On her official campaign website, this was Jena Griswold’s description of the office she was seeking as the Democratic nominee: “The Colorado Secretary of State oversees our elections, campaign finance, and business registration, among other duties. The Secretary of State is critical to making sure that Colorado has safe and secure elections, and to stopping secret political spending.” As a candidate she didn’t mention that she would add abortion activist to that list.
Newly-elected SOS Griswold publicly announced she’s “appalled” at Alabama’s new anti-abortion law. So, she’s launched a boycott of that state and called on other Colorado agencies and the rest of the country to join in. Hence, she has prohibited Colorado Department of State employees from traveling to Alabama, as they have in the past, for administrator training and certification at the National Association of Election Officials Election Center, which happens to be at Auburn University. Of course, she’s entitled to her opinion on abortion but this action is an overreach from her authorized duties as SOS.
Griswold claims abortion is a woman’s “basic constitutional right.” Well, that’s debatable. It’s certainly not one of those basic rights, like free speech and freedom of the press, enumerated in the Bill of Rights as things the government shall not infringe upon. In fact, the Constitution is notably silent on the subject of abortion. In the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the court’s liberal majority rationalized that abortion is included in a woman’s “right to privacy” attributed to vague “penumbras and emanations” conveniently treated as implicit in the Constitution. Moreover, the Court ruled that the legality of abortion isn’t absolute and must be balanced by the protection of women’s health and protecting prenatal life. Thus, while individual states can no longer prohibit abortions in the first trimester they can reasonably restrict them thereafter.
Personally, I’ve never been dogmatically anti-abortion. I embrace the middle-position of a majority of Americans who tell pollsters they believe abortions should be legal in some circumstances, especially in the first trimester, but not legal in all. My longstanding argument is with the foundation of Roe v. Wade which is bad Constitutional law and still highly controversial. There was no necessity for federal government intervention. Before Roe v. Wade, the legal status of abortion was a matter left to the democratic process within each individual state based on the values and beliefs of its people. It had been legal in some states and illegal in others. This is the way government is designed to work in our Constitutional Republic. The principle of federalism devolves power wherever appropriate from the federal government to the states.
Griswold’s rage at Alabama is presumptuous and anti-democratic. As Colorado’s SOS it’s none of her business. That should ultimately be up to the people of Alabama through their elected officials. True, this radical anti-abortion Alabama law doesn’t even make an exception for rape and incest (I would oppose a law like that in Colorado). But the Alabama legislature intentionally drew it up it to defy Roe v. Wade as a legal strategy to instigate a Supreme Court reconsideration of that decision. If Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, Alabamans could decide on the legal status of abortion in their state; as would Coloradans in ours. And Griswold needn’t worry about that here. Given Colorado’s progressive leanings these days and the domination by her Democratic Party of state government, abortion would certainly remain legal.
Kyle Clark, whom I respect as an even-handed TV news anchor, dealt with Griswold’s behavior on his 9NEWS KUSA program. He revealed from emails obtained by his station, that before Griswold put out her news release calling for the Alabama boycott it was sent to the VP of communications and the political director of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s preeminent abortion advocate and provider, along with a note from Serena Woods, Griswold’s communications director that included this request: “Draft of what we’re thinking attached. LMK (Let me know) thoughts/edits.” PP’s subsequent edits were then adopted in Griswold’s news release.
Clark commented that it was inappropriate for Griswold to give an outside group’s political director the power to edit an official statement from her office. And imagine, he said, the outrage that would follow if Colorado’s last SOS, a Republican, had let the NRA edit an official statement on gun control. He added, “We must have the faith that our Secretary of State will be fair and impartial in elections and on contentious ballot issues. Griswold has broken faith with Colorado.”
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.