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NARAL Suggests Candidate Wants Condom Ban, but Watchdog Group Cries Foul

Mark Stricherz - published on 11/01/14

Ad against Cory Gardner seen as a stretch

WASHINGTON – A major abortion-rights lobbying group was accused of lying with its “pants on fire” about a pro-life Senate candidate’s record on artificial contraception.

NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly the National Abortion Rights Action League) was denounced after it released a television ad Tuesday that suggested Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) sought to prohibit the sale of condoms. “We rate this claim Pants on Fire!” according to PolitiFact, a non-partisan watchdog organization.

A NARAL spokesperson did not respond to a message for comment. Jill Hannauer, a former president of NARAL in Colorado and a progressive strategist, said she read the script of the TV ad but declined comment about its veracity.

In the television ad, a young couple is shown under bed covers. “Guys, guys, guys,” a young female narrator urges viewers. “If Cory Gardner gets his way,” she continues, as a young man in the ad finds the package of a used condom on a bed table and fumbles in vain for a new condom, “you better stock up on condoms.” In the middle of the man’s search, viewers see a head shot of Gardner over the line “Gardner: Ban Birth Control.”

Gardner, 40, opposes Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, 64. The candidates and their campaigns have fought vigorously over abortion and access to contraception. Although eight of the last nine polls show Gardner ahead, strategists in both parties say the race is a tossup.

Gardner has no record of criticizing the sale of condoms. Indeed, Gardner’s campaign has emphasized the candidate’s support for easier access to artificial contraception.

In March, he rescinded his support for a state ballot initiative that would have defined human life as beginning at conception, saying “the fact that it restricts contraception, it was not the right position.” In June, Gardner said he supported legislation to sell prescription birth-control pills over the counter, making the non-subsidized pills easier to access.

For Colorado Republicans, NARAL’s ad is bewildering and condescending. “It’s such a stretch it’s hard to figure out where they’re coming from,” Michelle Lyng, CEO and founder of Novitas Communications in Denver, said in an interview.

“I think the problem Mark Udall and his supporters are having on contraception is this conception that women are concerned only about birth control, but they are much more multi-faceted. Women are successful in all areas of life. We’ve got a lot going on, so the Democrats’ pandering to them on birth control is not enough,” Lyng said in an interview.

A Colorado Republican communications strategist agreed NARAL’s ad had “jumped the shark” for a lack of credibility. “It’s not only intellectually dishonest, but it’s lazy. Cory Gardner isn’t talking about these issues and there’s nothing in his record that suggests he does,” the operative said.

For one Colorado Democrat, NARAL’s ad will convince single female and low-information college voters to vote for Udall. “There’s so many political TV commercials in the  air, and I think this will break through the clutter of millions of ads. These Democrats know what they’re doing,” said Hannuer, president of Project New America in Colorado and the former head of the Colorado chapter of NARAL.

The election is Tuesday, November 4.

Mark Stricherzcovers Washington for Aleteia. He is author of Why the Democrats are Blue.

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