The Colorado Abortion Debate: News Miner 6
Notes on abortion, rent control, fentanyl laws, criminal sentencing, Elisabeth Epps, and more.
Welcome to the latest News Miner!
The Colorado Abortion Debate
Here I collect assorted notes about the abortion debate as it is playing out in Colorado.
On October 10, 2014, the Denver Post editorialized, “Contrary to [Senator Mark] Udall’s tedious refrain, [Corey] Gardner’s election would pose no threat to abortion rights.” Of course, prior to John Hickenlooper taking over the seat, Gardner voted for Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, who now appear ready to overturn Roe v Wade. Colorado Pols and Laura Chapin are among those saying they told us so.
Matt Sebastian summarizes, “Colorado voters rejected constitutional changes that would have outlawed abortion in 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2014. In 2020, voters also rejected a ballot measure to ban abortions at 22 weeks.”
Colorado abortion providers are preparing for people seeking the procedure from out of state. Jennifer Brown reports, “In the last eight months, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains saw 1,220 Texas abortion patients. That compares to 306 patients in the same eight-month period a year earlier.” Newsline: “When these women needed abortion care, they turned to Colorado.”
Republican candidate for governor Heidi Ganahl says she supports an abortion ban with “exceptions for rape, incest, and the health of the mother,” in Kyle Clark’s words. Other Republican candidates also want severe restrictions.
Kristi Burton Brown, chair of the state GOP and the person behind some previous efforts to ban all abortion here, suggested that, yes, she still wants to ban all abortion.
Joe Jackson, executive director of the Colorado GOP, complained about the Denver Post’s Conrad Swanson “actively promoting where to get an abortion.”
Some anarchist abortion-rights people vandalized a Catholic church in Boulder, scrawling across the doors, “My body, my choice.” My retort: Their building, their choice. Such vandalism is wrong and strategically counterproductive.
Someone pointed out on Twitter that Colorado’s Amendment 43, banning gay marriage, remains on the books, although it is not now operative. Article II, Section 31 of the state constitution states, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.” I don’t think the Supreme Court will actually overturn its ruling on gay marriage. But, if it does, Colorado voters now easily would overturn the language of Amendment 43.
Progressive activist Scott Wasserman Tweeted, “A cornerstone of liberalism is allowing people to follow their own beliefs and value systems and not imposing yours on them. To deny a woman choice over her own body, and therefore her own destiny, is antithetical to liberalism.” Hey, that’s my line! Of course, people can follow their own beliefs and values only insofar as they do not violate others’ rights. Abortion is in that category. (I’ll have more to say about that soon.)
Governor Rejects Rent Control
Rent control is a bad idea. Complete Colorado published my recent piece about an attempt to impose rent control on trailer park land. Thankfully, the governor pushed to remove that language from the relevant bill. But this idea may be back!
I comment on the practical problems with rent control:
Sure, in the short term, the people paying lower rents benefit financially. In the longer term, the quality of the controlled properties declines and the supply suffers. This bill is a flashing red warning to reputable buyers of mobile home land and to potential developers of new parks: Do not do business in Colorado. Meanwhile, the bill is an open invitation to people whose idea of business is to cut repair, maintenance, and improvement costs to the bone.
I also write, “Government’s rightful job in this context is to protect people’s rights to their property and their rights to contract. Nothing more.”
Read the entire piece.
Update on Fentanyl
I staked out a pretty radical (and correct) position with my two articles, “Why Colorado Should Not Refelonize Fentanyl Possession” and “Fentanyl and the Republican Attack on the Right to a Jury Trial.” Here I collect a few assorted notes on the topic.
From 2019 to 2021, [Marshall] Weaver said he racked up 17 felony charges, including possession with intent to distribute, motor vehicle theft and identity theft. He wasn't convicted on those charges, being released on bond each time. Last year, he accepted a deal for eight years in a halfway house, which helped him finally kick his drug habit for the first time in many years. . . .
Weaver was at the Capitol Wednesday to plead with Senate lawmakers to amend House Bill 1326 to lower the felony threshold for simple possession of fentanyl to zero, a position that Colorado's law enforcement community is pursuing. . . .
Weaver said when he was selling heroin and meth in 2019, the General Assembly passed the law that made possession of less than 4 grams a misdemeanor.
“That’s easy to go around. I just have to carry three and a half grams,” he said, indicating drug dealers know how to get around those possession numbers.
Weaver said his whole drug network knew when that 2019 law passed.
“Everyone of my associates at the time knew the lesson was to carry less than four. If we need to take more than four, there's four people in the car, everyone carries four grams,” he said.
The first thing that we should notice is this fellow currently is serving a criminal sentence, so he has an extremely strong incentive to tell the drug warriors what they want to hear.
Also, nothing he says counts against any of the arguments I make in the two articles linked above. All prosecutors have to do to go after distributors is to prove that distribution took place—hardly too much to ask. Doing so is justified in cases where people intentionally or negligently distribute fraudulently marked or tainted drugs.
Finally, Goodland does not report whether Weaver would rather be sitting in prison on a felony conviction than camping out at a halfway house.
Recently I Tweeted:
When it comes to abortion and drugs, leftists are perfectly able to understand the problems of driving these things into a black market. But they refuse to see the same dynamics at work with gun prohibitions. Meanwhile, conservatives are worried about black markets only with guns.
Former police officer, and former drug addict, Scott Brasselero, writes, “Felonizing the simple possession of drugs will not solve Colorado’s fentanyl and overdose crisis.”
Elise Schmelzer suggests that police often can’t be bothered to investigate cases of dangerous fentanyl distribution. “Lawmakers say they’re shocked to learn law enforcement is doing so little in this area with the many tools they already have,” her article says.
Doctor Sarah Rowan testified against harsher penalties for fentanyl possession, arguing, “Worsening criminal penalties for drug use leads to a spectrum of problems ranging from avoidance of medical care to disruptions in medical treatment, to overdose and death.”
Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute recently said on a PBS show (at around the 18:30 minute mark):
The drug war that started in 1911 with the Harrison Narcotics Act has been a disaster, a failure, and it’s done much more harm than good. And it’s also led to a lot of destruction of civil liberties.
I hope they [Colorado legislators] keep in the requirement that before you prosecute somebody and send them to prison for the felony of possessing something, the government has to prove that you knew you had it. That’s simple fairness.
Jeffrey Miron and Jacob Winter have an article in the New York Sun, “Prohibition, Not Big Pharma, Caused the Opioid Epidemic.” The subhead: “The United States currently outlaws or limits legal access to opioids, but this does not eliminate demand for these goods. Many consumers still gain access to them via underground markets.”
Here is an example of the extreme harm of the black market created by drug prohibition, from Elise Schmeltzer: “Cath Adams lost her 21-year-old daughter, Emily. Emily had tooth pain and took a pill she thought was Percocet. But it was fentanyl and she died on her little sister’s 16th birthday.”
Kellner himself admits that the drug war is a game of whac-a-mole: “As we move to crack down on fentanyl, cartels and other manufacturers will likely pivot to other synthetic opiates. We’re already seeing it in Florida and New York with ISO (another synthetic opiate).”
Kellner recently Tweeted, “In Colorado, even violent criminals serve far less time than their actual sentences. It’s unfair to victims and has proven to put communities at greater risk.”
You just recently went on a big rant about how your DA’s office often declines to prosecute people for felonies [see my review]. So you want prosecutors to have unlimited discretion in deviating from maximum legislative penalties but other parties to have none?
I lost track of another comment I made about this, but this is the upshot: I do generally think that people should serve their full sentences, if sentences are fair. The problem is they often are unjustly long. And judges hand down sentences expecting down-the-line mitigation of the sentence length. I worry that parole is arbitrary and used as a cudgel to keep prisoners in line. Of course, I also think that prisons should be humane, but that is a big topic for another day.
Candidate Elisabeth Epps
Elisabeth Epps is among the more interesting candidates running for state house. I agree with her on some criminal justice issues; for example, she opposed the stricter felonization of fentanyl possession (as did I), and she worries that the bail system punishes poor people who have been convicted of no crime.
I find it pretty disturbing that she features “Democratic Socialists of America” imagery on her web page. And, given she also promotes the “Moms Demand Action” gun control group, I wonder what her stances are regarding gun laws and how they square with her general views on criminal justice.
A March 8 release from the Secretary of State says that Epps did not make the primary ballot via petition. Rebecca Wallace reports, “Elisabeth Epps won first place in delegate voting at the Denver Dems county assembly 3/19/22.”
Apparently someone recently issued an attack piece against Epps. I have not seen this piece. I know about it only indirectly, based on denunciations of it. Deep Badhesha, an analyst for Colorado House Democrats, Tweeted May 5:
I'm asking [Katie March, Epps’s primary opponent] to immediately denounce and publicly condemn the Push Pull “Survey” (and the groups behind it) that was sent out to HD6 voters today about [Epps]. It was racist, sexist, classist, and full of lies and clear misinformation.
March distanced herself from the “survey”:
My campaign did not pay for this poll or have anything to do with its creation. I’m very sorry to see this happening when my campaign has been about policies I’ll fight for, not negativity. I strongly encourage anyone engaging in this primary to stick to the issues affecting HD6.
If I am able to obtain a copy of the “survey” I may (or may not) comment more about it.
Gender and Sexuality “Art” Club: Over at Self in Society, I mentioned an after-school “art” program that allegedly pushed a student to come out as transgender. Now the Colorado woman who says her daughter attended the club has done an interview with Jon Caldara. I want to emphasize that this story as presented here is entirely one-sided, from the mother’s critical perspective. If the facts are as presented, they are very disturbing. According to the mother, the girl did claim she was transgender, but the mother thinks she’s confused. I wish a journalist would check into the story, run down the facts, and interview the people involved with the event. (I doubt any journalist does that, but maybe someone will surprise me.)
School Violence: Recently a student in Cherry Creek’s Liberty Middle School viciously beat another student in the hallway. Denver7 posted the video and story.
Lopez: 9News reporter Kyle Clark offers a master class on calling out bullshit with his recent interview with Republican candidate for governor Greg Lopez. Clark grills Lopez over his arrest for domestic violence, mail-in voting, his anti-gay remark, and more.
Prison for a Cop: “Former Loveland police officer sentenced to 5 years in prison for assaulting 73-year-old Karen Garner.” This involved an arrest for shoplifting. I agree the officer acted wrongly, and I’m glad he was convicted, but I think five years in prison is unjust overpunishment.
Bonds: Rebecca Wallace notes, “HB22-1067 mandates our most vulnerable neighbors get before a judge quickly to be considered for bond setting and release.” That sounds great.
No Prior Restraint: After a clerk mistakenly handed a Gazette reporter suppressed information about the Elijah McClain case, a judge said the paper could not run a story with that material. This resulted in a bunch of angry journalists and a quick lawsuit. The judge backed down. The paper ran the story. Corey Hutchins has the backstory.
Gun Rights in Edgewater: “An Edgewater City Councilwoman [Hannah Gay Keao] has been working on enacting local gun rights restrictions alongside other Colorado communities since late 2021 and worked in close partnership with anti-gun advocacy groups to present a decidedly one-sided presentation on gun violence to her fellow council members.” The council backed down from most of its gun proposals.
Ice Cream Truck Ban: Without government, who would ban ice cream trucks? Ask Aurora.
Bigotry: In 2021 Colorado saw “a new surge in antisemitic incidents.”
Crime: Crime in Denver is so bad that Mayor Michael Hancock’s strategy is to. . . disarm potential victims in many areas.
Tech Privacy: Joel Dusek argues that under the Colorado Privacy Act the Attorney General has arbitrary and unnecessary powers to regulate tech.
Population: Colorado is a growth state, but other states are growing faster.
Ranchers: Jared Polis’s husband said some unfortunate things about ranchers.
Diaper Tax: Hey, look: Democrats have found a tax they don’t like! Alex Burness reported May 2, “Colorado legislature has passed a bill to exempt diapers, period products and incontinence products from sales tax. The bill, HB22-1055, just cleared its final vote—26–9, in the Senate. Bipartisan support, all opposing votes Republican.”
Charter Schools: “Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has publicly and loudly opposed proposed changes to federal rules that could make it harder for charter schools to get start-up grants,” Chalkbeat reports.
Less Housing: “Denver’s planning department is backlogged and understaffed, and some developers argue that the lag that’s causing in approving new projects is keeping the city from solving its housing shortage,” Denverite reports.
More Housing: “An automated factory that’d pump out modular homes in Grand Junction could help ease Colorado’s housing crisis,” the Sun reports.
Defamation: “Colorado GOP vice chair suggests Polis’ support of Disney means supporting ‘sexual grooming’ of kids.” Will the Republican Party ever get its act together?
GOP Insanity: Colorado Republican activist Joe Oltmann has “called for his political opponents to be hanged,” notes Alex Burness, yet two state representatives, Dave Williams and Stephanie Luck, recently joined him for a podcast. Newsline has an article about some of Oltmann’s remarks.
Spoiler: After losing at GOP assembly in the governor’s race, Danielle Neuschwanger joined the Constitution Party to run for the office. Chase Woodruff remarked, “Like any healthy, functioning democracy, Colorado’s gubernatorial ballot will offer voters the choice of a broad spectrum of views, from centimillionaire centrism to right-wing revanchism to apocalyptic Christian nationalism.”