Indicating that she may be pro-choice when it comes to state policy on abortion, even though she is personally pro-life, the leading Republican candidate for governor in Colorado says may not sign an abortion-ban bill if it landed on her desk as governor, instead promising she’d take a “long hard look” at it.
Instead, the candidate, Heidi Ganahl, says she would pursue policies that facilitate adoptions and access to birth.
“I think that Colorado is a very different state than Texas,” answered Ganahl last week when asked if she would sign a bill outlawing most abortions, as Texas has done. “So I would certainly take a long hard look at any legislation that ends up on my desk.
“I am pro-life, and I think that there are ways that we can reduce the rate of abortion in our state and our country that are important and we need to work on, like making adoptions easier and more accessible for families. Also making birth control more accessible. So, that’s the approach I would take.”
Ganahl, who is a University of Colorado regent, made the comments to Jesús Sánchez Meleán, the editor of El Comercio de Colorado. She answered five policy-related questions during the Dec. 5 interview in English, overdubbed with a Spanish translation.
Enacted Sept. 1 and commonly referred to as a “heartbeat bill,” the Texas law, Senate Bill 8, bans abortions after detection of embryonic cardiac activity — usually at around six weeks’ gestation — while also allowing any private citizen to legally sue any individual who performs an abortion, as well as any individual who aids or abets — or intends to aid or abet — a pregnant person seeking an abortion after a heartbeat can be detected.
Ganahl did not immediately respond to a message seeking to know more about her stance on abortion.
Ganahl’s announcement that she might not sign an abortion-ban bill, and take a more pro-choice approach, is a significant development in her campaign.
A month after announcing her candidacy for governor, Ganahl first addressed the issue of abortion, stating in a comment on social media that she was pro-life and encouraging other commenters to contact her by email with any other questions.
Since then, however, she has dodged reporters’ questions about the Texas law, claiming to be unfamiliar with the details of it.
Ganahl’s latest position statement, seemingly soft on banning and restricting abortion in Colorado, may present problems for her in the Republican primary, however.
In recent Colorado campaigns for statewide office, GOP women with moderate or liberal positions on abortion have not fared well — in contrast to former U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), whose extreme anti-choice record was not in dispute and cleared GOP primaries with little opposition.
In 2018, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman ran for governor but ultimately only managed to draw 6% of delegate votes at the GOP State assembly, thereby failing to qualify for the primary election. Walker Stapleton finally prevailed in that primary race, before losing to Jared Polis in the general election.
Conceivably a boon to her popularity among unaffiliated voters, Coffman’s liberal positions on abortion and gay rights were sticking points with conservative voters, whom she then tried to appease by embracing positions aligned with Colorado’s conservative firebrand Tom Tancredo and then-president Donald Trump.
Coffman resisted being labeled pro-choice, and held contradictory stances on abortion issues. However, similar to Ganahl’s desire to “reduce the abortion rate,” Coffman had a stated position that abortions should be “rare” and “safe.”
Though personally disagreeing with the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, Coffman accepted it as “settled law,” and described her opinion on abortion rights as “not on either end of the spectrum.”
Similar to Coffman, former state Sen. Ellen Roberts was considered a promising prospect to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in 2016, if she could make it through the GOP primary to the general election.
A respected pro-choice Republican state senator from southwest Colorado, Roberts would inevitably have to navigate the gauntlet of pro-life conservative politics in the primary race before even getting a chance at winning over skeptical Democrat and unaffiliated voters as a moderate Republican.
Ganahl faces the same challenge as she faces off against 10 other GOP candidates before potentially taking on Polis.
In June 2015, Roberts appeared on a radio show hosted by Dan Caplis — himself a hardened pro-life advocate — where she attempted to evade her moderate record and denied ever having called herself pro-choice as a politician. Video evidence from the floor of the Senate quickly proved otherwise, and her presumptive 2016 campaign was over before it could even get off the ground.
Against that background, Ganahl’s statement to El Comercio, coming well before the June GOP primary, came as a surprise — even if it reflects an accurate assessment of Colorado’s current political landscape with respect to reproductive rights.
Colorado has few restrictions on abortion compared to other states. And since 2008, Colorado has defeated 41 legislative bills restricting access to abortion, as well as four statewide ballot propositions banning the procedure altogether.
With the U.S. Supreme Court allowing the Texas law to remain in effect while a legal challenge proceeds, and apparently set to weaken or overturn Roe vs. Wade, governors could play a more central role in determining access to abortion in each state.
So Ganahl’s position on abortion is likely to be scrutinized during the campaign.
The same goes with her views on election integrity, in light of baseless claims of fraud that persist more than a year after Election Day, and the states’ role in certifying — or declining to certify — election results.
In her El Comercio interview, Ganahl did not rule out participating in legal challenges to the 2020 election results, but said she prefers enacting reforms for future elections — such as cleaning up voter rolls and requiring voter ID — in order to restore the confidence of voters.
Other topics addressed in the El Comercio interview included whether she would institute a statewide mask mandate (probably not, but it would depend on the circumstances); if she would invite U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) to her birthday party (Ganahl responds monosyllabically and redundantly in the affirmative); and if she would support revoking a Colorado law that allows for undocumented residents to procure a driver’s license (“I’m certainly open to talking about that and evaluating it.”)
See an excerpt from Ganahl’s interview with El Comercio below: