Handful of DFLers who oppose abortion could be key to DFL keeping MN House control


The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade last month. Democrats at the Minnesota Legislature are asking voters to elect a pro-choice majority to the Minnesota Capitol.

This request also includes the flipping of the Senate which is currently controlled by Republicans. It also involves changing the composition of the state House where the DFL has a narrow majority.

span style=”font weight: 400 We need a Democratic prochoice majority in Congress and we need it in the Minnesota House,” stated Melisa Lopez Franzen, Senate Minority Leader from Edina, during a June news conference after the Supreme Court’s decision. (Franzen will not be running for reelection in the fall. )

At least four House Democrats oppose the party’s views on abortion rights and support limits on the procedure.

Democrats both locally and nationally debate whether to include anti-abortion Democrats within its coalition or exempt them.

This question is relevant in Minnesota, where at most two anti-abortion legislators are in tough re-election battles in outstate areas that could be crucial to deciding control over the Legislature.

A stalled push for legislation regarding abortion

The 1995 case Doe-v. Gomez saw the Minnesota Supreme Court define a right to abortion access within the Minnesota Constitution. This is unaffected by the federal Roe decision. Democrats are pushing to eliminate state restrictions on abortion, many of which were overturned by a Ramsey County judge last Wednesday, and to make abortion a “fundamental” right.

These bills face fierce opposition from the Republican-led Senate. However, they have failed to pass the DFL -led House in recent times.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman is a Brooklyn Park Democrat. She said that her DFL majority in the House was too weak to pass any legislation to expand abortion access.

Four House Democrats supported legislation to regulate or limit abortion: Reps. Paul Marquart, Mary Murphy, Gene Pelowski, Julie Sandstede and Hibbing.

Murphy sponsored a Republican-led bill in 2019 to ban most abortions after 20 weeks .

Sandstede introduced a bill in 2019 that was co-sponsored jointly by Murphy and Marquart. It would require doctors to notify patients when they perform an ultrasonography before an abortion. let the patient see thespan styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>. Marquart was a sponsor of a 2020 bill that would limit state funding for abortions. Sandstede also proposed in 2019 the creation of “Choose Life,” license plates to fund alternative abortion programs. Similar bills were cosponsored by Pelowski in 2017 and 2018. They both dealt with ultrasounds and taxpayer-funded abortion.

In 2017, all four voted in favor of a bill that would have imposed new regulations and licensure requirements on abortion facilities. Most Democrats were against it. They also voted in favor of legislation on ultrasound viewing and the limitation on public funding for abortion. Both the Senate and House passed the bills, but they were vetoed in the Senate. Mark Dayton.

Tough elections ahead

The DFL controls 70 of the House’s 134 seats. This gives the party a six vote majority.

Despite political headwinds facing President Joe Biden, Republicans remain optimistic about their chances of capturing control of the House in November. This is due to rising inflation and other political headwinds. Many of the key battleground races are located in the Twin Cities suburbs. There are however a few important elections in Greater Minnesota that include at least two anti-abortion Democrats.

Sandstede was elected to her Iron Range seat by only 30 votes in 2020. She now faces incumbent Rep. Spencer Igo from Grand Rapids. Igo is a Republican who changed the district boundaries.

Gene Pelowski, Democratic State Representative, cosponsored similar bills related to taxpayer-funded abortion and ultrasounds in 2017 and 2018.

Murphy is currently in her 23rd term. She was first elected in 1976. She could be challenged by Natalie Zeleznikar, a Republican from the area which includes Two Harbors and Hermantown. This area has tended to favor Republicans during the Trump era. Joe Biden won 54 percent of Murphy’s vote in 2020, while Pete Stauber, a Republican U.S. Representative from the 8th Congressional District, narrowly won it.

Murphy has redrawn a larger area north from Hermantown, which stretches almost to Hoyt lakes.

Marquart has retired, so he will not be running for office. Pelowski, who was elected for the first time in 1986, was unopposed in both of his previous elections. His opponent is Republican Stephen James Doerr. However, his campaign does not appear to have a website.

The Abortion Policy doesn’t appear to be a major part of Murphy’s or Sandstede’s campaigns.

Sandstede did not respond to multiple requests for comment. However, her social media accounts didn’t mention the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe . Her campaign website does not include any information regarding her position on abortion.

Murphy pointed out that Minnesota’s abortion law has not been altered by the Supreme Court’s new ruling. She said that she is gathering information about this decision. She refused to comment on abortion policy, or explain her stance on it. Murphy stated that she had not read the PRO Act, DFL legislation codifying abortion access in state law.

State Rep. Julie Sandstede

Zeleznikar was the first candidate to run against Murphy. She stated that viability starts at conception.

Zeleznikar stated that abortion has been brought up on the campaign trail by some people, even those who believe there are guidelines or more restrictions. She said that Republicans are more open to having a discussion about reimposing limits on abortion and “defending the unborn child.” Zeleznikar thinks there could be a compromise. This would include restricting abortion during the second and third trimesters. She also stated that she would like to offer more support to women who decide to have a child.

Rep. Paul Marquart, State

She stated that rescue groups would do anything to save the puppies of a pregnant dog. She said, “Everyone of those puppies is born and they’re adopted out.” “The mom is not caring for the puppies, and we aren’t killing them.” That’s an interesting comparison of American life.

A changing DFL regarding abortion

Pelowski said that he prefers to ban abortion, except in cases where rape or incest is involved, or to protect the mother’s life. He stated that his views on abortion were established long before he was elected.

He said that every life matters. span: Every life is important

In Greater Minnesota, there were more anti-abortion Democrats when Pelowski was first elected. Since then, the party has gained strength in the metropolitan suburbs and lost most seats in rural areas other than regional centers like Duluth and Rochester.

Pelowski was asked whether his position on abortion helped or hurt his Winona District district. He said, “Look what’s left” of the DFL in Greater Minnesota since it has become “more intensely anti-choice.”

span style=”font weight: 400 ;”>” I believe this is one issue that has slowly wiped out DFLers being elected in Greater Minnesota.” he stated. Pelowski stated that he has hosted gatherings at his apartment with elected outstate Democrats for over 20 years.

He said, “I could probably hold them now”

Pelowski stated that he has been subject to backlash from his party over the issue. Pelowski said that he has faced backlash within his own party on the issue.

How do other Democrats see anti-abortion DFLers

Ken Martin, DFL Party Chairman, declined to comment. House Speaker Hortman didn’t criticize any anti-abortion Democrats.

MinnPost photo taken by Peter Callaghan
House Speaker Melissa Hortman

She stated that the Minnesota House DFL caucus was always “a big tent” and that Democrats have a Speaker who supports abortion access. And she also said that debates over new restrictions are kept from the House floor and governor’s desk.

Hortman stated that a Democratic majority is the best way to ensure Minnesotans have access to reproductive health care. They are an important part of the Democratic majority. They are the majority that allows us to protect Minnesotans’ right to reproductive health care .”

Hortman stated that the House DFL Campaign arm supports incumbent members who are endorsed by the party. All three were endorsed by Sandstede, Murphy, and Pelowski. She said that it was a state secret at the moment how much or little they engage in any one race.

Hortman said that Minnesota has no more abortion rights legislation than it does because there aren’t Republicans who support access to abortion. She stated that as Republicans lost suburban seats, they moved to the right and there are still suburban legislators in “prochoice districts”, which don’t reflect the voters. Murphy and Sandstede reflect their populations.

A House Republican spokesperson stated that no current members of Congress or GOP-endorsed candidates support abortion access. Dario Anselmo, a Republican from Edina, favored abortion rights in his capacity as a state representative. However, he was defeated by a Democrat in 2018.

John Hest, a Democrat and an academic advisor running to replace Marquart, supports abortion access and would vote in favor of the PRO Act. He stated that he has wrestled with the issue and wondered if Democrats should support pro-abortion candidates while compromising on a “fundamental issue of human rights” while also wanting to welcome people with strong religious views on abortion.

He said that the party had a broad coalition, and Democrats should be supported if they win endorsements or primaries.

His stance on abortion was described as span style=”font weight: 400 ;”>” I don’t know whether it will hurt or help me be honest.” Hest stated that he didn’t have the luxury of being squishy about the question of choice after Roe was reversed by the Supreme Court.

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