News Politics

Upcoming GOP Debate Could Touch on Radical ‘Personhood’ Laws

Jason Salzman

"With personhood repeatedly being brought up—and defeated by landslide margins—on the Colorado ballot, it would seem relevant to the upcoming Republican debate being held in Boulder next week,” said Karen Middleton, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.

In advance of next week’s Republican presidential debate in Colorado, birthplace of the “personhood” ballot initiative, the anti-choice Personhood Alliance has unveiled a web page claiming that two of the top six GOP candidates pledged to sponsor federal personhood legislation, but never did.

U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida in 2012 and in 2010, respectively, pledged to sign federal personhood legislation, called the Life at Conception Act, which would give zygotes (fertilized human eggs) legal rights as a person under the U.S. Constitution, according to documents cited by the Personhood Alliance.

The history of the personhood movement in Colorado, where voters have overwhelmingly defeated the measure on the statewide ballot three times, could propel abortion issues into Wednesday’s presidential debate—or the discussion leading to it—even though the debate will purportedly focus on traditional economic issues.

“The issue works for the largest group of people voting in the early Republican caucuses and primaries, particularly the caucuses,” said Robert Loevy, professor emeritus of political science at Colorado College. “So there will be a temptation during the debate to go to the abortion issue.”

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“With personhood repeatedly being brought up—and defeated by landslide margins—on the Colorado ballot, it would seem relevant to the upcoming Republican debate being held in Boulder next week,” said Karen Middleton, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. “Personhood groups certainly seem to think it’s a litmus test for Republican primary voters.”

The Personhood Alliance is working with state groups across the country to educate candidates and their members on the radical personhood measure.

“In 2012, the personhood movement had a big impact in Iowa, South Carolina and Colorado, all states that did not support Mitt Romney, who was unquestionably the weakest candidate on abortion,” Gualberto Garcia Jones, national policy director of the Personhood Alliance, said in an email to Rewire. “We intend to educate our many supporters and make sure that they take the candidate’s record into consideration before voting for them in the primary.”

Jones thinks that, between Cruz and Rubio, personhood supporters have a better chance of convincing Cruz to embrace personhood fully.

“The Cruz campaign has been at the forefront of the defunding Planned Parenthood battle, while Senator Rubio did not even go back to D.C. to cast a vote on the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood,” wrote Jones. “On the whole, I think that due to the entrenched institutional aspects of the battle against abortion, I think that Senator Cruz’s approach of being willing to fight the ‘Washington cartel’ as he calls it is the best suited to fight the abortion cartel.”

Loevy said candidates like Rubio may have their eye on the general election.

“The personhood amendments are complex and were defeated, so candidates who bring that up are running the risk that it could be a problem in the general election,” Loevy said.

Colorado Republicans introduced personhood legislation just two months after voters decidedly struck down the state’s personhood ballot measure. Cathy Alderman, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, said the state’s GOP legislators “[ignored] the values of Colorado voters” by pushing the anti-choice law that would subject doctors to a class 3 felony for performing an abortion and threaten jail time for women who receive abortion care.

Jones said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush must be considered a “weaker pro-life candidate,” while candidates Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina “feel they have to be pro-life to participate in the GOP primary, but neither has the record to inspire any kind of confidence.”

Jones, who disagrees with scientific consensus surrounding abortion care, wrote that candidate Dr. Ben Carson is an “interesting person” with “regards to personhood.”

“As a doctor, a pediatrician no less, he also has to be aware of the scientific fraud upon which the abortion movement is founded, namely that we ‘can’t determine when life begins,'” Jones wrote. “And yet he has had problems answering that very basic scientific question, and he has also admitted to experimenting on cells from aborted babies, and even referred women to abortions.”

NARAL’s Middleton said GOP presidential candidates, if and when so-called personhood measures are discussed in the upcoming debate, will have an important political choice to make.

“Republican candidates need to make up their minds and declare whose side they’re on: the anti-choice, anti-woman, anti-reproductive health extremists in their base, or the mainstream, pro-choice values of most Coloradans and most Americans,” Middleton said.

Fading Republican presidential candidates, such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, are on record supporting personhood.

“Unfortunately, Huckabee is not getting the traction that he did in 2008, but he is still a great advocate of Personhood,” Jones said.

News Politics

Former Klan Leader on Senate Run: My Views Are Now the ‘GOP Mainstream’

Teddy Wilson

David Duke has been a fervent support of the Trump campaign, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

David Duke, convicted felon, white supremacist, and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, announced Friday that he will run for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, Roll Call reported.

Duke said that after a “great outpouring of overwhelming support,” he will campaign for the open Senate seat vacated by former Republican Sen. David Vitter, who lost a bid for Louisiana governor in a runoff election.

Duke’s announcement comes the day after Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination in the midst of growing tensions over race relations across the country. Trump has been criticized during the campaign for his rhetoric, which, his critics say, mainstreams white nationalism and provokes anxiety and fear among students of color.

His statements about crime and immigration, particularly about immigrants from Mexico and predominantly Muslim countries, have been interpreted by outlets such as the New York Times as speaking to some white supporters’ “deeper and more elaborate bigotry.”

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Duke said in his campaign announcement that he was the first candidate to promote the policy of “America first,” echoing a line from Trump’s nomination acceptance speech on Thursday night.

“The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America First,” Trump said Thursday night. “As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect.”

Duke said his platform has become “the GOP mainstream” and claimed credit for propelling Republicans to control of Congress in 2010. He said he is “overjoyed to see Donald Trump … embrace most of the issues I’ve championed for years.”

Trump in February declined to disavow the support of a white supremacist group and Duke, saying he knew “nothing about David Duke” and knew “nothing about white supremacists.” He later clarified that he rejected their support, and blamed his initial failure to disavow Duke on a “bad earpiece.”

Trump’s candidacy has also brought to light brought many incidents of anti-Semitism, much of which has been directed at journalists and commentators covering the presidential campaign.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro wrote in the National Review that Trump’s nomination has “drawn anti-Semites from the woodwork,” and that the Republican nominee has been willing to “channel the support of anti-Semites to his own ends.”

Duke took to Twitter after Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday to express his support for the Republican nominee’s vision for America.

“Great Trump Speech, America First! Stop Wars! Defeat the Corrupt elites! Protect our Borders!, Fair Trade! Couldn’t have said it better!” Duke tweeted.

Duke has been a fervent Trump supporter, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

Duke was elected to the Louisiana house in 1989, serving one term. Duke was the Republican nominee for governor in 1991, and was defeated by Democrat Edwin Edwards.

Duke, who plead guilty in 2002 to mail fraud and tax fraud, has served a year in federal prison.

News Law and Policy

Wisconsin Can’t Enforce GOP’s Voter ID Law in November

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Republican lawmakers in other states, like Ohio, have turned up almost nothing during lengthy investigations into claims of voter fraud.

A federal judge in Wisconsin on Tuesday ruled that voters unable to comply with the state’s photo ID requirement be allowed to vote in November, striking a blow to conservative efforts to drive down Democratic voter turnout in the state.

Tuesday’s decision, issued by Judge Lynn Adelman, did not strike the law, but instead carved out an exception, ruling that voters who are unable to obtain an ID be permitted to sign an affidavit testifying to that inability and receive a ballot to vote. “Any voter who completes and submits an affidavit shall receive a regular ballot, even if that voter does not show acceptable photo identification,” according to Adelman’s decision. “No person may challenge the sufficiency of the reason given by the voter for failing to obtain ID.”

Conservatives in Wisconsin, including former Republican Party presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker, proposed the measure, arguing it was necessary to prevent voter fraud.

Republican lawmakers in other states, like Ohio, have turned up almost nothing during lengthy investigations into claims of voter fraud.

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“Although most voters in Wisconsin either possess qualifying ID or can easily obtain one, a safety net is needed for those voters who can’t obtain qualifying ID with reasonable effort,” Adelman wrote. “The … affidavit option is a sensible approach that will both prevent the disenfranchisement of some voters during the pendency of this litigation and preserve Wisconsin’s interests in protecting the integrity of its elections.”

Adelman declined to apply the photo ID exception to the state’s August primary, ruling state officials would not have enough time to prepare for it.

The fight over Wisconsin’s voter ID law goes back to 2011, when attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty sued, arguing the law violated both the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Adelman initially blocked the law, but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision and sent the case back to Adelman for another look. That left the requirement in place for Wisconsin’s presidential primary in April.

Tuesday’s ruling means those who were unable to comply with the photo ID requirement can still cast a ballot in the November 8 presidential election.