Anti-abortion group puts Rep. Andy Smith, of Rochester, in the crosshairs of abortion debate – Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER – It was Rep. Andy Smith’s first week in the Minnesota Legislature when he found himself in the “crosshairs” of the abortion debate.

The anti-abortion group Minnesota Right to Life released a video of Smith, a DFL newcomer to the Rochester legislature and an abortion rights supporter, with a gun crosshairs darting across the screen. When the bullseye focuses on Smith, the words “Target Locked” will appear on the screen.

Ben Dorr, the executive director of Minnesota Right to Life who made the video, follows Smith into an elevator and later down a hallway of the state office building. He bombards Smith with questions and accusations in the off.

“Why do you hate babies?” said Dörr. “Do you like ripping off arms and legs? Do you have children?”

“Life, Jesus gave us life,” says a woman’s voice.

“This is an angry pro-abortion advocate. baby killer. Do you have babies of your own?” Dorr said as Smith entered a restricted area of ​​the building.

Throughout the confrontation, Smith remains polite and undeterred, smiling once and saying simply, “I believe women and those who can become pregnant should be in control of their own bodies and their own medical decisions.”

In targeting Smith, Minnesota Right to Life singled out, perhaps unwittingly, someone who had researched and wrestled with the issue for years. It’s hard to imagine any lawmaker taking a wider range of viewpoints on the abortion issue than Smith.

A graduate of the Moody Bible Institute and Westminster Seminary California, Smith once dreamed of becoming a priest. He was as passionately opposed to abortion then as he is now in support of women’s right to have one.

Smith said his views began to evolve and change as he delved into the US Supreme Court’s decisions on the issue. On a more personal, searing level, his wife Anna’s miscarriage and the couple’s struggles with infertility prompted and deepened his in-depth exploration of the issue.

“While I wouldn’t wish the agony of infertility on anyone, it offers the best sex education available in our society today,” Smith wrote in a campaign article titled “Why I Changed My Mind About Abortion.”

Given his upbringing and education, Smith has a multitude of family members and friends who strongly oppose his support for abortion rights. But Minnesota Right to Life’s bare-knuckle tactics, Smith said, weren’t aimed at narrowing or emphasizing differences. They were primarily designed to “incite” and “foster outrage”.

“My mother-in-law, who is very pro-life, called me to say her Bible study group was praying for me,” Smith said. “Although they disagree with (his position), they prayed for my safety.”

On Tuesday, the emotional debate over abortion culminated when DFL Governor Tim Walz signed into law a “fundamental right” to access abortion and reproductive care in the state. Smith was present at the signing.

The right to abortion is enshrined in the state constitution by the Doe v. Gomez guaranteed by the 1995 Supreme Court. But after the US Supreme Court Roe v. Wade last summer, turning on its head a precedent dating back nearly half a century protecting abortion rights, lawmakers von Walz and the DFL made adding a layer of protection for abortion the top priority of the session.

State Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, was a target of the anti-abortion group, according to the Minnesota Reformer.

The confrontation with members of Right to Life in Minnesota came shortly after Smith emerged from a House Committee hearing on the abortion law. It was Smith’s first Thursday in the Legislature. At that hearing, Dorr vowed to expose and hold accountable anyone who voted in favor of the abortion law.

“We will never let the pro-life community forget this vote,” Dorr said. “Long after the fire dies out following the Roe vs. Wade fall, Minnesota Right to Life will be unmasking politicians in counties across the state for their pro-death votes.”

Post Bulletin’s attempts on Wednesday to reach the organization for comment were unsuccessful.

At the same hearing, Smith told the committee he fully supported the bill.

“We have defended a pregnant person’s ability to have their own physical autonomy to make important decisions without state interference,” Smith said of the bill. “We recognized the complexities faced by women and families and anyone who may become pregnant when making these difficult decisions.”

Ten years ago, fresh out of a bachelor’s degree in divinity, Smith had no doubt that human life began at conception and that abortion was always murder. He didn’t know anyone who didn’t believe like he did.

Smith said his thinking changed when he started reading Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage and abortion. His intention was to arm himself with arguments against their “faulty reasoning”. But he found himself agreeing with the court’s opinions.

Referring specifically to a person’s right to privacy, a valued conservative value, Smith said he was shocked that “some people wanted the government to make medical decisions for half the population.”

Smith said he was also struck by the lack of guidance or mention of abortion in the Bible. While the Ten Commandments are unequivocally condemning murder, they are relatively silent on the subject of abortion, Smith said. In fact, in one passage in Exodus, the author’s focus is on woman’s safety.

“The Bible has not been very clear on abortion and definitely not clear enough to support the stranglehold of anti-abortion voices in the evangelical community,” he wrote.

The issue became personal for Smith and his wife as the couple attempted to start a family. Her dreams seemed about to come true when she became pregnant. But during an emergency doctor’s appointment, an ultrasound showed there was no baby.

“The pain of a miscarriage is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Your grief is not based on something you lost, but on something you never had,” he said.

There was more bad news. The doctor told the couple that he could not find an embryo on the ultrasound and that it may still be in Anna’s fallopian tube. It’s called an ectopic pregnancy. The risk was that an embryo that was still growing could have ruptured the fallopian tube and risked his wife’s life.

It offered the couple a previously unimaginable option. To save his wife’s life, they might have to “deliberately kill a live embryo.”

In the end, the couple was spared a decision. They eventually learned that the embryo had died as a result of a miscarriage.

“As we mourned the loss, we struggled to integrate this new information that abortion was not evil in all circumstances, but was a life-saving treatment in many cases,” Smith said.

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