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Deceptive: Democrats' claim that Gardner backs three constitutional amendments to 'ban all abortions'


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By Peri Duncan
CU News Corps

A Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee advertisement from August claimed “Congressman Gardner backed three constitutional amendments to ban all abortions.”

Republican U. S. Rep. Cory Gardner, running against current Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, has once again been attacked by a Democratic advertisement for his stance on personhood and abortion. The conservative online news site Washington Free Beacon estimates that nearly half of Udall’s campaign ads focus on Gardner’s stance on these issues.

The 30-second ad, funded by the DSCC, launched on Aug. 21 and ran for about two weeks in Colorado. It’s still available on the DSCC website.

The ad features a series of women asserting that Gardner is “too extreme for Colorado,” interspersed with pictures of Gardner and narrated accusations against him. (5)

“Why do guys like Cory Gardner think it’s their business to tell women what to do?” the first woman on the ad says. Immediately following, the narrator says “Cory Gardner backed three separate constitutional amendments to ban all abortions.”

CU News Corps finds the DSCC’s claim to be deceptive, or at the very least, confusing for the following reasons:Capture00

  • The references to amendments are unclear:
    • The ad does not specify whether the amendments he’s “backed” are state or federal constitutional amendments.
    • The ad does not state for which states Gardner supported these measures.
    • The ad does not say what form of support Gardner showed for the measures.
  • The ad does not address Gardner’s current stance on Amendment 67.

Amendment Specifics

This November, Coloradans will vote on Amendment 67, the latest “personhood” measure that would amend the state constitution to include “unborn human beings” in the state’s criminal statutes.

Coloradans voted down two previous personhood measures in 2008 and 2010. Amendment 48, proposed in 2008, defined personhood as “from the moment of fertilization,” while Colorado’s 2010 Amendment 62 defined personhood as the “beginning of biological development.” (3)

Both previous amendments were aimed more explicitly at abortion than Amendment 67, and both were shot down by more than 70 percent of voters. (6)

Opponents of Amendment 67 and personhood issues overall say that “Amendment 67 would ban all abortions in Colorado, including cases of rape, incest and when the health of the mother is in danger.” (4)

Amendment 67 explicitly reads: “In the interest of the protection of pregnant mothers and their unborn children from criminal offenses and neglect and wrongful acts, the words ‘person’ and ‘child’ in the Colorado Criminal Code and the Colorado Wrongful Death Act must include unborn human beings.” (2)

Gardner showed at least some support for both the previous amendments during his time in the Colorado House of Representatives.

Colorado Right to Life sent surveys “to candidates in November, and … Cory Gardner (R) … quickly answered back with pro-Personhood … responses. Neither candidate indicated any reservations or exceptions to their support of Personhood,” according to the Colorado Right to Life website. (9)

Politifact.com wrote: “Gardner’s campaign notes that in 2007, he was one of five to cosponsor an anti-abortion measure in Colorado. … [It also acknowledged] that Gardner supported the referendum efforts in 2010 at a candidate forum.” (10)

The Colorado Independent added: “During a 9News-sponsored debate in February, Gardner said he not only supported the personhood initiative, which would criminalize stem cell research, abortion, some types of birth control, and curtail in vitro fertilization in the state, but added, ‘I have taken the petitions to my church and have a legislative record that backs up my support for life.’ Gardner in 2007 sponsored a bill that would have prohibited abortion in Colorado, with the exception of protecting the health of the mother.”(12)

Gardner’s Current Stance

Gardner changed his position on Amendment 67 in March of 2014, and now opposes the measure, telling the Denver Post, “The fact that it restricts contraception, it was not the right position. I’ve learned to listen. I don’t get everything right the first time.” (1)

The DSCC’s ad claims Gardner “backed three constitutional amendments to ban all abortions,” and does not address his March 2014 statement to the Denver Post.

So how are we to interpret this?

The potential court interpretation of personhood legislation is unknown. None of the 2008, 2010 or current personhood measures explicitly states the word “abortion.” (2, 8, 11) Therefore, if personhood passed, further legislation would be needed to clarify how it impacts abortion as well as certain forms of birth control. Personhood legislation solely opens the door to these discussions.

In summation, this claim is somewhat based in truth, but deceptive.

Gardner has shown support for the two previous Colorado Constitutional amendments on personhood in 2008 and 2010. He recently rescinded his support for Amendment 67, the current personhood measure up for vote in November, under the premise of disagreeing with its potential to affect some types of birth control. Despite this, Gardner continues to support the idea behind personhood measures. Overall, he has at times shown some form of support for three separate Colorado Constitutional amendments, but he has since withdrawn his support of the most recent of these amendments.

Further, Gardner is now running for national office, and the amendments referenced in the ad are state measures. Although all of the state personhood amendments are steps toward banning abortion, further court interpretation would be required in order to actually “ban all abortions” or overturn Roe v. Wade.

 

 

Sources:

1. The Denver Post, “Cory Gardner changes position on personhood issue,” March 21, 2014

2. Official text of Amendment 67

3. The Colorado Statesman, “Personhood amendment revised and revived”, July 3, 2009

4. Vote No 67, “Amendment 67 FAQs

5. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ad, “Right now,” August 21, 2014

6. Denver Post Data, “Amendment 48 – Definition of Person Election Results,” November 11, 2008

7. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, “NEW DSCC AD: Congressman Cory Gardner Is Too Extreme for Colorado Women,” August 21 2014

8. Ballotpedia, “Colorado Definition of Person, Initiative 48 (2008)

9. The Colorado Right to Life Blog, “Pre-Caucus Update – Candidate Positions on Personhood & Life Issues,” March 16, 2010

10. Politifact, “Mark Udall ad says Cory Gardner ‘championed’ Colorado fight to ban birth control,” April 25, 2014

11. Ballotpedia, “Colorado Fetal Personhood, Initiative 62 (2010)

12. Colorado Independent, “Gardner, despite past record, offers no comment to NYT on abortion,” August 5, 2010

 

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Explanatory multimedia reporting from CU Boulder journalism students
Deceptive: Democrats' claim that Gardner backs three constitutional amendments to 'ban all abortions'