Politics

Colorado Republicans and Abortion: No Longer So Loud and Proud?

Barbara Kirkmeyer's abortion stance no longer appears on her campaign website.
Barbara Kirkmeyer's abortion stance no longer appears on her campaign website. kirkmeyerforcongress.com
A funny thing happened after the U.S. Supreme Court dumped Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that guaranteed abortion rights in America, leaving the choice of whether to allow or ban the procedure to individual states. Assorted Republicans in potentially tight races across the country went from ballyhooing the ruling to shifting into a defensive mode, especially once voters in ultra-conservative Kansas opted to retain existing abortion protections last month.

Exhibit A in Colorado is Senator Barbara Kirkmeyer, who's running for U.S. Representative in the new 8th Congressional District against state rep Yadira Caraveo. Kirkmeyer has made national news, including a recent name-check on MSNBC, after information about her hardline pro-life stance was removed from her campaign website — and it remained absent yesterday, September 12, when South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a federal measure that would prohibit abortion after fifteen weeks nationwide, with a handful of exceptions.

Kirkmeyer spokesperson Alan Philp insists the change is much ado about nothing. "Our campaign recently completed a redesign of Barb's website to focus on three issues in which voters express the most interest," he says, citing "spending and inflation," "energy" and "crime."

Other topics stripped from the site include the cost of living, agriculture, education and more. Regarding abortion, Philp stresses, "Barb's position is unchanged."

Kirkmeyer has been among the most vocal anti-abortion legislators in the state, as demonstrated by statements in an online voting guide Q&A. In response to the Q "Should abortion be allowed under extenuating circumstances? If so, what circumstances?," she avoided any mention of exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother, answering: "No. Standing up for the unborn means more than just making speeches. As a County Commissioner, I voted to ban the Plan B abortion bill, and have been a proud and consistent supporter of the Personhood movement, unambiguously defending life from conception."

Her tone is similar in this June 24 tweet, sent out shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe:
In contrast, Caraveo, a doctor by training, supports abortion rights, and in a statement to Westword, she contrasts her views on the subject with Kirkmeyer's.

"Senator Kirkmeyer has called for a total ban on abortion, including in cases of rape and incest, and even touted her support for banning emergency contraception," she notes. "There’s no question she would vote for a federal abortion ban in Congress. She’s spent her thirty years as a politician pushing her own extreme agenda that she knows will harm hard-working Colorado families — which is exactly why she is now running away from her own long-held, extremist anti-abortion views."

The latest polling for the 8th Congressional District compiled on the FiveThirtyEight website shows the contest getting closer: A Global Strategy Group survey from June 9-13, before the Roe ruling, gave Kirkmeyer a lead of 8 percent, but the margin was down to 2 percent in a report from the same organization that got underway on July 26 and ended on August 2, the same day as the Kansas vote.

The other two Colorado face-offs for U.S. Representative that FiveThirtyEight considers competitive are Republican incumbent Lauren Boebert versus Democrat Adam Frisch in the 3rd Congressional District (a July 21-25 poll put Boebert ahead by 7 percent) and Republican Erik Aadland against Democrat Brittany Pettersen in the 7th Congressional District (Pettersen was up by 3 percent in a July 24-30 analysis).

Boebert's website declares that she's "Pro-Freedom, Pro-Guns, Pro-Constitution," but doesn't highlight her views about abortion. However, the site includes a link to her "Contract With Colorado," which features the following assertion under the "Life" heading: "I believe life begins at conception. Planned Parenthood can go fund themselves. They should never receive a dime of our federal tax dollars."

In contrast, Aadland tries to locate a middle ground between the anti-abortion forces and those who support abortion rights in a section labeled "Protecting Our Future," saying that "even though I am personally Pro-Life...I will protect Colorado's right to choose through the legislative process. I will not support or vote for any federal legislation for or against abortion, and I will stand against any federal funding of the practice."

Back in June, by the way, the "Mission" page on Aadland's website included an item about his support for "bodily sovereignty," defined as "the concept that each person has the right to full control of their body" — a seeming contradiction to his personal opposition to abortion. However, the phrase isn't on the page at this writing.

The Republican hopefuls for the two biggest Colorado prizes in the 2022 election, the offices of governor and U.S. Senator, also stop short of backing a total abortion ban. The website of Republican gubernatorial nominee Heidi Ganahl, who's seeking to replace Governor Jared Polis, contends that "Heidi is pro-life with exceptions for the rare and terrible instances of rape, incest and the health and life of the mother and child. She feels the current late-term abortion law signed by Jared Polis should be repealed and replaced. Coloradans are not extremists. Heidi will do everything in her power to end late-term abortion."

As for Republican senatorial candidate Joe O'Dea, who's challenging Senator Michael Bennet, his website boasts a letter from "pro-life leaders" such as former state senator John Andrews urging voters to back him. The missive, which highlights O'Dea's background as an adoptee, points out that he "strongly supports a nationwide ban on late-term abortion, a nationwide ban on taxpayer funding for abortion, a nationwide parental choice requirement, and will fight any attempt to make religious hospitals perform a procedure they object to. Joe is adamantly against Chuck Schumer’s late term abortion bill, and strongly opposes Jared Polis’ late-term abortion bill."

However, the letter also concedes that "Joe’s position on abortion is not the same as our own. Joe does not support a ban in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother or early in the pregnancy. Some of us do not agree with this part of his position. But Joe’s views — which includes strong and much needed restrictions on abortion — have much in common with us."

FiveThirtyEight's latest polls calculate that Polis leads Ganahl by 7 percent and Bennet is ahead of O'Dea by 11 percent.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts