on the abortion issue, but his decision to back exceptions to the abortion ban should have caught the attention of more journalists—even if they suspected this was coming as Coffman, widely viewed as one of the most endangered Congressman in the country, competes for women’s votes his race against Democrat Andrew Romanoff.

Personhood USA’s Mason, who stood with Coffman in the past, is disappointed. “It is not uncommon for politicians to lose moral ground once they are elected, Mason said in an email. “Mike Coffman’s vote for the death penalty for babies conceived in rape is very disappointing. Let’s call it like it is: so-called ‘exceptions’ for babies conceived in rape are not exceptions at all. They are compromises that allow for innocent children to be killed. Every compromise causes us to lose ground, catering to our opposition’s demand to de-value human life. We expect better from our elected officials.”

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In response to questions about Coffman’s abortion position, Leslie Hanks, former president of Colorado Right to Life, sent a photo reply, below, of two women holding signs with pictures of apparent fetuses and the messages “I did not choose to have a rapist for a father. Must I die because of it?” and “I am not of clump of cells. I am a human being.”

In a statement, Cathy Alderman, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Colorado Votes, expressed disappointment with Coffman’s support of the abortion ban, even with the exceptions:

A Gynotician is [a] politician who feels more qualified than women and their doctors to make women’s health care decisions. For too long, Gynoticians like Reps. Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner, Scott Tipton and Doug Lamborn have been operating with impunity in our state. It is time to say “enough is enough”—we are revoking the Gynoticians’ licenses and telling them that personal medical decisions belong back in the hands of a woman and her doctor.

During the last election the Denver media essentially failed to question Coffman about his opposition to abortion, even in the case of rape and incest. The details of Coffman’s thinking—why he’d come to take such a hardline stance—fell through the journalistic cracks, as Coffman repeatedly told audiences he’s “not focused on social issues.” Now journalists are failing to question Coffman as he suddenly supports abortion in cases of rape.

Photo provided by Leslie Hanks.

News Politics

NARAL Leader Campaigns to Oust Anti-Choice Colorado Congressman

Jason Salzman

NARAL Pro-Choice America officials have stepped up support for pro-choice Democrat Morgan Carroll in her competitive race against U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), who’s voted repeatedly to defund Planned Parenthood.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called voters this week on behalf of pro-choice Colorado state Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), who’s running against anti-choice U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora).

Hogue stopped by Carroll’s campaign office in a Denver suburb and called voters, in part, she told Rewire, because NARAL wants to “send a signal to the anti-choice legislators who are hiding from their anti-choice records when they come home at election time.”

Hogue pointed to Coffman’s repeated votes to defund Planned Parenthood—efforts based on discredited videos released by an anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress. Coffman used a Planned Parenthood Action Fund logo in a political advertisement, despite having voted repeatedly to defund the organization, as first reported by Rewire. He voted again to defund Planned Parenthood after the ad aired.

“Mike Coffman has worked to defund women’s health centers and even fought to redefine rape,” Carroll said in a statement during Hogue’s visit. “Millions of women across this country simply can’t afford to have representatives like Mike Coffman in Congress.

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Coffman once co-sponsored a measure that redefined “a ban on federal funding for abortions to exempt only ‘forcible rape.'” Coffman’s campaign did not return a call seeking comment.

Coffman’s district, concentrated in the suburbs east of Denver, is perennially ranked as home to some of the nation’s most competitive political races. Coffman was first elected in 2008, two years before district boundaries were re-drawn, making for a much closer elections.

The Republican, a former U.S. Marine who has become known as a tough campaigner, surprised analysts by his ten-point margin of victory in 2014, after a narrow 2 percent margin in 2012.

Asked for a reaction to her phone calls on Carroll’s behalf, Hogue said she was encouraged by the candidate’s name recognition but dismayed by the apathy she encountered, though she noted that the election season is young.

“Particularly if we continue to hear that Trump is down by 15 points in polls, apathy is going to be a real issue in this election,” Hogue said. “People need to be made to feel that their vote matters. It matters at the top of the ticket. It certainly matters when you get down to the folks who are going to stay in the state house here [in Colorado] or go to D.C. and do the day-to-day work of moving this agenda forward. People need to hear that their participation has value.”

“We hope our investment in the field effort here puts Morgan Carroll a little bit closer to victory, but also builds power for NARAL members and the issue long term,” Hogue said. “Our job doesn’t end on Election Day. It begins on Election Day.”

News Abortion

Colorado U.S. Senate Candidate Hedges on Anti-Choice Stance

Jason Salzman

A Republican running for U.S. Senate in Colorado was on record during the GOP primary as supporting a "personhood" abortion ban, but now, as Republicans have done in previous Colorado elections, he’s sounding more pro-choice.

During his successful primary campaign to take on U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Darryl Glenn clearly stated his opposition to the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, garnering the support of anti-choice organization Colorado Right to Life (CRTL).

Glenn’s “pro-life” rating from the group was based on a questionnaire revealing, “with no weasel-room,” that the candidate believes “government has an obligation to protect all human life from conception forward” and “every innocent human being has an inalienable Right to Life at every age or stage of development,” according to the CRTL blog.

Glenn, an El Paso county commissioner, is now hedging on his stringent anti-choice stance and angering his former anti-choice allies in the process.

“As a person who has two adult daughters, I put myself in that situation,” Glenn said during a July 19 appearance on Devil’s Advocate, a local public affairs television program sponsored by a conservative think tank. “And I want to make sure that when we’re talking about health care, you want to make sure that women have the ability and access to health care, so that they understand all the different options that are out there. And at some point in time, maybe they might have to make that decision. But that is a personal decision that they have to make between them and … God.”

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Anti-choice activists were unhappy with Glenn’s comments.

“I’m willing to say on behalf of our organization that his comments were not nearly as strong as we would hope,” Susan Sutherland, vice president of Colorado Right to Life, told the Durango Herald, which broke the story Monday. “He was just trying to play a little bit of political maneuvering there.”

Gualberto Garcia Jones, the author of Colorado’s failed 2012 “personhood” amendment, told Rewire via email that Glenn’s comments show that the “right to life is not a priory for him.” So-called personhood laws, rejected by voters in several states, would grant full rights to a fetus, therefore outlawing abortion care.

“As a politician, he knows that a consistent 100% pro-life position will make it much more difficult for him to get elected to a statewide elected position in Colorado,” wrote Jones, vice president of the anti-choice Personhood Alliance. “We know from past personhood campaigns that support for a 100% pro-life position at the present time can get you around 35% of the vote statewide, however, with that sizable support comes 45% or more of ardent opposition. This political reality leads candidates for statewide office to do the primary-general two-step.”

“Every politician has to make a call on fundamental issues,” Jones continued. “What call they end up making is simultaneously a reflection of the politician’s priorities (getting elected v. standing for a principle) and of the electorate who on fundamental questions such as the right to life is itself not consistent.”

One pro-choice group in Colorado downplayed the debate about Glenn’s choice of words to describe his abortion stance, focusing instead on the policy ramifications.

“We are not concerned about the label that someone has or is given,” said Cristina Aguilar, executive director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), in an email statement. “We are committed to ensuring that women have access to information and support to make the decision that is best for them and that they are able to seek quality health care without medically unnecessary barriers.”

In Colorado’s last U.S. Senate election, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner dropped his support for a state “personhood” amendment after years as a strong supporter, saying he did not understand the measure. U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) followed suit.

Even though Gardner refused to rescind his support for a federal “personhood” bill, Gardner defeated pro-choice Democrat Mark Udall in an election that emphasized choice issues from start to finish.

After winning the GOP U.S. Senate primary in 2010, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck withdrew his backing of a so-called personhood amendment, also saying he had not understood the anti-choice measure aimed at ending legal abortion.

Democrats hammered Buck on the “personhood” issue, like they did four years later in in the 2014 Gardner-Udall race. Buck lost to pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet (D), who faces Glenn this November.

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