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Colorado's Gardner flip-flops on 'personhood'

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) was a strong proponent of "personhood" measures banning abortion and birth control. Then he launched a Senate campaign.
Colorado Republican Congressman Cory Gardner in Denver on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Colorado Republican Congressman Cory Gardner in Denver on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
For all the talk about this being a center-right nation, it's amazing to see Republicans eager to win in competitive states move left to get more votes. In Pennsylvania, it's Gov. Tom Corbett (R) endorsing food-stamp access; and in Florida, it's Gov. Rick Scott (R) throwing his support to in-state tuition for undocumented youths.
And in Colorado, it's Rep. Cory Gardner (R) reversing course on a radical anti-abortion measure he championed.

Congressman Cory Gardner, who has been hammered for his position on social issues ever since he jumped into the U.S. Senate race, dropped a political bombshell Friday with his revelation that he was wrong to have supported previous personhood efforts. He said that after learning more about the measures, which would have had the impact of outlawing abortion, he realized the proposals also could ban certain forms of contraception, a prohibition he does not support.

"This was a bad idea driven by good intentions," Gardner told the Denver Post. "I was not right. I can't support personhood now. I can't support personhood going forward. To do it again would be a mistake."
What a remarkable coincidence. The conservative congressman pushes a far-right culture war agenda, then decides to run for the Senate in a competitive state, and then discovers who "not right" he was about the position he's supported for years.
Indeed, the Denver Post asked Gardner when, exactly, he discovered the error of his ways, and the Republican congressman didn't want to talk about it.
I know the political world has already decided that Gardner is a "rising star" who deserves to be taken seriously; I'm just not sure why.
In this case, the GOP lawmaker's reversal is understandable -- when Coloradans were asked to vote on a "personhood" measure in 2010, it failed by a 3-to-1 margin -- but Gardner may not find it quite so easy to call a mulligan and move on.

[Sen. Mark Udall's] campaign spokesman, Chris Harris, pointed out that Gardner the last two years co-sponsored the Life Begins at Conception Act, which defines a human being as "a member of the species homo sapiens" at the moment of fertilization. He said it was basically a federal version of the personhood amendment, a position with which Gardner's campaign disagrees. "Coloradans will see through this cheap election-year stunt," Harris said. "Gardner is showing a profound lack of respect for Colorado voters. Coloradans want a senator who always promotes and protects women's health, not one who simply pretends to during election years."

And really, that's just the tip of the iceberg. The Udall campaign also distributed materials late Friday showing that Gardner sponsored a bill in the state legislature in 2007 that would have made abortion a felony and imprisoned physicians who performed them -- even in cases of rape and incest. The same year, Gardner was one of only nine state lawmakers who voted against hospitals notifying sexual-assault victims about the availability of emergency contraception.
In Congress in 2011, Gardner also backed legislation that would have redefined "rape" -- literally rewriting the law to include the term "forcible" rape -- in order limit federal funds for abortion coverage.
And on top of this, the congressman also backed a "personhood" measure that would have not only banned abortion, but also prohibited access to some forms of birth control.
Gardner now says he's changed his mind about the idea, despite having championed the proposal in the recent past, but when it comes to reproductive rights, it seems he still has a lot of explaining left to do.