COMMENTARY: Re-examine Utke’s idea of ‘new-found extremism’

Editor’s note: Both the Hubbard County DFL and Hubbard County Republicans are invited to write columns for the Enterprise’s Opinion page.


Sen. Paul Utke's recent Guest Commentary in the Enterprise detailed his concern with the Democrats’ “new-found extremism” and their priority to push an extreme social agenda. Let's take a look at the Democrats initiatives that are labeled “new-found extremism.”

Sen. Utke implies that the Democrats’ Protect Reproductive Actions Act will lead to a

massive expansion of abortion access, third-trimester and partial-birth abortions. This is just scare language.

The truth is that late term abortions at or after 21 weeks are uncommon and represent 1% of all abortions in the U.S. They usually involve women that more than likely were planning on giving birth but then experienced complications with either their health or the fetus, and in consultation with their healthcare provider made the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy. This could involve lethal fetal anomalies, meaning that the fetus may be nonviable and will almost certainly die before or shortly after birth.

In these cases, many individuals wish to terminate their pregnancies, rather than carrying the pregnancy until the fetus or newborn passes away. Because these pregnancies were desired make this decision exceedingly difficult for parents.


In addition, conditions may also develop later in pregnancy. These include conditions like newly diagnosed cancer requiring prompt treatment, and intrauterine infections that can be life-threatening for the woman.

In reality, this bill prevents interference by politicians who seek to enact or defend medically unnecessary barriers to comprehensive reproductive health care.

Next the senator warned us that drivers licenses for undocumented individuals should be alarming to every citizen in this state. Here are the facts.

There are many valid reasons for drivers licenses for undocumented individuals. Supporters say the bill would make Minnesota’s roads safer by allowing undocumented immigrants to drive legally, obtain insurance, and travel to get to jobs that keep Minnesota’s economy strong.

Law enforcement officials have expressed support of the bill. Stearns County Sheriff Steve Soyka stated, "The reality is that a majority of these parties are probably driving anyways for work purposes, and to have them properly licensed with proper training just increases the safety for everyone involved."

Even the “extremist” Minnesota Chamber of Commerce stated it supports the proposed legislation for workforce and public safety reasons: “Minnesota employers rely on immigrant workers to serve their customers. To do this safely, these workers should complete drivers’ license training, testing and licensing requirements, including securing insurance.”

Additionally, the Minnesota AgriGrowth Council, Minnesota Budget Project, Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, Minnesota Catholic Conference, and labor groups have expressed support. Supporters also touted how the bill would help alleviate labor shortages in the agriculture and food industries.

Lucas Sjostrom, executive director at the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, said many agricultural jobs require high skills, and many others are entry-level jobs that require hard work. “Our Minnesota economy relies on immigrant labor to fill many of these jobs,” he said, noting that this isn’t possible without stable transportation.


Then there is gun control. The senator said, “Any law that gives the government the authority to decide who can and cannot own a firearm is a massive overstep of its role.”

This statement was untimely, appearing just days after the latest mass shootings in the country, and part of the 40 mass shootings in the United States so far this year.

Sadly we may be beyond preventing future mass shootings and may have to accept this as a “normal” part of daily life in the United States. This is because the United States has more guns per capita than any other country in the world; an estimated 400 million guns are in civilian possession. But if we can somehow prevent or lessen the carnage of any mass shootings, shouldn't we be pursuing a way to do so?

Banning assault-style weapons, a semi-automatic gun designed for military use and quick and efficient killing, won't stop mass shootings. But could it reduce the amount of killing? Statistics clearly show this was the case when the ban was in effect for 10 years from 1994 to 2004. This was bipartisan legislation supported by both major parties.

So, Sen. Utke, please reconsider your statement and support a ban on assault weapons. Or are you prepared to tell your constituents that the sad reality is they can’t go to school or work or a house of worship or a nightclub or a movie theater or a music festival, or pretty much any public gathering, without fear of getting shot to death?

Communities that have experienced this horror have said they “did not think it could happen here.” But it did, and the sad reality is it could happen anywhere.

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