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31 May 2010

Did Jane Norton Endorse Amendment 62? Yes!

By Ari

[From Ari Armstrong's blog:] UPDATE: Today [May 20] at 1:17 p.m., I received the following conclusive email from Cinamon Watson: "Jane supports the personhood amendment." I thank Watson and Norton's office for this forthright and definitive answer to my question. Of course, that does not explain how Norton's previously expressed views about exceptions in cases of rape and incest fit in with her endorsement of Amendment 62. What follows was written earlier today and provides the background of the story.

Okay, John Tomasic, now you may legitimately complain that Jane Norton's office is not responsive to my questions.

Does Jane Norton endorse the "personhood" measure, Amendment 62 on this year's state ballot?

It is a simple yes or no question, a question that Norton has so far refused to answer.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Norton is the presumed Republican frontrunner for U.S. Senate. Amendment 62 is the measure that would grant fertilized eggs full legal rights; I criticized it in February in a first and second article. I also coauthored a lengthy criticism of the measure in its 2008 form.

I already knew that Ken Buck and Dan Maes, underdog candidates for U.S. Senate and governor, respectively, endorsed personhood. They seem to really believe it's a good idea, and they have nothing to lose and religious right votes to pick up. But, given 73 percent of voters trounced the 2008 version of the measure, I was surprised to read that Norton and Scott McInnis, the frontrunners in the races, had also endorsed "personhood."

I first read the claim about the endorsements of Norton and McInnis on May 10 at ColoradoPols.com. Even though Colorado Pols cited a Grand Junction Daily Sentinel article about the endorsements, I did not see enough evidence to convince me at that time. In my Twitter post linking to that article, I stated, "I have not seen evidence of these alleged endorsements."

On May 11, the Colorado Independent, also citing the Sentinel, stated, "This year, the entire slate of Republican candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate are supporting the ['personhood'] amendment."

My dad Linn heard McInnis endorse the measure in person. So McInnis's endorsement is not in question. But, until today, I still did not have a good sense of whether Norton had endorsed it.

Here is what the May 10 Sentinel article by Charles Ashby states:

The last time the personhood amendment made the Colorado ballot in 2008, a number of anti-abortion Republican leaders either distanced themselves from it or outright opposed the idea because they said it went too far.

None of that seems to be the case with the 2010 version of the measure, political observers say.

As a result, all of the top-named GOP candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate have publicly supported the ballot question that would declare that life begins at conception. ...

[W[hile [Gualberto] Garcia Jones [director of Personhood Colorado] disagreed with arguments against the 2008 ballot question now just as much as he did then, he was surprised to learn it's winning support among such mainstream political candidates as Jane Norton and Ken Buck, who are running for U.S. Senate, and Dan Maes and Scott McInnis, who announced his support for the idea at a Western Colorado Conservative Alliance debate last week.

The article offers a particular event where McInnis endorsed the measure, but it offers no such detail about Norton. So I remained curious.

I called Cinamon Watson, a spokesperson for Norton, on May 17. Watson confirmed she was aware of the Sentinel story. I asked her whether it was true or false that Norton had endorsed "personhood." Watson said she would send me the answer via email.

By yesterday (May 19), I still had not heard back, so I called Watson again. "I will get it to you today," she said. I left her a voice mail near the end of the day. Today, after trying to reach Watson by her cell phone and at Norton's office, I finally received an email. Drum roll please...

Sorry this did not get to you yesterday:

"Jane believes that life begins at conception."

I had to wait three days for that?

The perceptive reader may notice that Watson did not, in fact, answer my question.

Thankfully, the good Mr. Ashby was more helpful. Late last night I sent Ashby an email asking him about the Norton endorsement.

Ashby referred me to Norton's web site:

The U. S. Constitution does not specifically speak about a right to an abortion. For decades, this important issue was left to the states to decide. In 1973, the U. S. Supreme Court, in the case of Roe v. Wade, ruled that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution included a right to privacy which, in turn, included a right to an abortion. While I believe this decision was wrongly decided and should be overturned, it is unfortunately the law of the land today. I would support a Constitutional Amendment to protect unborn human life and will strive to promote a culture of life where all life (including the elderly, children, disabled, ill, and the unborn) is valued and protected. While I believe there may be certain limited circumstances - rape, incest, and life of the mother - when exceptions are needed, I oppose abortion because I believe human life begins at conception. I will oppose all federal funding of abortion. I support the appointment of judges to federal courts, including the Supreme Court, who will strictly construe the U. S. Constitution and not manufacture new rights or remedies not specifically provided for by our Founding Fathers in the Constitution.

By my reading, that statement does not constitute an endorsement of Amendment 62. I think the "Constitutional Amendment" to which Norton refers likely is an unspecified federal measure. Further, Norton's exceptions for rape and incest clearly contradict the impact of Amendment 62, as Colorado Right to Life recognizes: "Republican Jane Norton has supported 'abortion exceptions' in the past (i.e. for rape & incest, which is from our perspective 'pro-abortion with exceptions')."

So what I think happened is that Ashby unintentionally misinterpreted the intended meaning of Norton's web page as the support for his claim that Norton endorsed "personhood." [Update: Ashby continues to think that his original reading of Norton's web page was the correct one. Regardless of whether Norton intended to endorse Amendment 62 on her web page, obviously now her endorsement of it is entirely clear.]

Ashby also unintentionally put Norton in a tight corner just before the state assembly, which is this Saturday.

Apparently Norton's strategy was to remain silent on Amendment 62 and respond with vague generalities in the hopes of appeasing both sides. Ashby's report upset the fence on which Norton was perched and made the world believe she had endorsed "personhood." The last thing Norton wants to do is take a definitive stand on the issue. If she now declares she does not, after all, endorse the measure, that will infuriate the religious right, which wields significant power in the GOP primaries. If she affirms that she does endorse it, that will open her up to hard-hitting attacks in the general election.

And so she continues to dodge the question.

At least Buck has the courage of his convictions on this score, though he is, by my lights, dead wrong.

I will send Watson the link to this article. If Norton sends me a more clarifying response, I will update this page accordingly. [Please see the update at the top of this article, which shows that Norton definitively endorses "personhood."]

This Norton conundrum does illustrate nicely the problems that continue to plague the Republican Party.

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