ST. PAUL — Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson broke with the majority of his party this week when he signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its decision in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion access.
The full delegations of North Dakota and South Dakota, along with most Minnesota and Wisconsin Republicans signed onto the brief. And Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat, was just one of just two non-GOP lawmakers to support the reconsideration of the precedent.
In all, 207 members of Congress, 39 senators and 168 members of the House of Representatives, on Thursday, Jan. 2, signed onto national anti-abortion group Americans United for Life's amici brief defending a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions in the state to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles from the facilities where they administer the procedures.
“What people don’t seem to remember is that being pro-life didn’t used to be a partisan issue," Peterson told Forum News Service in a statement Friday. "I signed on to this Amicus Brief because I am pro-life.”
The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion access across the country and the court has since maintained that women have the right to access abortion services in subsequent rulings with some limitations. One of the most recent of these in 2016 struck down a Texas law that required physicians who administer abortions to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and created a "balancing test" to determine whether state restrictions on abortion go too far.
But that decision left an "overly subjective 'balancing' test, leading to confusion among Congress and state legislatures alike as to which laws might withstand constitutional scrutiny," the law's supporters said in the brief.
And now, the Supreme Court should take another look at the issue to set a clearer standard for which restrictions on abortion will be allowed and which create too strong of a deterrent in accessing abortion services.
"(Planned Parenthood v.) Casey clearly did not settle the abortion issue, and it is time for the Court to take it up again," lawyers representing Americans United for Life wrote in the brief.
Regional Sens. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., John Thune, R-S.D., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., signed onto the brief along with U.S. Reps. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., Tom Emmer, R-MN06, Glenn Grothmann, R-WI06, Jim Hagedorn, R-MN01, Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., Jim Sensenbrenner Jr., R-WI05, Pete Stauber, R-MN08 and Brian Steil, R-WI01.
Peterson and Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois were the two Democrats to sign onto the brief.
The filing comes roughly a month after nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress signed onto a brief voicing their opposition to the Louisiana law and support for abortion providers practicing in the state. Among area lawmakers that signed on were Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Reps. Ron Kind, D-WI03, Betty McCollum, D-MN04, Gwen Moore, D-WI04, Ilhan Omar, D-MN05, and Mark Pocan, D-WI02.
Lawyers representing the group of lawmakers said the Supreme Court should strike down the Louisiana law and reverse an appellate court's ruling to ensure women in that state are able to receive safe reproductive health care.
"This Court’s precedent and the rule of law should prevail," they wrote in the brief, "and the rights established by the Constitution, as upheld by this Court, must be respected across the entire nation."
The Supreme Court is expected to take up the challenge to the Louisiana law in March.