Steve Curtis came out firing on all cylinders. And, in a bit of internecine political warfare rarely seen in these parts, the former Colorado Republican Party chief was gunning for the state's presumptive GOP nominee for U.S. Senate.
Curtis, the vice president of American Right to Life Action, took ex-Rep. Schaffer, a fellow staunch anti-abortion advocate, to the proverbial woodshed following a series of news stories chronicling the congressman's support of guest worker policies on the Mariana Islands as a possible model for the continental United States' migrant labor woes.
The Marianas are long known for squalid sweatshop practices — including accusations that the primarily Chinese and southeast Asian female workers were forced to undergo abortions and young girls were pushed into prostitution.
Schaffer's guest worker proposal and a later press statement that he never personally witnessed any forced abortions while on a $13,000 "fact-finding" trip to the Marianas in 1999 (paid by associates of now-jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff) were met with howls of derision by the press, bloggers and the public.
Curtis, an outspoken proponent of a controversial proposed state ballot measure to prohibit abortion by conferring constitutional rights on fertilized eggs, seized the media controversy and ran with it.
He excoriated Schaffer in the Colorado press this week as being soft on abortion. Later, he accused Schaffer of lying about not having an opinion on the ballot measure that has caused deep fissures in the local anti-abortion movement.
While Schaffer has since retreated, his camp, notably campaign manager Dick Wadhams, hit back, calling Curtis "attention-starved" and referencing National Right to Life unceremoniously dumping Curtis' Colorado affiliate after its members attacked Focus on the Family founder James Dobson for not being anti-abortion enough in newspaper ads last year.
Then, two days ago, Curtis suddenly backed off. His public statements softened. He claimed the whole thing "got off issue" and was simply "political battles in the heat of the moment."
Except the battle is now being waged elsewhere — far from public view where Curtis' involvement in the hard-line anti-abortion movement runs deep.
On April 26, another of Curtis' tax-exempt charities, LifeCommercials.com, which bills itself as "America's premier pro-life ministry," is hosting a fundraiser [PDF] at a hotel ballroom in Westminster, Colo., a conservative suburb northwest of Denver. The group produces provocative television ads on emergency contraception, abortion and eugenics.
Event organizers released a late-breaking update this morning gleefully announcing a "surprise guest" — Shiu Yon Zhou, who claims she was forced to undergo an abortion in China.
The event will also feature a presentation by the Rev. Bob Enyart, who refers to himself as "America's most popular self-proclaimed right-wing, religious fanatic, homophobic, anti-choice talk show host." Enyart said on his Thursday radio program, "If China was killing Jews, would [Bob Schaffer] still vote for most-favored nation trading status because of the overarching economic and political considerations?"
A press release issued on Thursday by American Right to Life Action — after Curtis claimed to the press that the disagreement was over — cites Zhou and Curtis himself ramping up the anti-Schaffer rhetoric even higher:
"The pro-life movement will no longer give a pass to candidates like Bob Schaffer who look the other way when Chinese women are forced to abort their children," said Steve Curtis, former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party and spokesperson for American Right To Life Action. "At best Schaffer was negligent investigating coerced abortion in the Mariana Islands. Worse, he has voted (May 2000) for permanent normal trade relations with China, rewarding the regime that forces women to abort their children."
The vice president of Colorado's largest pro-life organization agrees. "At Colorado Right To Life, one of our dearest members, a young woman named Shiu Yon Zhou, is the victim of Chinese forced abortion policy," said Leslie Hanks. "While Bob Schaffer supported (1990s) most-favored nation trading status to Communist China, that government was literally forcing women like Shiu Yon down on operating tables and killing their unborn children."
"As a Chinese woman, I know the horror and shame of forced abortion," said Shiu Yon Zhou. "And I beg Mr. Schaffer to not look the other way, and to apologize for being part of the problem. He calls himself pro-life, but how can he be when he is not outraged by Chinese forced abortion? That is worse than pro-choice."
Also sharing the event dais will be Colorado for Equal Rights' Kristi Burton, the putative leader of the group sponsoring the "egg as a person" ballot measure — the very issue that ignited Curtis-Schaffer kerfuffle.