Colorado Republican Senate candidate Rep. Cory Gardner dodged a debate moderator's questions over his support for federal personhood legislation, insisting that the Life at Conception Act he sponsors isn't a personhood bill but refusing to explain why.
The exchange occurred during a Wednesday evening debate between Gardner and incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, whom Gardner leads in most recent polls. Seeking to appeal to moderate voters as he takes on Udall, Gardner has reversed his past support for a Colorado measure that would have endowed full legal rights to zygotes "from the beginning of the biological development of that human being." The measure would have banned some forms of birth control, which is why Gardner now says it went too far. But Gardner remains a cosponsor of the Life at Conception Act, which the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says would also ban abortion and many forms of contraception. Gardner, however, insists that the federal bill would have no practical impact and is simply a symbolic piece of legislation. Pointing out that both supporters and opponents of the legislation disagree with that interpretation, debate moderator Kyle Clark asked Gardner to clarify matters.
"So let's instead talk about what this entire episode may say about your judgment more broadly," Clark said. "It would seem that a charitable interpretation would be that you have a difficult time admitting when you're wrong and a less charitable interpretation is that you're not telling us the truth. Which is it?"
Noting that he now opposes the 2010 Colorado personhood proposal he once supported, Gardner proceeded to reiterate his assertion that the Life at Conception Act is different.
"The bill that you're referring to is simply a statement that I support life. But let me just repeat the words of Sen. Udall --"
Interrupting Gardner, Clark asked, "But why does no one else think that? That's what we're getting at." Reemphasizing that "[p]eople who agree with you on the issue of life think you're wrong about how you're describing the bill," while Gardner stood virtually alone in his interpretation, Clark asked, "What should voters glean from that fact?"
Gardner skirted the question entirely, reciting once again his talking point that the Life at Conception Act is merely symbolic but declining to state why he seems stand alone in believing that.
"There are people who agree with my opinion on life. There are people who don't," Gardner responded. "I support life, I've voted for exceptions, but the fact is that the bill that you are talking about is simply a statement that I support life."
Watch the exchange below, via Talking Points Memo: