On Jan. 22, the 41st anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that held unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion to be unconstitutional — effectively legalizing abortion everywhere in the United States — former state Sen. Evie Hudak acknowledged the many strides that have been made over the years for women’s rights. But, she told members of the Colorado Reproductive Freedom Coalition — an umbrella organization consisting of a dozen pro-choice groups in the state — she believes sexism was partly to blame for her recent political predicament in which she felt compelled to resign her state senate seat rather than risk losing it in a recall election over her support of gun control legislation last year.
Hudak levied her allegations at a Coalition gathering at the Mercury Cafe in downtown Denver where she was being honored for her courage and integrity during her almost five years as a state senator.
Hudak, Democrat of Arvada, discussed the controversial comment she made to a rape victim who testified against House Bill 1226 to ban concealed-carry weapons from college campuses last year. The woman told the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee that had she been permitted to use her concealed-carry permit and carry her gun on campus, the incident may have ended differently.
But Hudak didn’t see it that way.
“I just want to say that, actually statistics are not on your side even if you had a gun,” Hudak said during the hearing. “And, chances are that if you would have had a gun, then he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you.”
Hudak quoted statistics from the Colorado Coalition Against Gun Violence that for every one woman who used a handgun to kill someone in self-defense, 83 were murdered by them.
Hudak’s comments sparked outrage and were described as insensitive to rape victims. Even though Hudak later apologized to the victim, her remarks set off a firestorm among conservatives and she was mocked in and out of the state. A recall petition was eventually launched by opponents of the legislation.
“I was made a pariah on national blogs,” Hudak recalled with disdain this week.
“I was verbally assaulted for months over saying that. The level of viciousness… and the vile, horrible bad language they used against me — they questioned my sexual identity and said I was too ugly to be raped,” Hudak recounted to the Coalition.
“They said maybe my daughter should be raped so I would understand why they should have a gun… [what] they said about me on social media, no one should have to endure. It made me realize that women in politics still face a difficult road,” Hudak said.
“I was not wrong to say that chances were better that [the] gun would be taken away from her because it’s true, it’s true,” Hudak said this week.
“I still maintain that guns are not the best protection for females on a college campus. I was not wrong.”
Former state Senate president John Morse, the El Paso County Democrat who was recalled over his similar stance favoring gun control legislation, never received such hateful emails and messages like she and former Sen. Angela Giron, another recalled Democratic senator, were forced to endure.
“Never!” Hudak emphasized to a crowd of sympathetic supporters on Wednesday night.
“There’s a whole sexist thing out there and women still aren’t taken as equal,” Hudak added.
“And the fight must go on.”
Hudak pointed out that serving in the state senate was a culimination of all the work she’s done over the years for women’s equality.
In fact, she said, she became a feminist “when I was pretty young, like nine. Even on the playground at elementary school, I was telling people why women are people.”
Hudak recounted her longtime membership in the League of Women Voters and other organizations that support women. She worked on the equal pay resolution, she said, and convinced her predecessor, former state Sen. Sue Windels, to carry a bill to create the equal pay commission.
When she served on the State Board of Education, Hudak said, there was some discussion on sex education and the distribution of condoms as a preventative measure. Democrats were in the minority on the board, she explained, but that didn’t keep her from speaking her mind. “I thought that would be a great idea. I’ve always spoken up for what I believe.”
Hudak said she also worked hard for parental involvement in schools, and is especially proud of the parental rights of rape victim’s bill “so women don’t have to deal with rapists and have full parental rights over their child.”
Hudak also pointed to legislation preventing the the shackling of pregnant women prisoners when they are in labor.
“Can you believe I had to explain to some people in the Department of Corrections that women in labor would not be a risk for running away, that you didn’t have to chain her to the bed? And even if she tried to run, which she wouldn’t,” Hudak said, she could be easily caught.