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SE Minnesota legislators weigh in on possible end of Roe

It would energize voters, but it's how unclear how much the benefit would be.

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Rep. Liz Boldon, Rep. Steve Drazkowski, Rep. Gene Pelowski, Sen. Carla Nelson.
Paul Battaglia
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ROCHESTER — If Roe v. Wade is struck down by the Supreme Count, as a leaked draft majority opinion suggests it will be, the state’s politics will be changed and bring more energized voters to the polls, area legislators said.

But the political shakeout is far from clear, even though DFL Gov. Tim Walz’s “not on my watch” rallying cry underscores the strong visceral response from DFL political leaders opposed to the end of Roe.

“This is Bull----,” said U.S. Sen. Tina Smith on Twitter.

If the landmark 1973 ruling is overturned, it would return the issue to state legislatures to decide.

For half a century, the right of a woman to seek an abortion has been an enshrined constitutional guarantee supported by the vast majority of state Democratic legislators. And the prospect of that right being stripped away at the federal level has Democrats vowing to man the barricades.

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“I think it wasn’t necessarily unexpected, but I think it’s absolutely concerning,” said Rep. Liz Boldon, DFL-Rochester, who is also a nurse. “As somebody with a background in health care, I recognize the danger that it brings to women. It underscores the need for us as a state to continue to be sure that women have access to the care they need.”

To be sure, Minnesota’s Doe v. Gomez case also establishes abortion as a constitutional right at the state level, so the end of the Roe would not affect Minnesota as much as other states. North Dakota and South Dakota, for example, are among 13 states with laws that would trigger almost total bans on abortion if Roe is overturned.

State Rep. Steve Drazkowski, a conservative Republican from Mazeppa, called the draft opinion — if it indeed does signal the end of Roe — a “good thing.”

Drazkowski has supported proposals ending public financing of abortion, as well as a bill modeled after the one in Texas that bans abortion once a “fetal heartbeat” is detected.

“The last time I checked, there is not an enumeration in the U.S. Constitution that says that the federal government, not to mention the courts, are supposed to dictate abortion policy,” Drazkowski said. “We should let the people decide in their respective states.”

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Drazkowski said the leaked opinion would likely energize Democrats at a time when many are feeling despondent about the midterm elections. A slew of seats are up for election this fall, from governor to federal and state Senate and House seats. A special election is also being held to elect a representative to serve out the term of the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn.

“I think there’s some Democratic voters that are not very energized right now. I think this may energize them, where Republican voters are very energized right now,” Drazkowski said.

If the draft opinion captures the thinking of a majority of justices, it would lead to an overturning of federal constitutional protections contained in both Roe and a subsequent 1992 decision — Planned Parenthood v. Casey — that maintained that right for half a century.

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“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Justice Samuel Alito writes in the draft opinion obtained by Politico. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

Steven Schier, a political analyst and retired political science professor from Carlton College, called the leaking of the draft an “extraordinary breach of security, probably the biggest in the history of the Supreme Court.” But he was less certain how much the disclosure would upend the politics of the 2022 election season.

“If it had come out in the summer, it was going to be a bombshell anyway,” Schier said. “It may be that this gets baked into the cake a bit earlier than we thought. It’s not obvious to me that it would actually amp up the effect, as opposed to if it came out in the summer.”

State Rep. Gene Pelowski, a pro-life Democrat from Winona, predicted the end of Roe would have an impact.

“I don’t know if any party benefits,” Pelowski said. “You’d have more people voting, but I’m not sure how that would fall out.”

State Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, said she was less inclined to speculate on the political impact until a decision by the Supreme Court is actually issued, which is expected some time in July.

“I’m actually waiting to see what is or is not the Supreme Court decision right now,” said Nelson, who is pro-life. “I think it’s a lot of hypotheticals driven by political motives, quite frankly.”

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or mstolle@postbulletin.com.
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