Sunday, June 13

Colorado’s middle ground on abortion is a political tar pit | Colorado Politics

I’m not a woman, I would argue, much less a woman facing the reality of an unwanted pregnancy, so I have no room to be making a decision for those who are.

I know a political quagmire when I see one, however, and that’s what I see with Proposition 115, the 22-week abortion ban. At what point of the pregnancy does a woman sacrifice that decision — the day before the child is born, is that too late? Whose decision is that? It’s still not mine, or at least, I don’t want it to be.

The problem comes in its absolutism, but there’s plenty of that to go around in politics these days.

The only exception under Prop 115 is the immediate need to save a mother’s life, though not the risk of other health problems, or incest or rape or carrying a dead fetus to birth. Like I said, no easy answers.

This is a half-step, something akin to a tacit compromise over a complete abortion ban, until the Supreme Court has enough justices willing to overturn Roe v. Wade.

President Donald Trump made this part of the de facto GOP platform this year.

“Radical justices will erase the Second Amendment, silence political speech and require taxpayers to fund extreme late-term abortion,” he said falsely on Sept. 9.

Neither side yields to compromise, however.

Archbishop Charles Chaput said as much in 2015. Chaput was archbishop of Denver until 2011, when he became archbishop of Philadelphia.

“Here’s a simple exercise in basic reasoning,” he wrote in a column for Catholic Philly. “On a spectrum of bad things to do, theft is bad, assault is worse and murder is worst. There’s a similar texture of ill will connecting all three crimes, but only a very confused conscience would equate thieving and homicide. Both are serious matters. But there is no equivalence. The deliberate killing of innocent life is a uniquely wicked act. No amount of contextualizing or deflecting our attention to other issues can obscure that.”

Chaput concedes, however, nearly all Catholic dioceses in the United States devote “far more” time and treasure to serving the poor and educating the young than fighting abortion.

“But of course, children need to survive the womb before they can have needs like food, shelter, immigration counseling and good health care,” the archbishop wrote.

Other religious leaders on the political left gave their views to Colorado reporters on Sept. 10.

“We understand that abortion can be seen as a divisive issue in our country,” said the Rev. Amanda Henderson, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. “The truth is religious people from Catholic to Methodist to Buddhist, Jewish or Muslim, we have many nuanced views with the realities that come with pregnancy. While we hold many different views about abortion, through our work of walking with people through difficult life decisions, we have to come to the agreement that the complicated decision around pregnancy should be made by a woman and her family in consultation with her doctor in accordance to her beliefs.”

Previous proposed constitutional amendments in Colorado have sought to define “person” and “child” in the state criminal code as “unborn human beings” — you’ve heard it called “personhood.”

In 2014, my mentor and fellow Colorado Politics columnist Lynn Bartels hung then-Sen. Mark Udall with the nickname “Mark Uterus,” because he campaigned heavily on protecting abortion rights. He lost.

Though Udall won over women by nine points, then-Rep. Cory Gardner won among men by 16.

That same year, however, a personhood ballot initiative bombed on the ballot box: 65% to 35%. Attempts at personhood failed with 70% against it in 2008 and 2010 as well.

Will limits on abortions pass in 2020? I doubt it. The state has only listed further to the left since 2014, so it’s hard to imagine the concept picking up converts.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s campaign to unseat Gardner is grappling awkwardly with this history.

I noted in an analysis before the primary that Hickenlooper was a supporter but not a champion of abortion rights. His campaign people cried foul. I said I’d love to get into Hick’s abortion championship, if they would put me on the phone with him to talk about it. I’ve been following Hick his entire political career, and I haven’t associated him with the issue — at all.

His people passed. Some champion.

Perhaps that’s the political brilliance of getting this on the ballot in a presidential year, even though it stirs up the base on both sides.

Here in Colorado, Democrats already are deeply divided, much as they were in 2016, a Bernie state ill-fit into a Hillary party. Bernie Sanders won Colorado again this year. Here you have Hickenlooper, who made a mark compromising with oil and gas, which the thick green, progressive wing of his party isn’t forgetting.

Latino voters are tilting toward Trump in Florida, as their advocates allege Democrats aren’t doing enough for them.

If abortion splits off other Catholics and moderates as well, then whether that’s strategy, byproduct or the fortunes of chaos, Republicans this year will take it.

America is where abortion has been for a long time. Other political issues are simply acquiring the tint of political combat that’s always swaddled this issue.

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