DENVER -- While conservatives celebrated Monday's Supreme Court ruling affirming the rights of family-owned corporations to deny birth control to employees based on a religious objection, Democrats from Washington, DC to Denver were licking their chops.
The 5-4 ruling, a setback to the Obama administration and its landmark health care law, also enables Democrats like U.S. Sen. Mark Udall to continue to engage with Republican Congressman Cory Gardner on their terms -- and to make a more compelling case to women voters this fall that their reproductive rights are more than just a political wedge, that they do indeed hang in the balance.
"Today’s Hobby Lobby decision is a grim reminder of how much is at stake in this election," said Regan Page of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in a statement. "Nearly every Republican Senate candidate in the country supports radical measures that would block birth control and roll back women’s health care rights even further than today’s ruling."
Udall, whose campaign has been relentlessly hammering Gardner for supporting personhood as well as legislation that would have enabled employers to terminate birth control coverage for their employees, framed today's ruling in similar terms, titling its campaign press release: "SCOTUS Follows Gardner’s Lead, Lets Bosses Dictate Birth Control."
In a separate press release from his Senate office, Udall said that "a woman's personal health decisions about choosing to use contraception and when to start a family should stay strictly between her and her doctor — not her boss.
"The U.S. Supreme Court's decision unacceptably takes these choices out of doctors' offices and into the workplace. Our laws should empower Colorado women to make their own decisions based on their own beliefs, not the beliefs of the person signing their paycheck."
Gardner, who has been working hard to blunt the impact of Udall's attacks by announcing that he no longer supports Colorado's personhood ballot initiative (he remains a co-sponsor of a federal personhood measure), released his own statement Monday, continuing his political tightrope walk of trying to broaden his appeal to women not by walking away from past positions but by adopting a new one, advocating for birth control to be made available over the counter.
"The Court made the right decision today to protect religious liberty and the First Amendment," Gardner said in a statement from his campaign. "The Food and Drug Administration now needs to move quickly to make oral contraceptives available to adults without a prescription. This easy step will make oral contraceptives both accessible and affordable for every woman who wants them. It’s common sense and it’s the right thing to do."
Gardner first called for birth control to be made available over the counter in a Denver Post Op-Ed piece earlier this month.
His campaign also released an ad featuring Gardner explaining his revamped position on personhood, largely in response to the first two ads from Udall's campaign, both of which attacked him on the issue.
That ad, which was released on June 17 as a web ad, is now running on television, a sign of just how important the campaign believes it will be to defend Gardner from this particular line of attack.
“Here’s what’s happening: Barack Obama’s smart guys from Washington think they can come into Colorado to play politics," Gardner says in the spot, which appears to have replaced the campaign's first ad, which featured Gardner and his daughter in their hometown of Yuma.
“They’re attacking me for changing my mind on personhood after I learned more from listening to all of you. No wonder Sen. Udall and President Obama can’t relate to that. Their takeover of health care is a disaster. And we all know it. Yet Udall and Obama refused to listen while everyone else pays for it."