Is Anti-Choice Colorado Group Encouraging Politicians to Lie About their Positions?

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Commentary Abortion

Is Anti-Choice Colorado Group Encouraging Politicians to Lie About their Positions?

Jason Salzman

Recognizing the public's hostility toward candidates who want to ban abortion, a Colorado group offers to help candidates who want to conceal their anti-choice views from voters.

New polling shows that 80 percent of likely voters are pro-choice, in the sense that they are pro-letting-women-decide-if-they-want-to-have-an-abortion. But they don’t necessarily want to be labeled “pro-choice.”

And half of the people who call themselves “pro-life,” the term traditionally used by folks seeking to ban abortion, are actually pro-choice, if you start digging into what they really think.

The poll, from Planned Parenthood, raises the question, what to do if you’re anti-abortion and you want to get elected?

Anti-choice activists in Colorado have designed ways for anti-choice candidates to run for office and mobilize support from anti-abortion voters, without disclosing to the wider public what they really think about abortion.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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Here’s how they’re doing this.

Colorado Right to Life runs a blog stating whether federal and state candidates are “100 percent pro-life.” Last year’s determination was based on a nine-question candidate survey, which asked for yes-no responses to queries on personhood (which defines life as beginning at conception), state funding for abortion, and abortion regulations.

The survey isn’t made public by Colorado Right to Life, but this year, Weld Country freshman State Rep. Stephen Humphrey, a Republican who’s sponsoring a bill banning most abortion in Colorado, including abortions for rape and incest, published the survey on his website.

In a cover letter to Humphrey accompanying the 2012 candidate survey, Colorado Right to Life wrote:

We realize there are a few districts, even Democrat primaries, where a ‘pro-life’ label might keep a good candidate from being elected. If you feel this is one of those rare cases, please answer our survey but clearly indicate that you would prefer back-channel conversations only. We would then want to talk with you over the phone or in person, and we can work out together how you could best be helped.

If you are concerned you don’t know how to properly ‘message’ your pro-life views to voters, we have a veteran political communicator who will volunteer to help candidates in this area–just let us know.

Does the “back-channel” caveat mean Colorado Right to Life would lie on its blog about a candidate’s position on abortion, calling them, for example, supporters of Roe v. Wade when they are not?

If Colorado Right to Life doesn’t lie about candidate positions, what does the phrase “work out together how you could best be helped” mean?

I tried to get a response from Colorado Right to Life, but I was only able to reach former Vice President Leslie Hanks, who told me she was “utterly confident that no he/we wouldn’t lie.”

But how does the “back channel” work? Hanks didn’t say, but Colorado Right to Life should explain it. And let us know whether the same tactics are being used by anti-choice groups in other states.

Otherwise, you can’t help but wonder: does Colorado have stealth personhood supporters at the State Capitol? Secret Planned Parenthood haters? Legislators who would stop a woman raped by her father from having the right to choose abortion?