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Rick Berg tackles abortion, rape victims

<p>One of the more interesting U.S. Senate races in the country right now is in North Dakota, where incumbent Sen.</p>

One of the more interesting U.S. Senate races in the country right now is in North Dakota, where incumbent Sen. Kent Conrad (D) is retiring, creating an open seat Republicans assumed they'd pick up.

That's proving to be far more difficult than the GOP expected. Former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D) is proving to be an exceptionally good candidate, and polls show her running even with Republican congressman Rick Berg.

Interviews like these, highlighted by Amanda Terkel, aren't going to help Berg's case (thanks to my colleague Rebekah Dryden for the tip).

For those who can't watch clips online, Berg sat down with Jim Shaw, the news director of the local Fox affiliate, who asked whether the candidate would make any exceptions to a ban on abortion. The lawmaker said he "make an exception for the life of the mother," but not if a woman is impregnated by a rapist. It led to this exchange:

SHAW: What would the appropriate sentence be if abortion was illegal and a woman did have an abortion?BERG: You know, I'll leave that up to others to come up with that.SHAW: Should we put her in jail? Should we fine her? Do you have any thoughts on that at all?BERG: You know, those are things that need to be worked out through, you know, through the legislative process.

Here's the thing: Berg is a member of Congress and a U.S. Senate candidate. If he were to work with other federal lawmaker to end reproductive rights for American women, it would be up to him to come up with criminal penalties for those who broke the law. Shaw's question wasn't hypothetical -- Berg would make it illegal for a woman to terminate her pregnancy, even if it was the result of rape. How would he choose to penalize that woman? He'll "leave that up to others to come up with" the specifics, but that doesn't make any sense.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Berg can't leave it up "to others" if he's a U.S. senator; he'll have to vote on what the law would be if he's successful in his own stated goals.

Yes, there would be a "legislative process." The point is, voters should know before the election which policies and principles senators would pursue through that process, and Berg seems oddly unprepared to have the conversation.