Republican gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Coffman, who’s also Colorado’s attorney general, spent a substantial chunk of time during her early career helping Colorado Republicans develop legal arguments to defund Planned Parenthood.
She became widely known as an expert on the arcane topic, and last year, anti-abortion activists repeatedly cited Coffman’s 2001 legal opinion as evidence in a lawsuit (footnote 3 here) claiming that Colorado’s ban on using tax dollars for abortion precludes the state from funding Planned Parenthood at all, even for the women’s health organization’s non-abortion services for low income people, such as breast cancer screening.
Colorado’s Supreme Court disagreed, ruling last month that the state can provide funds for Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services, despite the constitutional abortion-funding ban.
You’d think this would be a major disappointment for Coffman, who once boasted about her role in defunding Planned Parenthood, “We went through the legal process, since I was [Jane Norton’s] attorney, and we defunded Planned Parenthood in that case, because they were using public funds to subsidize abortion.”
Coffman’s campaign did not respond to my request for comment after the Colorado Supreme Court decision last month.
But during a brief interview Wednesday, prior to a debate, Coffman indicated that her hard stance against Planned Parenthood may have softened.
Asked whether she still opposes public funding for Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services, Coffman declined comment, saying, “That’s a longer conversation we should have another time.”
If Coffman were still opposed to funding for Planned Parenthood, a quick “yes” would have ended my interview.
You wouldn’t think a “longer conversation” would be required to restate an existing and painstakingly well-documented view. Still, it’s quite possible her hard line position hasn’t changed, and she just wanted to lay it out during a long conversation.
So we don’t know for sure.
At Wednesday’s debate, she referred me to a staffer, who was accompanying her. The staffer asked me to email her my interview request, which I did and to which I’ve gotten no response.
Coffman has taken conflicting stances on the abortion issue during this year’s gubernatorial campaign, accepting a TV reporter’s characterization of her as “pro-choice” but later telling a talk show host she refuses to accept the “pro-choice” label. Then she told another reporter she wants abortion to be “rare” and “safe,” which sounds more like a pro-choice stand.
Then Coffman told a radio host that she personally disagrees with the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, though she accepts the law as “settled.”
Against this backdrop, you can see why Coffman would rather not talk about the Planned Parenthood court decision, which is precisely why reporters should ask her about it!
And anti-abortion Republicans are known to have an outsized influence at the GOP assembly, where Coffman must win 30 percent of delegates to advance to the primary election.
So, she’d rather not say anything more to turn anti-choice activists away than she already has.
At the same time, Coffman appears to be setting herself up to try to leapfrog over anti-abortion Republicans and appeal to pro-choice unaffiliated voters in the primary and general elections.
For now, she apparently thinks her best strategy is to have it both ways on abortion, and talking about Planned Parenthood won’t help her.