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Letter: North Dakota media pundits aren’t listening to women

Lana Rakow and Charlene Rawson respond to coverage of Mark Haugen's decision to drop out of the U.S. House race.

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Apparently some media pundits in North Dakota don’t care much how women in North Dakota feel and what they think. The coverage and commentary they are disseminating about Mark Haugen’s decision to leave the U.S. House of Representatives race show how little they understand this new political landscape with angry women in it.

When columnists and editorial writers are dismissive of “one issue” taking center stage in North Dakota politics, it's because they don’t get or don’t care how much reproductive freedom and access to reproductive health care matter. Lives literally are at stake.

When they are self-righteous in condemning one party for its unwillingness to compromise, they really are saying women should just suck it up. Never mind that Republicans won't compromise. Too bad if North Dakota doesn’t send representatives to Washington to represent them at one of the most critical junctures in the history of reproductive rights and of freedom from government interference in our private lives.

When they smugly point out dissent in the Democratic-NPL Party, they ignore the large swath of the party that has felt silenced about abortion rather than jeopardize one of its candidates. They look the other way about the chaos in the state Republican Party caused by the entrance of a third independent candidate into the U.S. Senate race.

When they accuse members of the Democratic-NPL Party of having extremist views on abortion, they forget that over 64% of voters in North Dakota in 2014 rejected the Republican’s extremist “personhood” amendment to the North Dakota Constitution. They ignore the fact that state Republicans moved forward anyway with a trigger ban making abortion illegal. They seem unaware that the Republican Party across the country has rushed to implement the most draconian measures imaginable, criminalizing medical care and endangering lives.

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When they opine that the party should listen to its constituents and what they care about, they are oblivious to voters saying they care about reproductive freedom. The North Dakota Dem-NPL Party at its 2022 convention in March adopted a platform that supports access to reproductive health care. This mainstream position is in keeping with a majority of North Dakotans and the rest of the country.

Mark Haugen was endorsed as a candidate for the U.S. House at that same convention. Individual candidates might not support every part of the party’s platform. That is their right. But candidates also face the consequences of their positions. In this case, the situation changed dramatically. Despite assurances by the Republican- nominated justices to the contrary, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the Dobb’s decision overthrowing fifty years of established case law decided by Roe v. Wade in 1973. Then a pro-choice independent candidate announced her intention in North Dakota to file for the U.S. House seat.

Haugen left the race when the numbers to victory were clearly not in his favor in a three-way contest, listening to seasoned members of his party. It was obviously not an easy decision, but he did the right thing by stepping aside.

Now there is a two-way race for the House between Cara Mund, an Independent, and the incumbent Kelly Armstrong, a Republican. The Senate seat has a three-way race between Democrat Katrina Christiansen and Republican John Hoeven and Independent Rick Becker. Now there is a clear choice for North Dakota women and others who care about keeping the government out of their medical decisions and doctors’ offices. One candidate for each office supports codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law, Christiansen and Mund. The others, if seated in the U.S. House or Senate, will vote against protecting individual freedom and vote in favor of federal measures that would codify Republican extremism. These votes by North Dakota’s senators and representatives couldn’t be more crucial.

It’s time North Dakota’s media take a deep breath and ask themselves who they listen to. Maybe they should be listening to the majority of voters who don’t support Republican extremism on abortion. Maybe they should be listening to the majority of the Dem-NPL party that adopted the common sense solution of advocating access to reproductive health care in its platform at the March convention.

Maybe they should be listening to women across the state who are alarmed and angry about the Supreme Court’s decision and the North Dakota GOP’s extremism. Maybe they are the ones who should be listening to their constituents.

Lana Rakow lives in West Fargo, and Charlene Rawson lives in Lisbon, N.D.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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