Minnesota Senate sends abortion rights protections to governor's desk
DFL lawmakers fast-tracked abortion protections through the Capitol to get a bill to the governor’s desk. Gov. Tim Walz said signing the protections into law is a top priority.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota senators on Saturday, Jan. 28, approved a bill codifying protections for abortion access into state law, and the proposal now awaits a signature from Gov. Tim Walz, who said signing the protections into law is a top priority.
The Protect Reproductive Options Act, or PRO Act, the first bill introduced in both the House and Senate this session, boosts existing constitutional protections for abortion in Minnesota. It recognizes a right to use or refuse reproductive health care and a right to continue a pregnancy and give birth or obtain an abortion. Additionally, the bill would also prevent local governments from passing any regulations on birth control or abortion.
After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, ending federal abortion protections, Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers and Walz said adding further protections to state law was a top priority. While access to abortion remains a right in Minnesota under a 1995 state Supreme Court decision, DFL lawmakers said they wouldn’t take the current protections for granted.
"What Minnesotans are afraid of is to see potentially that what happened at the federal level with our U.S. Supreme Court could eventually in some future time happen here in Minnesota," said Sen. Jen. McEwen, DFL-Duluth, who carried the bill in the Senate. "We will not simply put our faith in individual judges to uphold our rights. We will also enshrine those rights into state statutes."
Debate on the bill started around noon Friday. After 15 hours of debate which largely centered around floor amendments from Republican lawmakers aimed at placing restrictions, anti-abortion statements and other rules on abortion into the bill, the PRO Act passed 34-33 early Saturday on party lines.
DFL lawmakers fast-tracked abortion protections through the Capitol in the hopes of getting a bill to the governor’s desk as quickly as possible. The House voted 69-65 last week to pass its version of the bill, with just one DFLer joining Republicans in opposition. DFL Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic said a majority of the Senate supports abortion rights. Walz said he’ll sign a bill when it gets to his desk.
Republicans have said their DFL colleagues have moved too quickly on the bill and have characterized it as extreme. GOP senators introduced numerous amendments to the bill on the floor Friday and early Saturday, including provisions to provide ultrasounds to women seeking abortions, and limits on how far into a pregnancy abortion can be permitted.
One of the central arguments Republicans and abortion opponents have made against the PRO Act is it does not contain any language restricting abortions in the later stages of pregnancy. In committee hearings for the bill, Republicans also attempted to introduce amendments to create restrictions such as a requirement for second- and third-trimester abortions to take place in a medical facility or limiting abortion to the first and second trimesters of pregnancy.
"Today we are not just codifying Roe v. Wade or Doe v. Gomez as the author indicated. We are enacting the most extreme bill in the country," said Sen. Minority Leader Mark Johnson, an East Grand Forks Republican.
Minnesota law currently bans abortion after viability, the point at which a fetus would be able to survive on its own outside the womb. Generally, that point is at about 24 weeks, though it can vary between pregnancies. The Minnesota Department of Health reported 10 abortions after the 24-week mark between 2017 and 2021, of about 10,000 or so that occur each year in the state.
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