Gardner, under fire on personhood, suggests making birth control available over the counter

U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, waves to supporters as he officially launches his U.S. Senate campaign in late February at a Denver lumber business.

U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, waves to supporters as he officially launches his U.S. Senate campaign in late February at a Denver lumber business.

DENVER — So far, the campaign against Republican U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner is largely a one-note effort — hammering the congressman for his stance on personhood.

But it’s effectively keeping the campaign fight on Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s terms.

With Udall’s campaign hitting the airwaves with a second TV ad attacking Gardner on women’s health issues this week, Planned Parenthood Votes joined the fight on Thursday dropping its own web ad arguing that Gardner “can’t be trusted” on personhood.

Gardner, who supported personhood amendments in 2008 and 2010 that were rejected by three of four Colorado voters, disavowed the Colorado personhood amendment shortly after joining the Senate race in February and being immediately subjected to withering attacks on the issue.

But he continues to be a co-sponsor to federal personhood legislation, the Life Begins at Conception Act.

“Colorado voters won’t be fooled by Cory Gardner’s cynical attempts to whitewash his dangerous record on women’s health issues,” said Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado Vice President of Public Affairs, Cathy Alderman.

“When he went to Washington, Gardner continued his long-standing support for extreme measures that would interfere with a woman’s personal medical decisions — including the ‘Life at Conception Act,’ a nationwide so-called ‘personhood’ measure.”

Last year, Planned Parenthood actually lavished praise upon Gardner and 32 other House Republicans who voted against a watered-down Violence Against Women Act and helped ensure passage of the bill that included protections for Native Americans, undocumented immigrants and gays.

Gardner responded Thursday with an Op-Ed in the Denver Post charging Udall and Washington Democrats with using women’s health issues as a wedge to divide voters and offered his idea: allowing women to buy birth control pills over the counter without getting a prescription from a doctor, something he says can save families time and money

“Driving the price down for a safe medicine is a better way to provide access to adults who want it than President Obama’s insurance mandate,” Gardner writes. “Many women don’t have access today in spite of the Obamacare mandate, and it violates religious liberty in the process. If a new generation of senators puts partisanship aside, we can protect the liberties of women to have easy access to affordable oral contraception at the same time we protect the rights of those with conscience objections.”

Gardner’s well-written Op-Ed is smart politics but it did not include any promise to sponsor legislation or take other action to spur the Food and Drug Administration to re-classify birth control pills to be available over the counter.

And it opened the floodgates for Udall’s campaign and Democrat-leaning organizations to stay on their favorite subject, to remind voters about Gardner’s past votes, including a 2007 vote as a state lawmaker against requiring hospitals to inform survivors of a sexual assault of the availability of emergency contraception. The bill exempted health care professionals who objected on religious grounds and would not require a hospital to provide emergency contraception to a survivor not at risk of becoming pregnant.

In 2011, he cast a vote in support of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which declares that “nothing in the Affordable Care Act shall be construed to authorize a health plan to require a provider to provide, participate in, or refer for a specific item or service contrary to the provider’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

“Congressman Gardner has a disturbing record of supporting radical measures to limit, and even outlaw, women’s access to contraception. His flailing efforts to remake his image serve as an admission that his extreme beliefs and reckless agenda are out-of-step with mainstream Colorado values,” said State Rep. Angela Williams in a statement blasted out by Udall’s campaign.

“Cory Gardner is trying to re-write history and erase his record on women’s access to contraception,” said Karen Middleton, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. “He voted against contraceptive access time and time again in Colorado. In Congress, he’s still a co-sponsor of the Personhood bill, which would outlaw many forms of contraception.

“Colorado women know the truth. We can’t trust Cory Gardner to stand with us and protect out rights on contraception and reproductive health.”