Colorado’s Republican Senator Cory Gardner can’t say whether he supports a ballot initiative to ban abortion at 22 weeks in Colorado because he simply hasn’t seen the initiative.
At least, that was his response when he was asked about his position on the measure in an interview with the Colorado Sun, according to their (paywalled) political newsletter The Unaffiliated:
“Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner declined to take a position on a proposed ballot intiative to ban abortion at 22 weeks,” the newsletter states. “In an interview with The Colorado Sun, Gardner said he hasn’t seen the ballot question, but he opposes abortion and has supported efforts in the past to limit abortions even earlier in a woman’s pregnancy.”
Indeed, Gardner has a long, well-documented history of opposing abortion at any stage of pregnancy.
His support for fetal personhood, which would ban all abortion and potentially some forms of birth control by defining life as beginning at conception, was a touchstone of his early political career.
But even as he attempted to distance himself from his far-right views on abortion — once even claiming that a federal personhood bill for which he was a sponsor didn’t exist — Gardner’s anti-abortion views have remained easily discernable.
For example, when asked about a controversial bill passed in Alabama last year that banned all abortions in the state, Gardner said the question of whether to ban abortion should be left up to the states, a stance that is consistent with his longstanding position in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade.
It’s also not the first time Gardner has claimed to have not seen certain controversial policy proposals in lieu of taking a position on them.
In 2017, when Republicans in Congress attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Gardner told reporters he hadn’t seen the text of the repeal bill one week before the chamber was set to vote on the measure, despite being part of the Senate health care group tasked with crafting it. Last year, when confronted by a constituent who asked his position on a bill to expand background checks for gun sales, Gardner said he hadn’t seen the bill. Asked about whether he supported legislation to protect immigrants known as Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation, Gardner said he hadn’t read that either. The list goes on.
As Gardner faces a tough reelection in November in a state that’s become less and less hospitable to Republicans, he appears at times to be trying to present himself as more moderate, even as he moves closer to Trump. For example, if you visit his new campaign website, you’ll find he’s scrubbed any mention of repealing Obamacare, and that he refers to himself as a “national leader” on combating climate change.
“It’s no surprise that Cory Gardner has declined to take a position on women’s access to basic health care,” said Neta Meltzer, Director of Strategic Communications for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, in a statement to the Colorado Times Recorder. “He remains dangerous and out of touch, and we look forward to him answering to his voters in November.”
After shying away from the Colorado Sun’s inquiry, Gardner pivoted to criticizing his Democratic opponent, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, for not answering a question about abortion from conservative KHOW talk radio host Dan Caplis. The newsletter reads:
“He pointed to an interview Hickenlooper gave to a conservative Denver talk show in which he sidestepped a question on abortion. ‘The radical element of the abortion movement is on the Democrat side,’ Gardner said.”
Last year, Caplis asked Hickenlooper on-air about babies born after failed abortion attempts that don’t receive medical care — an event which doctors say doesn’t occur.
“You’re asking me hypothetical questions,” Hickenlooper said, emphasizing that he believes women and their doctors should make decisions about abortions and then ending the interview.
Conservatives like Caplis have latched on to the concept of born-alive abortion survivors as rhetoric has escalated around the small percentage of abortions that are performed later in pregnancy. Doctors and activists say such an event is imaginary, and is simply a scare tactic meant to smear abortion providers.
Still, Republican lawmakers including Gardner have been pushing legislation purporting to address the matter, and claiming Democrats support infanticide when they don’t support that legislation.
Two weeks ago, Gardner voted in favor of the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” and a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, Hickenlooper campaign spokesperson Alyssa Roberts pointed out in a statement to the Colorado Times Recorder.
“Just two weeks ago, Senator Gardner voted for bills that would ban abortion and criminalize doctors, and his steadfast support for Trump’s rigid anti-choice judges has put the future of Roe v. Wade in jeopardy,” said Roberts. “In contrast, John Hickenlooper actually expanded access to contraception and understands that these personal health care decisions should be between a woman and her doctor — not politicians like Cory Gardner.”
Gardner’s office didn’t return a call seeking to know whether Gardner has now been able to review the ballot measure banning abortion after 22 weeks in Colorado — and whether his comments to the Colorado Sun mean he didn’t sign the petition to place the measure on the ballot.
Regardless of whether Gardner supports a ballot measure in Colorado to ban later abortions, it’s still unclear whether it has enough support from voters to actually make the ballot. Proponents of the initiative submitted more than the required number of signatures to the Secretary of State’s office last week, but didn’t leave much room for error.