The Personhood Movement Is Tired of Republican Congressmen Betraying It

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 26 2014 11:55 AM

The Personhood Movement Is Tired of Republican Congressmen Betraying It

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Mike Coffman, one of the latest traitors. (OK, context for this photo: Coffman is speaking in front of a reproduction of a 19th-century sign that aimed to stir up opposition to Chinese immigration. Coffman has thrown his support behind a bill that would offer an official statement of regret for the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.)

Photo by Shaun Tandon/AFP/Getty Images

Colorado Democrats wrote the "war on women" playbook. In 2010 they were tasked with defending appointed Sen. Michael Bennet in a race against Tea Party-backed Ken Buck. They won with some innovate turnout tactics, but they pummeled Buck's image by portraying him as extreme on abortion. This stuff works in a purple state that's inclined toward libertarian candidates. It's working again, as first Rep. Cory Gardner (who's running for Senate) and now Rep. Mike Coffman (who's trying to get re-elected in a swing seat) have been goaded into reversing their endorsement of "personhood amendments." Eli Stokols reports that Gardner, and then Coffman, have denounced the old ballot measure that would have defined "personhood" at the moment of conception, then denounced Democrats for trying to (I should really have a keyboard shortcut for this attack) distracting voters from Obamacare.

“There’s a reason Democratic Senator Michael Bennet called Speaker Romanoff’s attacks sleazy in 2010 – Romanoff is the Czar of sleaze,” said Tyler Sandberg, Coffman’s campaign manager. “‘Supported it at every turn?’ Mike didn’t in 2012. And he doesn’t in 2014.
“The voters have spoken twice, and the question is settled.  The initiative is over-broad and full of unintended consequences, sort of like Obamacare, which let’s be honest, all of this sleaze from Romanoff is meant to be a distraction from.”
In fact, Coffman has never disavowed personhood until today.
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And doing so has earned the ire of Personhood USA, the national organization that campaigns for these amendments. First it denounced Gardner. Now it's after Coffman.

"It is politically foolish and morally reprehensible for these politicians to abandon the principles that helped them to get elected, particularly since they are now opposing the Republican Party Platform," wrote Personhood USA spokeswoman Jennifer Mason in an email. "Gardner and Coffman have swallowed the Democratic Party's false advertising about personhood, and they are repeating it without doing their own research and examining the facts. The Personhood movement is much bigger than a few state politicians, and we won't be set back by two men who flip-flop and cave to political pressure. Clearly, there is a need for strong, principled leadership in the state of Colorado."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.