Columnists, Jon Caldara, Legal, Politics, Uncategorized

Caldara: Finding shades of grey in the abortion debate

“Nuance” is a difficult concept for us Colorado conservatives. As proven, yet again, with the failed attempt to recall state representative Tom Sullivan, our well-intentioned activists tend to believe most people think like them. They don’t.

Conservatives must learn that incrementalism is not a dirty word. And on abortion, it is the only way to win in this state.

To succeed pro-lifers will have to connect with people like me who see shades of grey in the abortion debate.

My first child, my beautiful, tender daughter Parker died of incurable cancer just days before her first birthday. The cause of the cancer was a spontaneous genetic mutation. That is, nothing, nothing was going to prevent her from suffering and dying.

I can’t explain the terror of holding your only child as she cries in pain, dying and knowing you are completely powerless to help her.

If we knew this was going to be her fate before she was born, would I have wanted to spare her this pain, even at the cost of my own soul for taking my child’s unborn life? Quite possibly. I don’t know.

I do know that sometimes the desire for an abortion is out of a parent’s love for their child, not their own selfishness.

Recognizing this would help abortion opponents realize their goal.

The Alabama-style, no-exception, near-total abortion prohibition is just cruel. It’s cruel to victims of rape and incest and cruel to babies assured to live for only a short, excruciating time.

If you don’t believe that, at least believe this — overwhelmingly Colorado voters believe it to be cruel. I offer the doomed “personhood” initiatives of the recent past as evidence.

Conventional wisdom is that Colorado is a hard-core, pro-choice state. And the dominance of pro-choice progressives in state government would seem to enforce that idea.

But let’s remember the personhood initiatives were more strident than Alabama’s new near-total ban. And while progressives are turning Colorado into California, even California restricts abortion when the fetus can viably live outside the womb, around 24 to 26 weeks.

So, if pro-lifers want to stop abortion in Colorado, they must first realize we’re not Alabama.

Two Colorado women might have come to that very realization.

Erin Behrens and Giuliana Day are hoping to get a citizen’s initiative on the 2020 ballot to ban abortion after 22 weeks of gestation, placing Colorado in the norm of abortion laws.

A quick history review is helpful. Colorado isn’t just first in the nation on legal pot, tax limitation and a referendum on suffrage.

Championed by state legislator and future governor Dick Lamm, Colorado was the first state to liberalize abortion laws in 1967 years before the U.S. Supreme Court did so for the nation.

Abortion wasn’t a litmus test of party loyalty back then. His bill passed in a legislature controlled by Republicans. It was signed by Republican Gov. John Love.

Lamm’s modest liberalization (modest by today’s standards) legalized abortion when a woman’s physical or mental health was in danger or in cases of rape or incest up until 16 weeks of pregnancy.

That meek start grew to where today Colorado has no limit at all on abortion. It is legal to abort a completely viable fetus at any time, even one minute before or during birth, for whatever reason the mother wishes.

Only Oregon, Vermont and Washington D.C. have the same lack of any restriction. And 43 states have some type of gestational limit but not Colorado.

It is wrong to assume conservatives are lock-step on abortion. Conservatives can adhere to the same consistent view of the role of government but reach a different conclusion, depending on their starting premise.

Our Declaration of Independence, which we conservatives and libertarians venerate, rightly declares that government exists to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If you believe that life starts at conception, then government’s role is to protect that life and therefore ban abortion. If you believe life starts later than conception, then government’s duty is to protect the liberty of the woman to do with her body what she chooses.

All that to say, just because someone is conservative, don’t assume they’ll sign on to any abortion ban.

Personally, I am open to a limit on abortion assuming it includes the right protections. And a majority of Coloradans could well be too.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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