Updated Jul 11, 2022 - News

Judge strikes down Minnesota abortion restrictions

Illustration of a row of standing gavels set up and toppling like dominoes
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A Minnesota judge on Monday struck down several of the state's longstanding abortion restrictions as unconstitutional, including a 24-hour waiting period and a requirement that doctors administer all abortions.

The big picture: The ruling comes as Minnesota providers prepare for increased demand from patients in surrounding states that are expected to ban or restrict the procedure in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Background: While the right to an abortion is protected by the 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling Doe v. Gomez, laws regulating and restricting the procedure had been in place for years.

  • In 2019, a coalition that included abortion rights advocates and unnamed medical providers filed a lawsuit challenging many of those statutes.

What happened: Ramsey County District Judge Thomas A. Gilligan Jr. sided with the plaintiffs on many of the targeted laws and ordered the state to stop enforcing them immediately.

  • Overturned statutes included the informed consent and 24-hour waiting period law, a two-parent notification mandate for minors and the requirement that all abortions, including those induced using medication, are done by a doctor.
  • The decision also reversed a requirement that abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital.
  • Gilligan upheld reporting requirements for abortion providers, but threw out felony penalties for regulatory infractions.

What he said "These abortion laws violate the right to privacy because they infringe upon the fundamental right under the Minnesota Constitution to access abortion care and do not withstand strict scrutiny," Gilligan wrote in a lengthy order.

The response: Anti-abortion groups and lawmakers called on Attorney General Keith Ellison to continue to defend the state's laws and appeal the decision immediately.

  • A spokesperson for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life criticized the ruling as "extreme and without a foundation in the Minnesota Constitution," saying it "blocks Minnesotans from enacting reasonable protections for unborn children and their mothers."

But Amanda Allen, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, celebrated the decision as Minnesota's "chance to be a safe place for people amidst this national public health crisis."

  • "Today’s ruling brings us one step closer to a Minnesota where everyone can get an abortion without the government getting in the way," Allen, a senior counsel and director at the Lawyering Project, said in a statement.

What to watch: Ellison, a Democrat who supports abortion rights, has not said whether he'll appeal the ruling. His office, along with a list of co-defendants that include the governor and relevant state agencies, has 60 days to decide.

  • "My team and I are reviewing the 140-page decision and are beginning to consult with our clients about any next steps," he said in a statement. "It’s clear Judge Gilligan, who has had this case for three years, has put much thought into this decision that he clearly did not take lightly."

Editor's note: This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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