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Collin Peterson: Abortion 'didn't used to be a partisan issue'

Minnesota Rep. Collin Petereson was one of a whopping two Democrats to sign onto this.

Minnesota Rep. Collin Petereson was one of a whopping two Democrats to sign onto this. Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

The U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade protects a person’s right to have an abortion. Another ruling in 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, upheld that right and strengthened it.

Last week, more than 200 members of Congress asked the Supreme Court of the United States to “reconsider” these two landmark cases in the form of a brief organized by the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life.

This all came about ostensibly because of a restrictive 2014 Louisiana abortion law that’s being held on ice until it can have its own day in court. That statute would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where they operate. If the Supreme Court allows it to take effect, providers say it would effectively shutter all but one clinic in the state.

Pro-choice advocates see this as an “undue burden” on reproductive health care providers, which is exactly the kind of thing Roe and Casey were trying to prevent. The brief filed Thursday “respectfully” suggests that in light of the Louisiana case, the court “again take up the issue of whether Roe and Casey should be reconsidered and, if appropriate, overruled.”

Time took a look at the 207 names attached to the brief and reported that of the 39 senators and 168 House members who signed on, 97 percent are men. A few of those names should sound familiar to us in particular: U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer, Jim Hagedorn, Collin Peterson, and Pete Stauber.

The reps' support is no surprise if you know their backgrounds. Emmer is a former state rep and conservative talk radio host and has long been vocally against abortion rights. On his 2020 campaign website, Stauber has promised to “support life from conception to natural death” and “always be a strong and constant voice for the right to life.”

Hagedorn has bragged about co-sponsoring a number of anti-abortion bills, including the straightforward “Defund Planned Parenthood Act” and “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” (Neither Emmer, Stauber, nor Hagedorn responded to interview requests.)

Peterson distinguishes himself as one of two Democrats to sign onto the brief. (The other is House Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois). It wouldn’t be the first time he’s bucked party lines on split issues. Most recently, he got a lot of bafflement and heat from his own party for voting against impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

When asked for comment, Peterson sent City Pages a very brief statement:

“What people don’t seem to remember is that being pro-life didn’t used to be a partisan issue,” he said. “I signed onto this amicus brief because I am pro-life.”

As Time points out, the Pew Research Center found that 61 percent of Americans (and 52 percent of Minnesotans, back in 2014) believe abortion should be legal in "all/most cases." But that hasn’t stopped 2019 from being a banner year for laws designed to make it harder to get them. That includes six states that attempted to outright ban abortion as early as six weeks into the pregnancy – before most people know they’re pregnant.

The Louisiana case will be the first major abortion case the Supreme Court will hear since Trump nominees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were confirmed.