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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 5, 201813min452

The #MeToo movement must seem like déjà vu to Karen Middleton. The former state lawmaker, longtime education policy wonk, self-described "fierce feminist" — and nowadays, point person for abortion-rights advocacy in Colorado — took her seat in the legislature a decade ago in the wake of the Capitol's last big sexual-misconduct scandal. It was her own predecessor in her state House district who wound up resigning in the face of allegations. And while some things never seem to change, she says the response by some politicians to the latest round of harassment allegations actually has been worse than was the case in 2008. She explains how and also discusses education reform; her first forays into politics — and the therapeutic value of home renovation — in this week's Q&A.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 7, 20188min747

A Democrat-led House committee gave another celebrated approval — along party lines — for a proposed family and medical leave insurance program for Colorado.

Democrats passed a leave bill out of the House last year (without a single GOP) vote last year, and it was quickly squashed by the Republican majority in the Senate, at is it’s likely to again this year.

Employees would be required pay in less than 1 percent of their salaries annually to be insured against having to take time off to take care of a family member for up to 12 weeks. To create a broad enough pool to keep costs low, everyone would have to pay in, even if even if their employer already offers medical leave.

The program would increase labor force participation, especially for women who make up most household breadwinners. For young families, family leave gives mothers time to heal and bond with their child, as well breastfeed, which has benefits, witnesses told the committee.

Leave also could ultimately decrease the number of people forced leave the workforce or rely on taxpayer-supported programs, including putting loved ones in nursing homes, proponents said Tuesday.

House Democrats designated it as their top priority and made it the first bill introduced in the chamber this session, House Bill 1001. Such measures are a high-priority for Democrats nationally to sustain or build on the  #MeToo momentum of female and lower-income voters this fall, in response to Republican leadership in Washington.

One of the bill’s sponsors is Rep. Faith Winter of Westminster, who is challenging Republican incumbent Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik of Thornton in the north metro district that could, ultimately, decide whether the GOP retains its one-seat majority in the upper chamber. Democrats have a nine-seat edge in the House. Winter carried the bill last year, as well.

Near the end of the four-hour hearing Tuesday, committee member Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said he wished a solution was a bipartisan goal, short of changing the majorities in the next election.

“I wish this wasn’t partisan,” he said. “I wish we didn’t have to wait for a moment in time where we reshuffle the board and see if this can pass next year.”

Rep. Lang Sias, R-Arvada, said there are bipartisan ideas, perhaps that could be considered this session, but they do not create “a government behemoth” insurance program. Rep. Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction, said lots of small businesses already offer leave programs. He preferred that such an individualized approach for busienesses, “rather than the government mandating a one-size-fits-all program.”

Colorado Democrats, however, have at least one Republican in their corner. President Trump called for a federal program (paid for by the government) in his State of the Union address last week. He called it “an investment in America’s working families.”

If a federal program came about, the state program would unwind.

“I would be happy to have that problem,” another of the Colorado bill’s Democratic sponsors, Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, told the committee.

Chambers of commerce and most other business groups oppose the bill, said it would make Colorado less attractive to employers. Small businesses would face a new level of record keeping and regulatory compliance, businesses representatives told the committee.

Loren Furman, the senior vice president of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, the state’s chamber of commerce, said a survey of members found many different kinds of leave programs appropriate for each business and its employees.

“Each employee’s situation is going to be different,” she said. “The best solution we see is working with those employees and seeing how we can meet those needs, based on the business that they operate (in).”

Small businesses would struggle to find skilled temporary employees for three months who would expect to have a job with the employee on leave returns, Furman. That labor force might not be available, and that could have a detrimental impact on some small companies, she warned.

Five states have implemented similar insurance programs: New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, California and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, pointed to an analysis by a conservative economist showing Colorado with a much more attractive job market than some of those states.

“Why would Colorado want to move in the direction of New York and New Jersey, when this would hurt the very people it’s meant to help” if there are fewer jobs, he said. “Why would we want to move toward the bottom rather than stay near the top?”

Winter argued that the employee-funded program is good for businesses, because it retains good employees who can return to work rather than quit to take care of a family member.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Rhonda Fields of Aurora and Kerry Donovan of Vail.

Donovan told a lunchtime rally for the bill on the Capitol steps that in the rural communities in the seven mountain counties she represents, if a person has to leave a job for a temporary family priority such as an infant or a sick family member, returning to the workforce is no guarantee, and it might mean a family has to move away to find work.

“It isn’t always an option to find another employment opportunity in a small town,” she said. “Having lost a job means you’re moving to a different community, and the impact that has on a family is self-explanatory.”

Fields promised a fight for the bill looming in the GOP-led Senate.

“I am ready to take this bill on in the state Senate,” she said to cheers at the rally. “When it comes us (Democrats) we’re going to fight for it. There are people in the building behind me who do not want to see this bill pass. They don’t want to provide benefits of paid family leave insurance to all people who live in the state of Colorado. But I do. They need to hear from us.”


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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 24, 20173min563
This week the NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Foundation will finalize its merger with the Freedom Fund, which provides money to help women pay for abortions. The program will be called the Women’s Freedom Fund. The program was started in 1984 by the First Universalist Church of Denver to help women who were barred from abortion services […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 7, 20173min317

NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado isn’t just about abortion rights and reproductive rights; as part of that core mission, it champions women’s rights in general. And on Sept. 14, it is bringing one of the country’s more prominent feminist voices, award-winning author Rebecca Traister, to Denver to talk about women and society. A big topic, to be sure, but it’s a big country, so there’s a lot of ground to cover.

Traister will be featured speaker at a Women’s Leadership Council Lunch, and the discussion no doubt will touch on some of her published work. She penned 2010’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” about women and the 2008 presidential election, and more recently, “All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation.”

From a NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado press release:

Her interviews of Hillary Clinton during and after the 2016 campaign stand out as some of the most original and incisive articles about Hillary and the tumultuous 2016 political cycle itself. Traister has also written for the Washington Post and The New York Observer and has twice been a National Magazine Award finalist. She is a winner of the 2016 Hillman Prize for Analysis and Opinion Journalism.

The press release quotes NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Executive Director Karen Middleton:

“Rebecca is one of the sharpest, most astute voices speaking truths about feminism and our changing political landscape … We are honored she will be joining us in Denver for what should be a great discussion on where we are now and where we go from here.”

Here are the event details:

WHAT: “All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women & The Rise of An Independent Nation” Discussion with author and feminist Rebecca Traister

WHERE: History Colorado, 1200 N. Broadway

WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 14. 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

 


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Karen MiddletonKaren MiddletonAugust 15, 20176min215
NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado executive director Karen Middleton
Karen Middleton

For 50 years, Colorado has been a leader in protecting and expanding access to women’s health care — and in proving that being pro-choice on abortion rights is a political winner.

In April 1967, Colorado passed the nation’s first state law allowing safe, legal abortion. It was a bipartisan bill, passed in a majority-Republican legislature. In recent years, the state has emerged as a model for dramatically reducing unintended teen pregnancies by expanding access to long-acting reversible contraception and supporting policies to expand access to reproductive health care information and resources.

Access to reproductive health care is both good economic policy and an exercise in personal liberty, something Coloradans strongly believe in.

As Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” The Casey opinion also reaffirmed the rights found in the Roe decision, stating “Roe determined that a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy is a ‘liberty’ protected against state interference by the substantive component of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Seven in ten Americans back Roe v. Wade, and that number holds all across the states, from the reddest part of Kansas to the bluest part of New York, including the districts some appear to be worrying about. Standing firm on the ability to make a personal decision about women’s access to abortion care without interference from politicians is even stronger.

If you want to focus on winning elections, we are a national model. In a state split evenly between Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters, we have tested this theory across three elections — including two mid-terms — with attempts to overturn abortion rights via “personhood” ballot measures. Every time, anti-choice efforts have failed by landslide margins statewide, including  in Douglas County by  60-40 in 2014. The General Assembly has repeatedly rejected attempts to restrict abortion and reproductive rights, and in 2017 we passed measures increasing access to contraception, which received national accolades.

At a time when we are seeking pro-choice Republicans to step forward as candidates, it is troubling to see national Democrats signaling a willingness to compromise on the issue of anti-choice Democratic candidates. Among voters, we can identify clear majorities that support choice on both sides of the aisle.

Our message is simple: Leave the decision to the women, their families, their faith and their doctors. Do not attempt to restrict access to abortion care. This is not a litmus test. It is a civil-rights issue.

The voters don’t want it. Voters can differentiate between the right of an individual to make a decision on abortion, and the government making it for her. It’s not a matter of belief. It’s a matter of laws and public policy.

Bluntly, Republicans recognize being anti-choice is a losing proposition. Sen. Cory Gardner ceded the issue in 2014 when he pretended to be pro-choice and denied the existence of a federal personhood bill he co-sponsored. Gardner has since cast multiple anti-choice votes in Congress. But he knew if he campaigned on being anti-choice, he would lose.

This is where the argument that there are “some districts” where you cannot be pro-choice falls apart. There is no data to support that. When will we stop treating an issue with 70 percent support as controversial?

In 50 years, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado has seen a lot of battles over abortion rights. Our organization grew out of bipartisan support for legalizing abortion in 1967, so we are somewhat of an authority on the subject. We know Coloradans are with us. And we believe in holding candidates and public officials accountable on supporting our Constitutional right to choose abortion.

And we will keep doing that — for Republicans and Democrats alike.