Reproductive rights have become a central focus in Minnesota's election season with several Republican candidates and lawmakers expressing support for abortion bans without exceptions for rape or incest.
An outgoing Minnesota lawmaker from Prior Lake is the latest Republican to draw ire over his stated beliefs on abortion.
Rep. Tony Albright's support of abortion bans with no exceptions aired Friday during his interview on the Minnesota politics podcast, Wrong About Everything.
"So I assume you're pro-life?" podcast host Javier Morillo-Alicea asks Albright.
"All the way, baby," Albright responds.
"And with no exceptions?" Morillo-Alicea asks.
"No exceptions," Albright replies.
The two spar over the issue for a moment, with Morillo-Alicea calling Albright's views "horrific" and Albright calling abortion the same.
Morillo-Alicea then points to the story of a 10-year-girl in Ohio who sought an abortion in Indiana. A 27-year-old man was later indicted in the rape of the girl.
Albright first claims the story is uncorroborated and then poses a question to Morillo-Alicea asking why an unborn baby should be “held accountable” for the actions of another person.
"Because a 10-year-old would have to go through a physically and psychologically scarring and traumatizing, traumatic event — a 10-year-old,” Morillo-Alicea says.
To which Albright responds, “that’s your opinion.”
A few moments later, Morillo-Alicea asks: "And so you believe that the 10-year-old should be required to, should be forced to carry that child to term? And give birth?"
"In this case, yes,” Albright responds.
Albright did not respond to Bring Me The News' requests for an interview.
After a decade in the House, Albright announced his retirement earlier this year and is not seeking re-election.
Bakeberg, principal at Jordan Middle School, is endorsed by the Scott County GOP, the party which notably endorsed Action 4 Liberty-backed newcomer Natalie Barnes over Sen. Eric Pratt in the newly-drawn Senate District 54.
Bakeberg agreed to be interviewed by Bring Me The News for this article, but he did not respond after a deadline was provided to do so — nor did he provide a written statement on his views on abortion.
Meanwhile, Van Alstyne and other progressive candidates in Scott County are condemning Albright's remarks.
Here's what Van Alstyne told Bring Me The News:
"The reason why the case of this little girl has gained national attention is because it highlights just how extreme anti-abortion laws are when applied to the lives of actual people. This little girl's case is hardly an outlier when so many individuals seeking an abortion are being subjected to the same hardships. She has suffered tremendously because of something she had no control over. For the state to require her to carry the child of her rapist, and with it the trauma of that event, is to prolong her suffering and to endanger her life. I couldn't imagine any case where having an abortion would be more clearly justifiable. To say that abortion is still unacceptable even in a case as horrible as hers is, frankly, evil. It is a view which can only arise out of hyper-partisan ideology, and such extremist policies will inevitably do more harm than good. Only by rooting our policy in compassion, reason, and understanding can we navigate issues as complex and polarizing as abortion. As Albright's replacement in the State House, I will defend Minnesota's status as a beacon of liberty to which all those in our neighboring states may find refuge from their own tyrannical governments."
Alicia Donahue, a clinical social worker and DFL'er in the Senate race overlaying Albright's district, said her career has brought her close to people's experiences of rape and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Politics is how we care for each other and it’s honestly appalling how he lacks any empathy for the child who was victimized in the most intrusive and horrendous way imaginable," she stated. "To expect that child - or anyone - to be forced to carry and give birth in a country with the highest maternal mortality rate, unaffordable healthcare, and child care that is inaccessible due to cost is simply inhumane and intolerable."
Abortion at the forefront
Michael Brodkorb, a political commentator and former Deputy Chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, said decades of established law through Roe v. Wade allowed conservatives to ride around with training wheels on when it came to talking about abortion.
"Those wheels are off now," he said.
And when it comes to the election, Brodkorb believes Republicans have weakened the advantage given to their candidates with issues of inflation and crime by making it easier for their political opponents to talk about abortion.
“I think it was fair to say that abortion wasn't on the ballot until Matt Birk and Scott Jensen, and to some degree Tony Albright, started talking this way about it," he said.
The state's largest anti-abortion organization, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, worded their stance on no-exceptions abortion bans like this:
"We think unborn children deserve protection and their moms deserve support. We work with legislators to craft legislation that will save as many babies' lives as we can," stated Paul Stark, the organization's communications director. "While we do not think abortion is the best solution in horrible circumstances like rape and incest, we understand the legislative process and work with lawmakers to pass the protections for unborn children that are possible, which may include exceptions."
Brodkorb said Albright had long been seen as a potential candidate for state or federal office – something Brodkorb believes will be a challenging prospect for the politician now.
“These are not 'gotcha' moments," he said. "These are Republican candidates standing in front of a microphone and openly talking about their views.”