Colorado Planned Parenthood volunteers will be out in force for Jared Polis

Representatives from the reproductive rights organization said they’ve had increased support since the 2016 presidential election, and that means more boots on the ground for the Democratic candidate for governor.

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U.S. Rep. Jared Polis met with representatives from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains on Thursday to discuss reproductive rights and healthcare access in a “roundtable discussion.”

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate expressed his alignment with the organization’s goals to provide healthcare for people of all stripes, support abortion rights under existing Colorado law and open access to contraception. The representatives of Planned Parenthood in the room reciprocated, saying Polis was the right person to sit behind the governor’s desk next year.

Adrienne Mansanares, chief experience officer with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said the ratcheted-up political activism across the state following the 2016 presidential election resulted in an uptick in support. That included a significant bump in volunteers who offered time to canvass for the organization, which means Planned Parenthood’s people will be knocking on doors in support of Polis between now and November.

Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said the announcement that Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated for the Supreme Court resulted in a similar support bump. It’s speculated that the high court could roll back federal abortion protections with Kavanaugh on the bench.

“Truly, this issue has galvanized people,” Mansanares said, and that this election will be about how many people went out and knocked on doors.

Neta Meltzer, communications manager for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, the organization’s political arm, said in an email that the organization “currently has 1,298 active activists statewide. So far, canvasses and phone banks have occurred throughout the Denver metro area, in Boulder, in Colorado Springs, and in Salida.”

They’ve knocked on 2,806 doors and made 1,200 phone calls so far around the campaign.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis sits next to Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountans, during a round table discussion and press conference, at the organization's headquarters in Northeast Park Hill, Aug. 30, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis sits next to Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountans, during a round table discussion and press conference, at the organization's headquarters in Northeast Park Hill, Aug. 30, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Polis and those that joined him around the U-shaped table framed their stance on abortion in terms that sounded almost Libertarian.

“Colorado is a freedom loving and pro-choice state,” he said. People shouldn’t have to worry that the “governmnent force choices on them.”

He said his opponent, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, doesn’t share that hands-off view of government in this case, and criticized the Republican for not having a healthcare section on his website “until two weeks ago.”

Stapleton has said he supports banning doctors who receive federal funds from performing or even speaking about abortions, and has said that he would be a “pro-life governor.”

Polis also attacked Stapleton’s choice for lieutenant governor, Lang Sias, for supporting a failed “personhood” measure introduced at the statehouse that would have granted legal rights to fetuses at conception, calling him a “radical running mate.”

But Polis made sure the conversation did not center strictly on abortion rights.

“This is about everything from cancer screening to HIV,” he said. “It’s about a lot of issues on the public health side.”