At Issue: Sept. 26 — Tina Smith on reproductive rights; policing reform discussions in Washington

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Abortion is again becoming a hot-button political issue across the country and in Minnesota where, after a public announcement on Friday, a group of lawmakers have dedicated a new effort to “reproductive rights.”

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minnesota) told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that she is supportive of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s attempt to join a federal lawsuit against abortion ban laws in Texas and Mississippi. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the Mississippi case in December.

“Every person should have the freedom to make decisions for themselves about their own health, including their own reproductive lives, and whether or not they should have an abortion,” Smith said. “To think what’s happening in Texas with this law that the Supreme Court has refused to halt – it basically allows neighbors to go after neighbors in sort of a sense — a vigilante enforcement that I cannot believe is constitutional.”

Our political analysts weigh in on the abortion debate that’s again taking center stage in Minnesota and likely becoming a campaign topic for the Legislature and Gubernatorial races in 2022.

Shortly after state lawmakers announced the launching of a so-called “Reproductive Freedom Caucus,” former one-term state senator and Republican candidate for Governor, Scott Jensen, sent out a fundraising email that deemed it a “far-left abortion” group. Sens. Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) and Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), who are also running for governor, have previously outlined their anti-abortion stances.

In a wide-ranging one-on-one interview that aired on “At Issue with Tom Hauser,” Smith said the abortion ban law isn’t the only blow to Democrats in Washington. This week, Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) announced negotiations over any kind of police accountability bills that have fallen apart.

The Democrat-held U.S. House previously passed the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” which immediately hit a wall in the Senate — where Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris, hold a 51-50 advantage over Republicans. Smith said there was a “complete unwillingness among some” to make changes to policing in America.

“Minneapolis and Minnesota was really at the epicenter of a global movement for police reform and accountability with the murder of George Floyd. This is the kind of change that we have got to see so that everybody can be safe in their homes, in their neighborhoods and their communities,” she said, adding later: “But we also have to be realistic that, unfortunately, many in the Republican Party in Washington, D.C. just block these kind of reforms at every turn and that makes it really difficult to get done the kinds of changes that we need.”