Tuesday morning few people knew of JoAnn Windholz, the Colorado Republican state representative from Commerce City.
By Tuesday afternoon, she had made headlines nationwide after The Colorado Independent reported that she had blamed Planned Parenthood, and apparently not the shooter, for inciting the rampage on its Colorado Springs clinic last week.
Windholz, a first-term legislator, defeated incumbent Democrat Rep. Jenise May for the House District 30 seat in November, 2014. Windholz won by just 106 votes.
Her key priorities, according to her website, are education, healthcare, energy, and job creation and economic growth. Opposition to abortion or Planned Parenthood aren’t listed in those key priorities, nor are they included in her website’s section on important issues.
In fact, you won’t find the words “pro-life,” “anti-abortion” or even “family values” anywhere on her website.
But those values play an important role in who she is.
In her first session, Windholz sponsored four bills, two which made it to the pen of Gov. John Hickenlooper. Those included a bill banning the sale of powdered alcohol and another that amended a state corporations act to allow electronic signatures.
Windholz kept her strong positions on abortion to herself during her first year in office. The only time the public was given a hint was in her co-sponsorship of an anti-abortion bill early in the session, HB 1112. That bill, sponsored by Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, would require doctors who perform late-term abortions to take all medically-appropriate steps available to “preserve the life of a born-alive infant” who had been aborted.
After her Tuesday remarks blaming Planned Parenthood for the attack, what seems most strange about her voting record is the long list of anti-abortion bills she did not sponsor.
Windholz’s website listed a number of “bills of consequence” tied to the abortion issue, including Senate Bill 15-268, by Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, a fetal homicide bill which Democrats said would have created a personhood statute in Colorado. Windholz wasn’t a sponsor.
Another bill, HB 1041, would have defined life as beginning at conception. Windholz didn’t attach her name to that one, either.
Finally, Windholz wasn’t on the list of co-sponsors on HB 1162, which would prohibit sex-selective abortions.
She did co-sponsor 11 bills on economic development and first responder issues, ten of which the governor signed.
So where does her opposition to Planned Parenthood stem from?
Windholz is a past president of Crusade for Life Colorado, according to her LinkedIn profile.
The national organization was founded by Donald Smith, who produced the gruesome 1983 anti-abortion documentary “Silent Scream.”
Windholz has kept her anti-abortion views close to the vest, so her remarks this week came as a surprise to some in her district. But they weren’t a surprise to former opponent May, who told The Colorado Independent Windholz expressed “strident” opposition to abortion in an October 2014 campaign debate hosted by 9 to 5 Colorado.
But outside of that, Windholz was pretty much silent on the issue, May said.
Similarly, in that 2014 low-key election, her campaign finance reports don’t show contributions from known anti-abortion organizations. Her biggest individual donors? Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and his wife, Michelle; and now state GOP party chair Steve House.
Her largest campaign donation of $2,000 came from the Colorado Medical Society, the state’s largest physician organization. Calls and emails to the society’s lobbyist and CEO were not returned.
During the campaign, Windholz completed a survey for the Colorado Family Institute, which promotes Christian values on family, marriage, religious freedom and education.That survey asked for her position on the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, which she said she opposed. A second question asked her position on whether abortion providers should make ultrasounds available to women seeking an abortion, which she said she supported.
Her under-the-radar approach on the issue appears to have ended when the Center for Medical Progress released its videos earlier this year.
Windholz was one of 22 House Republican signatories to an August letter to Dr. Larry Wolk of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That letter asked Wolk to investigate whether Colorado Planned Parenthood facilities violate state or federal laws specifically related to the Center for Medical Progress videos. She later attended the all-day November 9 hearing, held by the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, an unofficial body of the legislature’s most conservative members. Windholz told The Independent Monday she was only there during the afternoon portion of the hearing.
Windholz’s comments on the Planned Parenthood shooting have stunned some in her community.
John Myers of Commerce City is one of two Democrats who have filed to challenge Windholz for the November 2016 election.
He said Tuesday that in the wake of such unimaginable horror, many are left to ask “why” and seek answers. “What we cannot do is blame the victims” as Windholz did. Words matter, Myers said, and her words show that she does not represent the overwhelming majority of the people of House District 30.
Democrat Dafna Michaelson Jenet, who also has filed to run against Windholz, lives in the same north Commerce City neighborhood. She’s spoken to Windholz several times since deciding to run.
“I was rendered speechless and frankly a little sick,” Michaelson Jenet told The Independent today. “It was a side of her I had not seen in public. I wouldn’t have guessed she made that statement.”
Many people in the district have economic need, and Planned Parenthood serves that need, Michaelson Jenet said, particularly in the rural parts of the district near Aurora where access to healthcare may be limited. In response to Windholz’s remarks, Michaelson Jenet issued a statement of her own Tuesday, expressing support and sympathy for the victims of the Planned Parenthood shooting as well as for Planned Parenthood itself.
Windholz filed to run for re-election for her House District 30 seat last August. When called for comment today, she hung up on this reporter.
This story was originally published by The Colorado Independent.