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On abortion, Stauber, Schultz vary widely

Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the issue has become central to the midterm election.

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Pete Stauber, left, and Jen Schultz
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DULUTH — When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, ending the constitutional right to an abortion, the future of the procedure became central in the run-up to next month’s midterm elections.

And the candidates running for Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District — U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican from Hermantown, and state Rep. Jen Schultz, a Democrat from Duluth — couldn’t be further apart on the issue.

Stauber has long said he’s a staunch opponent of abortion rights, vowing in his January reelection campaign announcement to “advocate for the unborn.” He also celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June.

Meanwhile, Schultz has said she supports abortion rights and, if elected, would support codifying Roe at the federal level. She has also made this issue central to her campaign, running advertisements on streaming services and Facebook contrasting her and Stauber's positions.

Democrats across the country have capitalized on the issue, hoping it will galvanize midterm voters. It’s unclear what effect the overturning of Roe will have on the outcome of the 8th District race, which Stauber is heavily favored to win.

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According to a KSTP/SurveyUSA poll , 45% of respondents in Northeastern Minnesota “disagreed” with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, while 36% agreed with it. The remaining 19% were “not sure.” Across the state, 50% of respondents disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision, while 31% agreed with it and 19% were not sure, the poll said.

Stauber’s position

In 2018, then-candidate Stauber wrote an opinion piece for Fox News on World Down Syndrome Day headlined “My child has Down syndrome and I do not need your admiration” about his son, Isaac, then 15. He was responding to a column by Ruth Marcus, Washington Post deputy editorial page editor, who wrote, “I would’ve aborted a fetus with Down syndrome. Women need that right.”

“I am pro-life,” Stauber wrote. “I support life from conception to natural death and I will fight the rhetoric that one person’s life is not worthy just because they are not what we thought we wanted.”

And once in the House, he co-sponsored a bill that would have made it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion if the fetus has a detectable heartbeat and he voted against bills that would have brought back federal protection for abortion, effectively codifying Roe.

But he hasn’t been consistent on what role the federal government should play in restricting abortion.

Stauber, who in June said the U.S. Supreme Court correctly ended federal abortion rights by giving states the decision-making power on abortion, is co-sponsoring a bill that would nationally ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

After the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned Roe v. Wade, Stauber issued a statement celebrating the decision, saying it would protect the unborn and “this decision also returns decision-making power back to elected officials in states as intended.”

But now he’s one of 84 Republicans to co-sponsor the House’s version of the bill that would federally ban abortion after 15 weeks.

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The News Tribune last month asked Stauber why he would support a federal bill to restrict abortion when he previously said it should be dealt with at the state level. Eli Mansour, Stauber’s spokesperson, sent a statement in response: “Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi have done nothing to stop the extreme position of abortion until birth, which a majority of Americans do not support. I have and will continue to defend the lives of the unborn."

Only 1.3% of abortions take place after 21 weeks of pregnancy, according to an estimate by the Guttmacher Institute. A fact check by the Washington Post called Republican claims of Democratic support of abortion "up to the moment of birth" were "disingenuous at best" because abortions so late in a pregnancy were rare and "when they do happen, they often involve painful, emotional and even moral decisions."

Additionally, the Women's Health Protection Act of 2022, which had the support of President Biden and House Speaker Pelosi, would prevent states from restricting abortion before fetal viability but would allow states to restrict health care providers from providing abortions after fetal viability only if there's an exception for the patient's life or health, according to the bill summary. Fetal viability is generally considered to occur 24 weeks into a pregnancy.

Schultz’s position

When Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, Schultz said the Supreme Court’s “decision is wrong and will harm millions of people.”

“It is a fundamental right of every person to make their own health decisions with their doctor, not politicians,” she said in a statement at the time.

In an interview with the News Tribune, Schultz said, if elected, she would support codifying Roe v. Wade at the federal level.

She also added that there should be more funding “in science to reduce unwanted pregnancies.”

“We need to move to a place where we can eliminate unwanted pregnancies,” Schultz said. “Abortion still may be needed for certain medical procedures.”

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Representing eastern Duluth in the Minnesota House since 2015, Schultz in May was added as an author to a bill that would guarantee the “fundamental right” to continue a pregnancy or get an abortion and to “choose or refuse” contraception, sterilization and other reproductive care.

She also voted against a bill in 2017 aimed at limiting funding from state-sponsored health programs being used for abortions.

“We need to make sure doctors are making the health care decisions with their patients,” Schultz said. “There’s no role for a politician there.”

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.
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