Tipton’s vote raises ire of some Pitkin County commissioners
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – Pitkin County commissioners may soon write a formal letter to U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, expressing displeasure over his recent vote to support a spending bill amendment that would eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.
Tipton, who represents Colorado’s 3rd District, voted Feb. 18 in support of the Pence Amendment, named for its author, Republican Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana. The amendment, part of a giant federal spending bill, passed handily in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.
The move to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of reproductive health services, was largely rooted in anti-abortion sentiment, although many lawmakers spoke of the need to reduce federal spending. About one-third of Planned Parenthood’s budget is covered by federal money, but by law those dollars cannot be used to fund abortion services. Pence argues that giving federal money to Planned Parenthood for other services frees up the organization’s other income for abortions.
Board of County Commissioners chairwoman Rachel Richards brought up Tipton’s vote at the start of a commissioner meeting last week. She pointed out that abortions are a small part of Planned Parenthood’s overall operations, which include providing advice on contraceptives, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and research on public health policy.
Pitkin County gave $7,000 last year to Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, an affiliate in Glenwood Springs, through its Healthy Community Fund.
“This may seem a little off topic for us, but we are all subject to what happens in the federal budget,” Richards said. “I am very concerned about de-funding an organization that we have supported in the past and will continue to support.”
Neither Tipton nor his press secretary, Josh Green, were available for comment Thursday or Friday. Tipton, a former state lawmaker and past chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, defeated Democrat John Salazar in November for Colorado’s sprawling 3rd District, which includes Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.
In the bigger picture, Richards expressed concern about the “war on women” in the current federal budget. She said programs that help women, children and families living at the poverty level also face severe cuts.
Also, Richards said, there have been recent legislative attempts to redefine “rape.”
Through such proposals, she said, “It must be forcible rape in order to qualify as rape. If you were drugged or unconscious or mentally incapacitated by handicap, you could not file a rape claim.”
Richards described Colorado as a traditionally pro-choice state. “Federal interference with private choices, private decisions, personal freedoms, constitutional rights, is a big concern to me,” she said.
Commissioner Michael Owlsey said he didn’t have any strong opinions about sending a letter to Tipton. But Commissioner Jack Hatfield said he would support it.
He suggested that cutting funds to Planned Parenthood will mean denying access to services vital to people of lower incomes.
“Scott Tipton is certainly off base,” Hatfield said. “We absolutely have to take a strong stand.”
Though there has been a national outcry over the vote on Pence’s amendment, the measure is not expected to survive in the U.S. Senate.
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