DENVER — Just as GOP U.S. Senate hopeful Cory Gardner is looking to re-introduce himself on women’s health issues, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s campaign is set to hammer him for legislation he supported as a state lawmaker that sought to punish abortion providers more harshly than rapists.
Udall’s campaign is focusing on legislation Gardner sponsored in 2007 as a state legislator, Senate Bill 143, which would have subjected physicians who perform abortions in every case but to save the pregnant woman’s life to class three felony charges and a sentence of up to 12 years in prison.
That’s a longer sentence than that served by the average convicted rapist in Colorado, according to a memo from Bruce Brown, the district attorney in Colorado’s 5th Judicial District, written for and soon to be distributed by Udall’s campaign.
“If Congressman Gardner’s law were enacted, a doctor providing abortion care for a victim of rape could be sentenced to a lengthier prison term than the average rapist serves,” Brown writes.
Gardner has sought to soften his stance on women’s health issues since declaring his candidacy in late February, quickly coming out against Colorado’s personhood initiatives — he is still a co-sponsor of a federal version of personhood — and penning an Op-Ed outlining his support for making birth control available to women over the counter without a prescription from a doctor.
Brown’s memo is an effort by the Udall campaign to define Gardner based on his record, not his campaign’s attempt to present the two-term congressman as “a different kind of Republican.”
“How would a judge charged with sentencing a physician rationalize a more severe sentence for the doctor than the victim’s rapist serves?” Brown writes.
“Furthermore, as a prosecutor charged with enforcing the law and ensuring the safety of my community, I am deeply concerned about Congressman Gardner’s attempt to use criminal prosecutions as a tool to implement his own social agenda. By treating the courts as a means to achieve his own political end, Congressman Gardner would make it more difficult for me to keep the public safe.”
Udall’s campaign echoed Brown’s conclusion.
“Rapists belong in prison, not doctors who care for victims,” said Udall for Colorado spokesperson Kristin Lynch. “Congressman Gardner’s outdated agenda would take Colorado backwards.”
Gardner’s campaign blasted Udall, calling the attack “bogus” and “slanderous” but stopped short of pushing back against Brown’s interpretation of the 2007 bill.
“Senator Udall is so desperate to continue his long career in politics that he is throwing out ridiculous charges that he knows are bogus,” said Gardner’s spokesman Alex Siciliano. “It’s sad that Senator Udall has nothing good to say about his own record and instead only slanders Cory Gardner. The facts don’t back Senator Udall up, again.”
Siciliano pointed to Gardner’s vote in favor of the Violence Against Women Act, which, Planned Parenthood said at the time, “ensures that we will continue improving our nation’s response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, regardless of who needs protection.”
He also noted Gardner’s sponsorship of an amendment passed last year to increase funding for domestic violence and child abuse prevention in rural areas.
When pressed specifically to rebut Brown’s assertion that S.B. 143 would have resulted in longer sentences for abortion providers than rapists and whether that is something Gardner still supports, Siciliano did not respond further.