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Jane Norton Is Calamity Jane, Not Pink Elephant

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Let's talk about the pink elephant in the room. Sarah Palin recently dubbed Colorado GOP Senate candidate Jane Norton as one of the "stampede of pink elephants" heading toward Washington, D.C.

Let's ignore for the moment that this is another bad Palin animal analogy (pit bulls with lipstick, mamma grizzlies) from the half-governor of Alaska using a term that usually is associated with the DTs of alcohol addiction and is an allusion to females as creatures of great girth. Let's move onto the substance of the issue.

Certainly Norton deserves to be on the list of extreme right-wing candidates that would turn the clock back on women to an era of fewer choices. Norton should be described as "Calamity Jane" when it comes to female-friendly policies - she's a disaster for Colorado women.

Here is a brief history of Norton on women's issues:

• As arguably the most political executive director in the history of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Norton ordered the cancellation of a 20-year contract with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. PPRM's contract was to provide annual exams, breast cancer screenings and birth control health services to mostly low-income women in rural areas. Norton said she was afraid that public funds allocated to the health clinics were being comingled with PPRM's abortion provider services. The state auditor's office found those fears to be groundless - the contract was only covering 40% of the basic health services cost. Legislative Legal Services castigated her for overstepping her authority and the Denver Post called her actions a "political agenda." The end result: Planned Parenthood was forced to shut down 13 clinics and 15,000 women were without services.

• Calamity Jane's punitive approach to health care extends to basic health care coverage for children. Colorado's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides coverage for families that fall into the gap between qualifying for Medicaid and ability to afford commercial health insurance. As a CHIP board member, Norton compared charging low-income parents CHIP premiums to a "health club" membership because if it were free, people would be less likely to use the facility.

• Norton is a strong proponent of the so-called "personhood" amendment (Amendment 62), an extreme anti-choice constitutional amendment that has unintended consequences for many private life decisions. The proposed ballot language for 2010 defines life as the "beginning of biological development." If Amendment 62 passes, family planning would be limited to barrier contraception, eliminating birth control pills, patches and other options. Under the ballot language, a government investigation could be triggered any time a woman suffers a miscarriage. It also has unintended consequences for end of life decisions, personal doctor-patient relationships and could restrict stem cell research and in-vitro fertilization procedures. Colorado defeated a similar proposal in 2008 by 73-27.

• Norton dredged up an extreme right-wing argument from the Reagan years to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. Department of Education provides states with funds for special education, innovative programs, ensures equal access for all students and financial aid for college. Others who have supported the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education include right-wing adherents Tom DeLay, Ron Paul and Bob Barr.

• Norton supports the creation of a flat tax to replace income taxes. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, the beneficiaries of this bright idea are the wealthiest 5% in the nation, who would enjoy a $209,000 average tax cut. The biggest losers would be middle-income and low-income households, who would suffer larger proportional taxes. Note that almost half (48%) of Colorado's households in poverty are headed by single women, according to the Census Bureau. The flat tax would disproportionately hit women and children.

Sarah Palin did not endorse Norton on her recent trip to Denver, but continues to list Norton on her favorite "mamma grizzlies" roster. Palin is right about one thing - we don't want to mess with her mamma grizzlies when they are "rising up." Because when it comes to standing up for women, "Calamity Jane" Norton is a mess.