Dec 1, 2021 - News

What the Supreme Court ruling on abortion could mean for Minnesota

Data: Myers Abortion Facility Database on OSF; map: Thomas Oide/Axios
Data: Myers Abortion Facility Database on OSF; map: Thomas Oide/Axios

Abortion will remain legal in Minnesota if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns or significantly curtails Roe v. Wade, though such a ruling could eventually impact access in the state.

Driving the news: The nation's high court hears oral arguments Wednesday in a case involving a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

  • Mississippi's attorney general has asked justices to overturn the 1973 ruling, which set a precedent for the constitutional right to abortion, and subsequent decisions.

The big picture: Without Roe, abortion laws and access would vary by state, as Axios' Oriana Gonzalez reports.

  • The procedure would immediately become illegal in 12 states, including North and South Dakota. More would likely pass or revive restrictions in the wake of a ruling, leading to clinic closures and reduced access, as the map above shows.

Zoom in: While Minnesota is not one of the 15 states that have passed laws explicitly legalizing abortion, the procedure is protected under a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling in the case Doe v. Gomez. That ruling established a constitutional right to abortion in Minnesota that's viewed as even stronger than the federal protections,

  • "The [state] court says quite clearly that the right of procreation is one of the basic civil rights of humankind and therefore the right to privacy under the Minnesota Constitution encompasses a woman's right to decide to terminate her pregnancy," Laura Hermer, a professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, told Axios.

What they're saying: Groups that oppose abortion rights acknowledge the hurdle the precedent creates for them.

  • "Doe v. Gomez is an additional obstacle here in Minnesota," said Paul Stark, spokesperson for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. "It means nothing immediately could change with regard to abortion here in Minnesota."

Yes, but: Supporters of abortion access say they worry that eventual bans or restrictions in other Midwest states could increase demand and overwhelm Minnesota providers. Already, close to 10% of abortions performed in the state are for non-residents.

  • "You can have a constitutional right but that doesn't mean that accessing that right is going to be smooth. That's a concern," said Jess Braverman, legal director at the advocacy group Gender Justice.

Between the lines: Minnesota's political and judicial landscape means it's unlikely that Doe v. Gomez would be soon be reversed through the courts or the passage of a statewide constitutional amendment.

  • "We'd have to have a court that's willing to take [a case involving new state abortion restrictions] and reconsider and reverse Doe v. Gomez, so it's not easy," Stark said.

What to watch: Gender Justice has filed a state lawsuit challenging some of Minnesota's current abortion restrictions, including the 24-hour waiting period and two-parent notification requirements for patients under 18.

  • Lawmakers and groups opposed to legal abortion, meanwhile, plan to continue to push for legislation that will "increase protection for the unborn and support their mothers," Stark said. That includes potentially reviving proposals that could be used to challenge Doe v. Gomez.

The bottom line: Such legislation is unlikely to become law next year, even though there is believed to be a slim anti-abortion majority in both chambers, given opposition from Speaker Melissa Hortman and Gov. Tim Walz.

  • But the results of the 2022 election could change the dynamics in St. Paul.

Go Deeper: Interactive map: What post-Roe America could look like


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Twin Cities.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Twin Cities stories

No stories could be found

Twin Citiespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Twin Cities.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more