Things are heating up in the Colorado U.S. Senate race. Popular Republican candidate Cory Gardner, a one time supporter of Colorado’s no compromise personhood amendment, came out last Friday declaring that he can no longer support such an initiative. The announcement comes as no shock to committed pro-lifers in the state who have watched Cory distance himself from social issues, especially abortion, proportionately to his rise in stature with the national Republican party.
Fortunately, there are some pro-life organizations who are as concerned about winning actual victories for babies in the womb as with winning political elections. Personhood USA publicly reproved Cory Gardner for capitulating on the issue of personhood for the unborn. They especially expressed dismay with Gardner’s characterization of personhood legislation as being “too extreme” and “misguided” following Planned Parenthood’s deceptive cue card that such statutes would “ban contraception.”
The reproof was needed and appropriate. But apparently not all pro-life folks agree. Steven Ertelt of LifeNews.com felt it necessary to cover for Gardner’s mistake and attack Personhood USA.
For Steven Ertelt, it seems there is no level of compromise that would raise his ire against the Republican Party. Mitt Romney, while berating his peers to push pro-life issues to the back burner, drew applause from Ertelt as he rose to pin the badge of honor on Romney’s chest. Ertelt apparently wanted to celebrate the ex-governor’s incorporation of tax funded abortions into Romneycare and his insistence that it is okay to abort babies conceived in rape.
But I digress, let’s get back to Ertelt’s defense of Cory Gardner. First, he Cites Cory’s 100% pro-life track record. Yes, Gardner had great pro-life credentials as a state representative and even supported personhood initiatives. While not as impressive in D.C., he has voted consistently pro-life as a U.S. Congressman. But who is dictating the agenda and defining what it means to be a 100% pro-life candidate? For too long organizations like National Right to Life push forward mediocre legislative agendas that do very little to stop abortion, actually further entrench it into our legal codes and pacify resistance to the injustice by allowing politicians to get rubber stamped as “pro-life” while putting in a minimal effort on behalf of the preborn.
Much like our education system, we can say we are scoring 100% when we continually lower the standards. We can raise money and feel good about our efforts while accomplishing very little and perpetuating a failing strategy.
Ertelt fails to inform us that once Cory was elected to Congress, he immediately made unequivocal statements that he had no intention of pushing forward any pro-life agenda. In fact, Gardner made clear he is NOT a social issues candidate, instead choosing to abandon his base to climb the ladder as a career politician (because we all know how popular they are these days). Gardner claimed while running for office in the Republican primary that he would push forward a ban on abortion in D.C., but then denied he ever made such a claim – conspicuously forgetting his public statements. Most recently, Cory announced that he also favors allowing babies conceived in rape to be killed.
Cory can get rubber stamped by NRTL as 100% pro-life by doing the bare minimum. That is part of the problem and nothing to be celebrated.
Ertelt has been anti-personhood from day one and thus had difficulty writing an article without taking underhanded cheap-shots at principled legislation that makes his form of pragmatism look weak and ineffectual.
Ertelt points out that the personhood amendment lost by wide margins on the 2008 and 2010 ballot, claiming there were 100,000 less votes for personhood the second go around, a statement designed to make the reader believe that personhood was moving backwards. The opposite is actually true. Personhood garnered only 27% of the votes the first time around but improved to—granted a still meager— 30% of the vote the second time.
The campaigns did much to create dialogue and discussion across the state about the value, dignity, and development of unborn human beings and forced Planned Parenthood to spend millions fighting it. Support is growing, hearts and minds are being changed, the efforts were not in vain. The obvious reason there were 100,000 less votes the second time around, a fact Ertelt in his display of moral probity ignores, is that 2010 was a non-presidential election year. Voter turnout across the state was down 20% from 2008. But that fact didn’t fit Ertelt’s anti-personhood narrative; thus as a good journalist, he left it out.
Ertelt goes on to claim, “the personhood amendment also contributed to the potential defeat of pro-life Senate candidate Ken Buck” in 2010, blaming personhood for the defeat. Wrong again, Mr. Ertelt. Your scruples on the matter we will leave for the reader to judge.
Buck won the Republican primary partly because he did endorse personhood and the energy and support of personhood people helped carry him to victory. But after moving on to the general election, Buck renounced his support for personhood, much like Gardner, claiming it could potentially ban contraception, and then, three weeks later, he renounced his renunciation and declared that he wasn’t taking a position on personhood. This flip-flopping folly brought the ire of left, right and middle down on Buck whose campaign had been pulling significantly ahead of the Democrat Bennett. Buck’s distancing from Personhood did not help him, it actually hurt his polling numbers. (Take notes Cory Gardner.)
Despite all of that Buck was still 2% ahead in the polls just three weeks before the election when statements he made about homosexuality were used against him by the very same media he was trying to woo with his “moderate” pro-life position. The barrage of attacks against Buck regarding homosexuality caused a drop in his polling numbers. He went on to lose by less than 1.5% (while a large percentage of pro-life voters stayed home having been wooed into disengagement by another Republican flopper).
Buck lost, not for supporting personhood, but for failing to stand up to the media with courageous and consistent moral clarity. Ertelt seems to acknowledge as much in his article, though with more applause than censure stating, “[Buck] eventually had to withdraw his support for the [personhood] amendment so his position would not be misconstrued.”
So, caving to pressure from the media and equivocating on our positions is laudable, while taking a firm stand and working to educate voters about the full humanity of all preborn children, as Personhood USA has done, is worthy of scorn? Are these the pro-life values you are espousing Mr. Ertelt? It should not be any wonder that with leaders like this the abortion industry has carried on relatively unhampered for 40 years in this nation.
We need fresh leadership desperately. We need leaders who will stop rewarding and excusing cowardice, who will stop twisting facts and hiding behind mediocre regulations to raise funds and justify their failure to take principled action. While young, energetic and innovative groups like Personhood USA gain momentum and push the abortion industry back on their heels, folks like Steven Ertelt should stop misleading pro-life voters, covering for weak Republican candidates, and attacking good pro-life organizations.
Jason Storms has been active in full-time ministry for 12 years, engaging in street and campus evangelism across the nation. He has also worked in pastoral roles in Southern California and now in Milwaukee, WI, where he is on staff at Mercy Seat Christian Church. In 2005, Storms and his wife Sara founded Faithful Soldier School of Evangelism to train young people to preach the gospel and make disciples, as well as to take a stand for life in the public square.