“Your rights are protected in this state,” Walz said was the message the legislation sends.
Backed by a crowd of lawmakers and advocates, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill Tuesday that puts the right to an abortion and other reproductive health care into Minnesota law.
“Your rights are protected in this state,” Walz said was the message the legislation sends to residents. He noted that Minnesota was the first state to codify abortion rights after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June.
“This is truly a historic day,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan who said she brought her daughter and niece to witness the bill signing in a large conference room at the state Department of Revenue. “It was women who got this done. This is extraordinary and today is an extraordinary day.”
Republicans have also taken note of the legislation’s significance, characterizing it as the most extreme position on abortion in the U.S. because the bill does not include limits on when or how an abortion can be performed. GOP lawmakers had dozens of attempts to modify the bill rejected by Democrats.
“Under current law, abortion is illegal in Minnesota after viability. If the health or life of the mother was in danger, late-term abortions must be performed in a hospital. The PRO Act allows abortion services far beyond these commonsense, consensus guidelines,” Republican leaders wrote to in a letter to Walz asking for him to veto the bill.
Democratic supporters of the bill, which passed along party lines in the House and Senate, say those are decisions that should be made by a patient and their doctor. The state Department of Health reported one abortion was performed in Minnesota in 2021 after the 25th week of pregnancy.
“This legislation is about who decides,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park.
Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, said voters elected the state’s first pro-choice majority in the Senate because they “don’t want their children to have less rights than they do.”
What does the bill do?
The Protect Reproductive Options, or PRO Act, says “every individual has a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about the individual’s own reproductive health.” That includes the right to abortion, contraception, fertility services and contraception.
Supporters have noted repeatedly in committee hearings that the bill doesn’t change any current state laws regarding abortion. What it does do, they say, is guaranteed patients to can make decisions about their health care without input from lawmakers.
Abortion is already protected by the 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court Gomez decision, but advocates for legal abortions say that does not go far enough. They worry the ideological make up of the state’s top court could change, as it has at the U.S. Supreme Court with it’s Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.
How does Minnesota compare to other states?
Under the Gomez court decision, Minnesota allows abortions to be performed up until fetal viability, or about 25 weeks into a pregnancy. There are also exceptions beyond that point if the pregnancy is not viable or the life of the mother is at risk.
About 20 states have laws similar to Minnesota, which was essentially what was decided in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision the U.S. Supreme Court overturned in June.
Since the Dobbs decision, a dozen states have enacted abortion bans and a number of other states have implemented restrictions, many of which are being challenged in court.
Many states where abortion is currently legal also have other rules about the procedure including requiring counseling and a waiting period.
Two additional bills working their way through the Minnesota legislature would eliminate measures on the books restricting abortion. DFLers say they also have the votes needed to pass those changes, but haven’t released a timeline for their debate.
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