Pro-life measure’s support revived
The last time the personhood amendment made the Colorado ballot in 2008, a number of anti-abortion Republican leaders either distanced themselves from it or outright opposed the idea because they said it went too far.
None of that seems to be the case with the 2010 version of the measure, political observers say.
As a result, all of the top-named GOP candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate have publicly supported the ballot question that would declare that life begins at conception.
That’s a big contrast from 2008, when such top GOP people as then-U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer and Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams, among others, were outspoken critics of the ballot question that voters ultimately trounced by an overwhelmingly 3-1 margin.
This year’s ballot question, known as Amendment 62, is written virtually the same. Instead of saying a human life begins at the moment of fertilization, it says life begins at the “biological development” of that human being.
What’s the difference?
“There isn’t a big difference,” said Gualberto Garcia Jones, director of Personhood Colorado, the group that put both measures on the ballot. “It’s a technicality, but it’s not meant to mislead anyone or give us an excuse to do it again.”
The ultimate goal is to make abortion illegal, and the ballot means to do that by drawing what would almost certainly be a court challenge. Garcia Jones and other personhood supporters hope that inevitable lawsuit will lead to a reversal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that led to legalized abortions.
In 2008, however, top GOP leaders such as Wadhams and Schaffer said if the personhood measure ended up in court, it ran the risk of solidifying that court ruling rather than reversing it.
But while Garcia Jones disagreed with arguments against the 2008 ballot question now just as much as he did then, he was surprised to learn it’s winning support among such mainstream political candidates as Jane Norton and Ken Buck, who are running for U.S. Senate, and Dan Maes and Scott McInnis, who announced his support for the idea at a Western Colorado Conservative Alliance debate last week.
“Just goes to show you, I’m the director of the campaign and I didn’t know that,” he said. “If they’re supporting it, it’s probably because of a combination of their principles and the political climate.”
Democrats are just as much against the idea this year as they were the last time, and they’re not alone. The Colorado Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s three Catholic dioceses on matters of public policy, is expected to come out against it this year as it did in 2008.
Political pollster Floyd Ciruli said the politics behind the ballot question, just like politics in general this year compared to 2008, are entirely different.
That election was viewed as a big Democratic year, and polarizing GOP social issues such as abortion were unlikely to go anywhere, Ciruli said.
This year the political landscape is more favorable to Republicans, and any issue that would bring conservative voters to the polls is something they need to embrace, he said.
“This is a primary in which these front-runner candidates are being challenged by their right,” Ciruli said. “Not only do they need to win that challenge, they still need lots of enthusiasm from that block of voters. When you look down the repertoire of what they have said, they are consistently taking the most conservative views that they might have waffled on a few years ago.”
Like Ciruli, Wadhams said taking such far-right stances on social issues won’t hurt Republican candidates in general elections as they may have in the past, because the electorate as a whole isn’t focused on them.
Historically, candidates on both sides of the political aisle tended to steer clear of such hot-button issues that can pull them too far from the center. But this year, the focus is so directed on the economy, jobs and fiscal matters, such issues as abortion will almost go unnoticed, Wadhams said.
“I don’t think is this is going to be a defining issue in these campaigns either way,” he said. “What is far more of issue is the cost, scope, size and power of government. That has to do with the stimulus bill, the health care bill, cap and trade, car taxes. Those are the issues that define the agenda of 2010.”