Updated Jan 20, 2023 - Politics

Minnesota House passes bill adding abortion rights to state law

Data: Guttmacher Institute; Table: Alice Feng/Axios

Legislation guaranteeing the right to abortion in Minnesota passed the state House on Thursday.

The big picture: Minnesota Democrats have pledged to use their majorities in both chambers to enshrine abortion rights into state law in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

What it does: The proposal, known as the PRO Act, gives Minnesotans the "fundamental right to make autonomous decisions" about their reproductive health care.

Reality check: Abortion rights are already protected in Minnesota due to a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling known as Doe v. Gomez.

  • A new state law reinforcing that ruling is unlikely to have an immediate impact on access for Minnesota patients or providers, Laura Hermer, a professor and abortion law expert at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, told Axios.

Yes, but: Supporters say a state law adds another needed layer of protection and certainty.

  • "The importance of this bill is that it will exist even if some future Minnesota Supreme Court decides to overturn Doe v. Gomez," Hermer said. "...The right to an abortion would clearly be upheld in Minnesota [unless] the Legislature decided to change that."

Between the lines: Even if largely symbolic for now, the new law could reinforce Minnesota's newfound status as an island of abortion access in the upper midwest.

  • Providers have already reported seeing an increase in patients from other states that have moved to ban or restrict abortion post-Roe. Planned Parenthood says visits from patients from outside the region are up 13%.

The other side: Opponents of legal abortion call the measure extreme, arguing that it does not address or set limits on when an abortion can be performed.

  • Republicans who opposed the bill unsuccessfully pushed to add language restricting the procedure later in pregnancy during committee hearings and during the floor debate.
  • All Republicans, and one Democrat, voted against the bill, which passed 69-65 after several hours of debate.

Of note: Minnesota effectively has no gestational limit on abortions as it stands now, Hermer told Axios. The state reported just one abortion performed between 25 and 30 weeks in 2021, and zero beyond that point in pregnancy.

What to watch: Democrats are also moving legislation that would roll back existing restrictions on abortion, including the 24-hour waiting period and two-parent consent for patients under age 18.

  • Those provisions were overturned by a Ramsey County judge last year, but efforts to appeal the ruling are ongoing.

Zoom out: More than a dozen other states have laws on the books protecting abortion rights, per Axios' Oriana Gonzalez.

What's next: The state Senate is expected to take up the bill late next week. Gov. Tim Walz has said he'll sign it into law.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the House voted to pass the law and that the Senate now plans to act next week.

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