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Minnesota

Fewer anti-abortion DFLers will remove barrier to entry protection – Duluth News Tribune

ST. PAUL – Now that the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has control of the House, Senate and Minnesota governor’s office, Democratic leaders say one of their top priorities is getting abortion rights protected into state law to codify access to the proceedings in a post Roe v. Wade US

But it wasn’t that long ago that there was no abortion majority even in the DFL House of Representatives. There were several Democratic lawmakers who were vocally opposed to abortion, all from rural counties outside of the Twin Cities Metro, which meant the 68 votes needed to pass protections codification legislation remained unattainable in the House of Representatives — itself after the DFL retook control from the Republicans in 2018.

Minnesota’s evolving political landscape, however, appears to be playing in favor of pro-choice advocates, who, due to voter reaction to the ending of state protections on abortion, have left the Roe v. Wade may well have secured majorities through the US Supreme Court.

Republicans made strides that year in rural DFL strongholds like the Iron Range in northeast Minnesota, where the handful of anti-abortion DFL opponents held seats. But despite some success in rural areas, they lost several seats in the House of Representatives in the Twin Cities suburbs, allowing the DFL to retain its majority but with fewer anti-abortionists in its faction.

House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, looks on for the media February 13, 2018 at the Minnesota State Senate building in St. Paul during a pre-legislative session.  Michael Brun / Forum News Service

House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, looks on during a pre-legislative session for the media at the Senate building in St. Paul in 2018.

Michael Brun/File/Forum News Service

The House is now 70-64 in favor of the DFL, and Speaker Melissa Hortman told reporters after the election that if the current results stand, she expects 69 votes to support legislation protecting access to abortion. Meanwhile, the DFL has also regained control of the Senate, increasing the likelihood of a bill ending up on Governor Tim Walz’s desk.

There is currently no law protecting abortion in Minnesota, although the Doe v. Gomez of the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1995 is constitutionally protected.

The last remaining DFL supporter in the House of Representatives who would oppose codifying abortion protections into legislation appears to be Winona’s Rep. Gene Pelowski, first elected in 1986, only one to be re-elected.

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State Assemblyman Gene Pelowski speaks during a reopening ceremony for the Winona Bridge July 1, 2019 in Winona.

Publish Andrew Link / File / Bulletin

“This corresponds to the decline of the DFL in the greater Minnesota area,” said Pelowski. “The Greater Minnesota DFL declined, as did lawmakers in the DFL, who were pro-life.”

Pelowski, chair of the House Higher Education Committee, remains after Dilworth DFL Rep. Paul Marquart retired and Northeast Minnesota Rep. Mary Murphy and Julie Sandstede lost to their GOP challengers this November.

Murphy’s race is being recounted as it was only 35 votes, but even if she wins the DFL would still be hitting their threshold if Hortman’s estimate is correct.

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Rep. Mary Murphy

Pelowski says his opposition to abortion is a personal value rooted in his Roman Catholic upbringing.

“You don’t see me giving speeches about it,” he said. “I grew up with that. And that’s why I’ve never really considered it a political value.”

It’s becoming increasingly rare for an elected DFLer to say such a thing, and the trend extends beyond the Minnesota legislature. As recently as 2010, Minnesota had two long-time Democratic congressmen who opposed abortion: Jim Oberstar in the northeast 8th district and Collin Peterson in the west 7th district. Oberstar lost to a Republican in 2010, and a decade later Peterson met the same fate.

Hamline University political science professor David Schultz, a longtime observer of Minnesota politics, said the state is consistent with national trends.

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Then-U.S. Senate candidate Walter Mondale (left) and U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar share a laugh at the start of a Mondale town hall meeting at the University of Minnesota Duluth November 2, 2002.

Derek Neas / Files / Duluth News Tribune

“I always tell people the best way to describe the change in Minnesota and national politics over the past 30 years is that in 1986 a pro-life Democrat Rudy Perpich won the election (as governor) by just four Years later, losing to a pro-choice Republican Arne Carlson. Would this political alignment ever take place today? Not a chance in the world.”

Minneapolis DFL Assemblyman Jamie Long, the new House Majority Leader, said characterizing abortion as a rural vs. urban or suburban issue doesn’t tell the whole story, as most Minnesotans oppose further restrictions.

“I think if you look at where the public is in Minnesota, they support reproductive rights by a wide margin across the state. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the subway or in the suburbs or in greater Minnesota,” he said. “So I don’t think the question is where in the state of Minnesota support reproductive rights? But we definitely see a polarization of the state parties.”

The DFL controlled the state government in 2013-2014, but why didn’t they act to enact abortion protections at the time? At this point, Roe v. Wade intact, meaning there were two layers of protection for abortion rights: one by the Minnesota Supreme Court and another by the US Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court wanted to weigh and basically bar you from doing whatever you wanted, at least if you were trying to restrict abortion,” Schultz said. “And I think some Democrats in harder swing districts that were more conservative, especially when Democrats still represented rural areas, I’d say, ok, I’m pro-life. And she probably lined that up like the top stars of the world.”

Now that state protections on abortion are gone, Democrats are scrambling to create additional lines of defense if the matter is overturned by a future state Supreme Court with judges appointed by a Republican governor (Minnesota last elected a Republican governor in 2006). , and most of the current judges were appointed by Democrats).

How would Minnesota codify access to abortion? Democrats have a few options now that they have complete control of state government.

One option would be passing legislation similar to the Protect Reproductive Options Act, a bill introduced in the 2021 legislative session that never gained traction due to impediments in the House of Representatives and Republican scrutiny in the Senate. This bill would enshrine the right to contraception, abortion and privacy into state law.

Another option for the legislature would be to send the question to voters by putting a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights on the ballot. Following the Supreme Court decision of Dobbs v. Jackson that brought down Roe earlier this year, Kansas, Kentucky and Montana had voting measures to limit abortion. All three failed. Voters in California, Michigan and Vermont approved all measures to create a constitutional abortion right.

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