Colorado Rep. Scott Tipton stirs abortion debate with mocking tweet
Congressman blames since-deleted tweet on staffer going rogue
Special to the Vail Daily
Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s office is blaming a rogue staffer for tweeting a mocking abortion meme over the weekend deemed offensive by current and past state lawmakers who saw it and retweeted it before it was deleted a short time later.
The meme, issued from Tipton’s official congressional Twitter account, showed female protestors with the caption “We want government controlled healthcare!” Then below that the meme reads, “*State government Bans abortions*” followed by a picture of a surprised Pikachu — the popular Pokémon character.
The meme is an apparent reference to the recent wave of state laws, starting in Alabama, that ban abortion to varying degrees. In the case of the Alabama law, which will likely be vigorously challenged by women’s reproductive rights and pro-choice groups, the ban applies to victims of rape and incest and cases where the mother’s health is at risk.
“The tweet was mistakenly sent out by a staffer who helps manage the account,” Tipton spokesman Matthew Atwood wrote in an email statement. “It was never viewed or vetted by Congressman Tipton prior to being posted and does not reflect Congressman Tipton’s position or work on healthcare issues.”
Backlash from lawmakers
Tipton, who represents the western two-thirds of Eagle County along with most of Colorado’s Western Slope and part of the southern Front Range, has previously taken the position of supporting abortion in cases of rape, incest or health of the mother. Tipton in the past has voted for a federal abortion ban beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“Scott Tipton has a consistent anti-choice record from 2011 right through 2019, and I didn’t understand that tweet. It didn’t make sense to me, and it was just so discombobulated,” said former Democratic state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, who lost to Tipton by nearly 8 percentage points last November. “It definitely seemed to me to be an insult to pro-choice women.”
Mitsch Bush, a former Routt County commissioner and state lawmaker who resigned from the legislature to take on Tipton for Congress, said she’s considering running against him again in 2020 and will have an announcement by the end of the month. She did not buy Tipton’s rogue staffer explanation.
“My opinion, having been a legislator and wanting to be a United States congresswoman is the buck stops with the legislator and not with their staff. What the staff says represents you,” Mitsch Bush said. “Nothing went out from my office that I hadn’t vetted. You take responsibility and you’re accountable and you’re transparent and he’s not.”
Atwood did not respond to further inquiries about disciplinary action facing the staffer. Nor did he care to expand on Tipton’s stance on the various abortion bans being passed in other states in hopes of getting the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Out of line with Colorado voters
Polling shows the majority of Americans (50 percent) feel abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, with another 30 percent saying abortion should be legal under any circumstances, and just 18 percent saying abortion should never be legal for any reason.
If Tipton is in any way backing Alabama’s new law, that puts the Cortez businessman in a very small minority. In Colorado, voters have repeatedly rejected so-called “Personhood” amendments seeking to define life as starting with “the beginning of the biological development” of a human being — in other words, the fertilized egg as a person.
Such extreme views have been overwhelmingly defeated at the ballot box in Colorado, where the issues of abortion and women’s reproductive rights and a woman’s ability to choose how to handle personal health care decisions became key factors in the state’s U.S. Senate race in 2014.
Incumbent Sen. Mark Udall took a great deal of heat for focusing intensely on protecting a woman’s right to choose — earning the mocking nickname of Mark “Uterus”. The Democrat narrowly lost to Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who reversed his previous support for the Personhood amendments in order to defeat Udall.
“I’m pro-life, but that’s up to the states,” Gardner said recently of the Alabama ban. Gardner has backed both of President Donald Trump’s conservative picks for the U.S. Supreme Court, which could ultimately decide to overturn Roe v. Wade – a decision that rejected state law attempting to ban abortions.
Mitsch Bush added that the tweet’s use of the phrase government-run health care was consistent with Tipton’s frequent refrain during debates last year. She said the tweet does reflect Tipton’s position and work on health care.
“It kind of does because he loves to talk about government-run health care,” Mitsch Bush said. “But what we’re talking about here is a basic right that was decided in 1973 based on the 9th and the 14th Amendments of the constitution. A woman under our constitution right now has a right to choose abortion if that’s what she wishes. He’s always been anti-choice.”
Democratic state Rep. Dylan Roberts — who represents the state house district comprised of Eagle and Routt counties that was vacated by Mitsch Bush so she could challenge Tipton — tweeted his disapproval of Tipton’s tweet on Sunday: “This was the really lame and offensive meme the Congressman has now deleted.”
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