Minnesota Senate debates more protections for abortion rights

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — The Minnesota Senate on Friday began debating a bill to include comprehensive protections for abortion rights in state statutes, which would make it harder for future courts to reverse.

Democratic Legislative leaders have expedited the bill as one of their top priorities for the 2023 session — in response to last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. to undo Wade. While a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision known as Doe v. Gomez, noting that the state constitution protects abortion rights, sponsors want to ensure those protections stay in place regardless of who sits on future courts.

Hundreds of people filled the halls in front of the Senate Chamber ahead of the debate. Abortion rights advocates chanted, “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Abortion bans must go,” while opponents sang the anthem “Amazing Grace.”

The authors dubbed the bill the PRO Act, short for Protect Reproductive Actions. It would establish that “everyone has a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about their own reproductive health,” including abortion and contraception.

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz hopes to sign it before the end of the month. The House of Representatives passed it 69-65 last week, with all Republicans opposed. Winona Rep. Gene Pelowski was the only Democrat to vote no.

Senate Democrat leaders said ahead of Friday’s debate that they have the votes to send to the governor. They only have a one-seat majority, so they could not afford to lose a single vote, but party discipline held on to two early procedural votes.

“What Minnesotans are afraid of is seeing what happened at the federal level with our U.S. Supreme Court could potentially happen here in Minnesota at some point,” Democratic Senator Jennifer McEwen of Duluth said of the Supreme Senate’s decisions of our courts, upholding our fundamental human rights, are only as strong as the judges who defend them,” said the author, opening the debate.

Republican lawmakers, complaining that Minnesota has some of the lowest abortion restrictions in the country, tried unsuccessfully as the bill went through the committee process to include “guard rails” such as bans on third-trimester abortions. They tabled a number of similar amendments on Friday.

“Today we not only codify Roe v. Wade or Doe v. Gomez, as the author has implied, we are passing the most extreme law in the country,” said Republican Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson of East Grand Forks.

Minnesota faced several restrictions, including a 24-hour wait and notification requirements for parents until a district court judge ruled them unconstitutional last summer. A separate bill going through the legislature would remove those restrictions from the statute books if the verdict is overturned on appeal. This bill would also remove the statistical reporting requirements that the judge had left in place.

Anti-abortion groups say the bills, if passed, will put Minnesota on the “extreme side” of the abortion rights spectrum.

“Mothers and babies deserve a much more humane and compassionate approach,” Cathy Blaeser, co-executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, said in a statement.

But dr Sarah Traxler, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood North Central States, told reporters that third trimester abortions are “incredibly rare” and almost always occur in “very tragic” circumstances such as fetal abnormalities or threats to the mother’s health. She said these decisions should be made between a patient and their medical provider, not on legislative floors.

The Minnesota Department of Health’s most recent annual report on abortions recorded only one abortion between weeks 25 and 30 in 2021, with none later reported.


Leave a Comment