We know Colorado’s Democrats have been straining to find a gubernatorial candidate. With each passing week of press and fundraising for former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter, it gets a little harder for a primary opponent to nudge into the race. Like a row of performers at the end of a play, most all of the Democrats’ big hopes to run have bowed out: Ken Salazar, John Hickenlooper, Mark Udall, Joan Fitz-Gerald. Ritter has posed a problem for his party’s base with his open admission of his personal pro-life stance.
Well, you know the prospects for another viable Democrat candidate must be fading into the twilight when you read an opinion piece like this in today’s Denver Post. Authored by three prominent liberal Democrat women of strong abortion-rights credentials, the column is a prize example of moral incoherence married to political expediency and ambiguity. They write:
Let’s be clear about where Ritter stands on the issue of abortion. Based on his faith and after years of reflection, he is personally opposed to abortion. However, Ritter isn’t interested in undermining Roe vs. Wade. It isn’t part of his agenda. Nor is he interested in criminalizing women or their doctors over this issue. He will enforce the law just as he did when, as Denver’s district attorney, he prosecuted those who violated the “bubble law” and damaged medical clinics and doctors’ offices.
We share important common ground with Ritter, including his goals to reduce the number of abortions, unintended pregnancies and unwanted children. We are in complete agreement over the need for: government funding for family planning; ensuring that all women have access to emergency contraception; providing responsible and age-appropriate sex education; and enhancing the state’s adoption programs.
One of Ritter’s greatest strengths is his willingness to listen and understand all viewpoints. He respects that a great many people hold differing and equally strong opinions on the issue of abortion. It should give all of us great comfort to know that each perspective will always have a seat at his table.
But rather than focus on the differences that divide us, it’s time to zero in on what unites us. Ritter’s vision is one we share: to create an environment that gives every Coloradan a chance to realize all of the promise that the state has to offer. His priorities include improving health care, education and the economy; protecting our natural resources; fixing our transportation infrastructure; and supporting job creation and keeping good jobs in Colorado.
Ritter offers the best chance for a Democrat to recapture the governor’s office. Polls and fundraising results show a broad base of support for Ritter. He’s moderate. And even more important to those of us who know him personally, he’s an extraordinarily principled person. He’s ethical, has high standards and treats people with respect. He has just the right mix of integrity, spirit, courage, compassion and intelligence to become the next governor. [emphases added]
To me, a big point hinges on the meaning of the phrase “government funding for family planning.” Since the byline goes out of its way to mention that one of the authors used to work at Planned Parenthood, could we assume this “family planning” service includes providing abortions? If so, what are we to conclude about Ritter’s pro-life leanings? That he has no qualms about using taxpayer dollars for a highly controversial – at best – procedure, one that many citizens (allegedly, including himself) who pay taxes have concluded is the taking of innocent life?
If “family planning” is not the typical euphemism here, then which organization would Ritter support with taxpayer dollars? They certainly can’t mean Catholic Charities. It seems to me a more “moderate” stance would be a laissez-faire approach to abortion that didn’t favor criminalization but withheld public funding.
And may we also presume by its omission from this column that Ritter would favor some restrictions on abortion rights – such as parental notification or a waiting period? If not, then the appellation “pro-life” would not seem appropriate to describe Ritter. Perhaps that’s what the column’s authors mean when they say he isn’t “interested in undermining Roe v Wade.”
Can you imagine it being said of one of the prominent civil rights leaders of more than a generation past that he was personally opposed to segregation but wasn’t interested in undermining Plessy v Ferguson or Jim Crow laws? Your everyday cynic would conclude that such a person must have been running for office in the Deep South circa 1950.
Is Ritter forging a position based in political expediency? One would be well-supported in making such a case, but the column is too ambiguous to leave us any lasting clues. If the candidate really does favor some abortion restrictions, then signs are coming in that Colorado’s liberal Democrat base is starting to think the former DA is their best shot at the governor’s mansion, and is willing to concede one of its more cherished tenets for the implementation of its broader agenda.
The state’s Democrats have time to decide whether they really like Bill Ritter as a candidate and what he stands for.
Cross posted at Holtzman v Beauprez