Maureen Reed offers vague positions on abiding and abortion

AUDIO: Eric Black interviews 6th Congressional District candidate Dr. Maureen Reed

Dr. Maureen Reed, candidate for both the DFL and Independence Party endorsements for Congress in the 6th District, will not say whether she will abide by the endorsement process, says that on abortion it would be inaccurate to characterize her as either pro-life or pro-choice, and is unwilling to express a preference among the various ways to get to universal health care.

Dr. Maureen Reed
Dr. Maureen Reed

In the wake of the departure from the race this week of former Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, Reed of Stillwater is one of two candidates seeking the DFL endorsement and nomination to run against Republican incumbent Rep.  Michele Bachmann

The other candidate, state Sen. Tarryl Clark, has pledged to abide by the DFL endorsement process. I plan to publish an interview with her shortly. Clark also has a clear position on abortion policy. But I have been trying for several days to learn Reed’s thinking on those questions.

Reed on abiding

Wednesday, Reed’s spokester, Leslie Sandberg, released to the media a statement responding to questions about Reed’s position on endorsement abiding but, as you can see below, it’s a non-position:

“Here’s what I know — Maureen is actively seeking the DFL endorsement for the 6th Congressional District. She is also seeking cross-endorsement from the Independence Party. Maureen and the campaign have called hundreds of DFL delegates already and are excited to keep reaching out to them.

“In terms of whether or not she will abide — this is being pushed by supporters of Clark and Tinklenberg who want Maureen to make a statement on abiding by the endorsement.  Why? Well, only they can really answer that question, but we believe the fact that Maureen has raised funds far north of $230,000 has made the other campaigns stop and realize she is an extremely viable candidate.

“Therefore to answer your question about whether or not she abides,  this is where we are and this is what we know to be true — Maureen is actively working for and pursuing the DFL endorsement.”

After reading that statement, I was able to directly discuss the question with Reed again. The full audio of that discussion, which also covered the abortion issue, is below. See if you can figure out her position. Here’s what I got, in response to the question, will you abide by the DFL endorsement process or, if you don’t get the endorsement, are you reserving the right to run in a primary against the endorsee?:

“We’re going to get the endorsement. That is the plan. That is what we’re aiming at and that is where we’re focused… You can say that we’re planning to get the endorsement. All of our efforts are focused on that.”

Just as a hypothetical, on the chance that you don’t get endorsed?

“I’m not going to hypothesize. We’re going after the endorsement. That’s the goal.”

I may have made a little more progress on the related question of whether Reed could end up on the ballot as the Independence Party candidate. Reed is seeking the IP endorsement. In 2006, the IP endorsed the DFL endorsee in two congressional races, including the 6th. But the IP members are now discussing among themselves whether they are still open to cross-endorsing or whether they will insist on endorsing real IP-ers. Reed has a significant prevous IP connection. In 2006, she was the IP’s nominee for lieutenant governor. If she is not the DFL nominee, she could still, theoretically or at least legally, appear on the ballot as the IP nominee. But in our interview yesterday, she said:

“I would not run on the IP line. I’m DFL. And that’s the line that I’ll be on.”

This sorta repeats the position that she doesn’t have to discuss the hypothetical situation in which she is not on the DFL line, but perhaps the first short sentence is clear enough to be a commitment.

Reed on abortion

In a previous conversation, I asked Reed for her abortion position, but she was willing to talk only about the importance of preventing unwanted pregnancies and other measures to reduce the number of abortions, but when I pressed for a basic “pro-life” or “pro-choice” statement (as those terms are commonly used),  she deferred her answer to another day. Because the 6th District has the highest pro-life index of any Minnesota Congressional district, I asked again yesterday, and this time, Reed went further.

She is not looking to have Roe v. Wade overturned.  But she seems in some way to believe that abortions can be justified only to save the life or health of the mother, which is not what Roe v. Wade holds, at least during the early stages of a pregnancy. She rejects the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” saying she is neither. She is “pro-health and pro-prevention.” Here’s the first go-round, and you can listen to the tape if you want the full discussion:

“I come at this from a doctor’s perspective, Eric, as a doctor. I know that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and I’m not looking to overturn it. This procedure [now that I review the transcript, I note that Reed avoids using the word “abortion”] should be used to preserve the health and save the life of the mom and I don’t believe the government should be in the doctor’s office saying what that means…

“The ideological terms, pro-choice, pro-life don’t begin to describe the complexity of this moral and medical issue… It would be inaccurate to label me in either one of those ways. What would be accurate is to say I’m pro-health and pro-prevention.

“Maybe it’s the time for a new perspective on this. Maybe it’s a time for us to get away from simplistic labels and get down to the real complexity of the medical and moral issues around this.”

I did suggest to Reed that for those single-issue voters who consider themselves pro-life, her acceptance of Roe v. Wade may place her in unacceptable territory.  I’m not really sure what distinctions she is drawing because of her statement about keeping the government out of the issue, but her statement that abortion is acceptable only when necessary for the life or health of the mother makes her something other than pro-choice. But this was as much as I could ascertain.

Reed on universal health care

Because she is a physician and because she is emphasizing health issues, I asked her for her position on the various controversies surrounding the Obama administration and Congressional health care bills. She favors cost containment and universal coverage, but as to the best way to achieve those goals, she was non-committal:

“The goals that I would have are that we have to get expenses under control, cut the cost of administration and care. And we have to cover everybody. We need universal coverage and we need lower costs. And there are a lot of ways to accomplish those goals.

“People get so wedded to a particular method that they forget about the goal that we’re trying to achieve. People wind up with their feet in wet cement on their method, that my method trumps your method. To me the only thing that counts is that we fix it.”

If she has to choose, Reed said, she favors: “Whatever you can get through.”

AUDIO: Eric Black interviews 6th Congressional District candidate Dr. Maureen Reed

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Comments (26)

  1. Submitted by David Joseph De Grio on 08/06/2009 - 09:29 am.

    Maureen’s position on abortion is similar to many peoples’ opinion: the issue, to us, isn’t whether abortion should be allowed or banned, the issue is about how we can reduce the need for abortions. I personally think that abortion is an atrocious act, however, I do not believe the government should be making this decision for people. We must educate people on how to reduce unwanted pregnancy and encourage abortion seekers to consider the options of adoption or find ways to help support the women if they decide to keep the baby. Saying one is Pro-choice or pro-life makes it a black and white distinction, when really the issue is more gray than anything.

  2. Submitted by Susan Rego on 08/06/2009 - 09:46 am.

    Eric, in the first paragraph after “Reed on abiding” did you mean to say Leslie Sandberg is Reed’s spokester?

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/06/2009 - 10:04 am.

    Of course, Independence candidates don’t have to worry about being elected and actually doing something, so they can stay with vague generalities (yes, Jesse was the exception that tested the rule).

  4. Submitted by Roger Buoen on 08/06/2009 - 10:12 am.

    Fixed. Thanks, Susan.

  5. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 08/06/2009 - 10:35 am.

    I would like to know Reed’s stance on Gay rights. Abortion may be a big issue in this race but so will LGBT rights….

    As far as abortion issue is concerned. It’s insulting that so many (espccially men) think women are not capable of making intelligent decisions conderning their own health care; and yes reproduction is a part of a woman’s health care.

  6. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 08/06/2009 - 10:45 am.

    For a candidate whose supporters tout her health care expertise, she sure says a whole lot of nothing about health care–which includes abortion–in this interview. In fact, her response on abortion sounds an awful lot like Tinklenberg’s–and you know how that sat with the pro-choice crowd.

    Ditto for her dancing around the endorsement question.

    Other than her initial fund-raising efforts, which will not likely be sustained in the next couple of quarters if you note the source of her early contributors, Reed hasn’t given me much reason to consider her a viable candidate.

  7. Submitted by myles spicer on 08/06/2009 - 10:48 am.


    If anything this country needs clarity and direction. The hunger for that was seen in the Presidential election, and Reed’s equivocation along with the Blue Dogs’ waffling is not going to take us to a new plateau in governance.

    The greatest loss Minnesota (and the possibly the nation)ever had politically in recent times, was the untimely death of Paul Wellstone. He was clear on EVERYTHING

  8. Submitted by Peter Vader on 08/06/2009 - 11:09 am.

    At the risk of piling on…yeah. Obvious non-loyalists like Reed are going to be the first tossed overboard come the DFL convention.
    Doesn’t mean she can’t pollute an important race again.

    As off-putting as Dr. Reed’s “Mike Hatch just wants to sue everybody” third party sanctimony was in 2006, the 2009-2010 incarnation is even less appealing. Okay, so there’s many competing and possibly valid health care reform solutions, you could at least articulate some understanding of the specific issues. “Just fix it.”?? Ugh.

  9. Submitted by Tommy Johnson on 08/06/2009 - 11:26 am.

    Dr. Reed is a fine person, and a wonderful candidate. I’m glad she made the committment to the DFL and unequivocably stated she would stand with the party to make sure Michelle Bachmann can return to private industry and earn a living as a tax lawyer.

    But, then again, Bachmann might just go through the revolving door, and become a lobbyist. Whatever.

    The important thing, is Dr. Reed is going to help ensure that Bachmann won’t be “featured” on Olbermann after January 2011, anymore.

  10. Submitted by Jay Hamner on 08/06/2009 - 12:02 pm.

    Here’s the deal: it’s a politician’s job to be vague on topics like this. It’s up to the voter to sort through the mess and figure out what the candidate can offer based on experience and credentials.

    Keeping that in mind, I think Reed would bring a better perspective on healthcare than Clark, simply because she has that experience as a doctor and VP of HealthPartners at her disposal. You don’t need an interview to know that.

    As far as abortion, how does a US Representative play ANY real role in overturning Roe v. Wade? I’m sorry but anyone who makes that a key decision in their vote needs to learn some things about how the government works.

    So for now my allegiance lies with the experience of Reed but there’s still a long way to go and we’ll see if she can keep up the high fundraising pace.

  11. Submitted by Sheila Ehrich on 08/06/2009 - 12:17 pm.

    I tend to agree with Dr. Reed that the priority should be to reduce the number of abortions. However, my biggest concern is not with abortion, but what happens to disabled babies and families with disabled kids who go ahead and have a disabled baby and not an abortion. The pro-life people seem very insistant that even the most deformed child should be born, but they are no where to be seen when it comes time for funding for care for these kids and their families – medical and care-wise.

    If we want people to make the choice to go ahead and have a disabled child, there should at least be a safety net for the child and for the family. Look at how many families lost care assistance when Pawlenty got done making his cuts. And Bachmann’s own stance on promoting research on hydrocephalis, but not being willing to fund it is a prime example of the position of far too many pro-lifers.

    The excuse that there is funding for abortion in the bills that would fund research is just an excuse not to vote for it and to excuse oneself from having to find funding for research, care assistants, respite care, etc.

    Maybe if we focused on the care end of it there would be at least some drop in the number of abortions.

  12. Submitted by Kyle Willems on 08/06/2009 - 12:23 pm.

    Maureen did not ‘dance around the endorsement question.’ She made it quite clear, she is actively pursuing the DFL endorsement, and never mentioned, nor is she hinting at running as a third party candidate.

    As for abortion and health care, Reed is playing it smart. The end result is beating Michelle Bachmann, and its going to take a candidate who can appeal to those who are moderate and even…conservative.

    Dr. Reed is an expert on health care, and better yet, she understands the current political situation health care reform is in, as made clear by her, “whatever you can get through” comment. I assume that comment refers to the current health care bill and the idea of not scrapping it for a universal health care proposal, one that would not make it to the Presidents desk in the current political climate.

    As for abortion, why is it important right now? The abortion debate is on the back burner in washington, and will stay there for the forseeable future.

    I think Maureen Reed is the best DFL candidate, with the most expertise, and has the best chance at beating Michelle Bachmann.

  13. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 08/06/2009 - 12:30 pm.

    I’m sure this person knows if she will “abide” or not. Her positions may be well thought out as one commenter suggested but I don’t think she wants to be open about her true position, if indeed she has one, because this is more about getting elected than carrying any particular banner.

    I wish Mr Black could try to get a straight answer out of her about her position on the census. Is it too intrusive? Or is this too complex of a question too?

  14. Submitted by Duke Powell on 08/06/2009 - 01:22 pm.

    Wasn’t going to comment on this story until I read Karl Bremer’s comment #6. For the first time ever, Karl and I are in complete agreement. And that is worth noting.

  15. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/06/2009 - 01:44 pm.

    Dr. Reed wouldn’t fare any better against Rep. Bachmann, but she would certainly present a more attractive and independent candidate than Tarryl Clark.

    Tarryl Clark for Congress is a gift to Bachmann’s campaign.

    No slouch on her own when it comes to leftist ferver, Clark is further burdened with being known as pugnacious Pogey’s puppet; always available to offer a hearty “me too” to anything Pogey spouts off with.

    Under the best of circumstances, the Democrat party doesn’t have a chance in the 6th against Rep. Bachmann, but I’m going to especially enjoy watching Clark get trounced.

  16. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 08/06/2009 - 01:57 pm.

    There is a fly on the inside of my library window and a willfully, wandering spider on the outside of the glass trying to avoid viable confrontation.

    Neither will ever make contact because of the glass between.

    The willfully, wandering, wily Reed sounds like another prescription for disaster. I suggest DFL or Independant party…take two aspirin and don’t see her in the ‘morning’.

    Did this candidate-wannabe seriously decide to run for public office…while she essentially tells the media and the public…”what I endorse is none of your business!”…?

  17. Submitted by J Ledesma on 08/06/2009 - 02:16 pm.

    Wow. I guess that there are three buttons on every Congressperson’s desk. One says “Aye.” Another says “Nay.” The third says “The Question Is Too Complex to Answer.”

  18. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 08/06/2009 - 02:47 pm.

    The final comment on health care reform (“Whatever you can get through”) is truly unfortunate. If we make the mistake of passing reform measures that do nothing, or make the problem worse, its not like we can just fix them next time. Those against reform will seize on this as evidence that health-care should be left to the free market, that government has no role to play, and any attempt to go back and fix things will be even harder. And in the meantime Bill McGuire gets a few 100 million more, the ranks of the uninsured swell, and the proportion of GDP going towards healthcare approaches 20%.

    People need to understand the fundamental problem: we pay too much for a level of care that is not that good. We live shorter lives than those in other developed countries. We spend more time in the hospital. More of our children die young. But yet we pay 2x as much per person. Its like paying for a mansion, but living in a cheap apartment. Settling for “whatever can get through” is an appalling position, especially for a (practicing?) physician.

  19. Submitted by David Skarjune on 08/06/2009 - 02:51 pm.

    Yes, Dr. Reed has health care expertise. As former Vice President of HealthPartners, she knows how a coop HMO can both pay competitive physician salaries and offer progressive programs. According to Minnesota 2020 “HealthPartners paid family doctors an average of $185,000, which topped the national average.” So how does that bring down health care costs? Wouldn’t we be better off with more nurse practitioners at more reasonable salaries? Isn’t the coop model the same approach now being promoted by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and other Republicans who oppose a full public option? Letting every state try to form a competitive coop sounds like a poor replacement for actual universal coverage. Perhaps Reed should run against Bachmann for the Republican endorsement as well…

  20. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/06/2009 - 03:03 pm.

    A person could be pro roe v. wade and not be in favor of abortion. Roe v. Wade is a compromise between two competing claims, the second trimester is the tricky part. It depends on how you frame it. And in my view no way will the race have a three way slate of candidates unless somebody else drops their hat into the ring. Of course you can argue that a primary battle weakens the non incumbent party.
    I know of an individual who was a national GOP nominee for a U.S. Senate seat many decades ago, he lost. In this decade he was approached to run as a third party candidate by one of the 2 major parties and act as a spoiler. He declined.

  21. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/06/2009 - 03:12 pm.

    I’m not sure that I want an insurance company executive ‘fixing’ our health care system.

  22. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/06/2009 - 03:15 pm.

    According to Minnesota 2020 “HealthPartners paid family doctors an average of $185,000, which topped the national average.”

    A more relevant comparison would be with the _Minnesota_ average family physician income.

  23. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/06/2009 - 05:37 pm.

    As #16 points out, the sixth will be a tough nut to crack.

    Congresswoman Bachmann by 6-10%, no matter which candidate the DFL runs against her.
    The turnout will not be as great as was last go round. The base will rule the game
    The sixth is her niche, at least till it’s redistricted after 2010.

  24. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 08/07/2009 - 09:18 am.

    Great. A candidate who will splinter Dems and Independents just enough so Bachmann will win another term. Back off Dr. and let the process of endorsement play itself out.

  25. Submitted by Howard Miller on 08/07/2009 - 07:19 pm.

    Reed may be successful resisting efforts to box herself in on details of health care reform, on being pro-life or pro-choice …. but I don’t think that is a winning tactic in the 6th.

    Mrs. Bachmann’s Republican supporters won’t stray for someone not fervently prolife. And Democrats won’t appreciate a Democrat who doesn’t see a role for a public health care plan as part of health care reform, and who although being in health care herself – won’t commit to reform details.

    Some times politicians do have to make commitments and stick to them.

  26. Submitted by Eva Young on 08/08/2009 - 07:25 am.

    I hope that Michele Bachmann also gets asked some follow up questions about abortion. We know she believes abortion should be illegal. If that’s the case, what should be the penalty for the woman obtaining the abortion? And don’t let her change the subject to the doctor – we want to know what should be the criminal penalty for the woman who got the abortion?

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