Nov 14, 2023 - Politics

Minnesota Democrats weigh putting abortion on the 2024 ballot

Illustration of a caduceus and question mark.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Top Minnesota Democrats and abortion rights advocates aren't sold on whether β€” or how β€” to put an abortion question to voters next year, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Democrats in swing states across the country are moving to put abortion rights measures on 2024 ballots as recent results in Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia showed the electoral staying power of the issue.

  • Leaders in Minnesota's DFL-majority Legislature say they need more discussion and polling before they decide whether to pass a constitutional amendment measure, which would put the question to voters as soon as next November.

State of play: While access to abortion is already protected via a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling and a new state law, a constitutional amendment could add an additional layer of security.

What they're saying: House Speaker Melissa Hortman told Axios that the idea is "in the mix when we talk about 2024," but said that they "haven't heard clearly from voters or from the caucuses here at the State Capitol that [an amendment] is the next thing that we should do."

  • A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic told Axios that the Minneapolis Democrat shares Hortman's view.

Reality check: Constitutional amendment campaigns are expensive.

  • Some Democrats believe the money would be better spent on candidate races, especially with political control of the narrowly divided state House up for grabs next year.

The political arm of Planned Parenthood's regional chapter cited the cost in a statement that called an amendment one of several options it is "continually considering" to strengthen protections.

  • "Constitutional amendments are serious and expensive undertakings that must be initiated after due diligence," Tim Stanley, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund, told Axios.

Be smart: Because such measures must be approved by a majority of those voting in the election, not just on the question, supporters face the extra challenge of reminding voters to read β€” and vote β€” all the way through their ballot.

Between the lines: Hortman and other top Democrats argued a constitutional amendment isn't necessary to make abortion front-and-center next year.

  • "Regardless whether or not it's on the ballot as an amendment it will be on the ballot as an issue that's going to drive the electorate in 2024," DFL Party chair Ken Martin told Axios.

The intrigue: There's also a separate Democratic push to put an Equal Rights Amendment in front of voters. Some members want to add explicit reproductive care protections into that language.

  • DFL Rep. Kaohly Her, an ERA co-sponsor, told Axios that it would be premature to comment given ongoing discussions but said "codifying a person with a uterus' right to their own reproductive decisions is top of mind for [ERA supporters]."

Of note: Elected Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the abortion protections passed last year, arguing that they went too far by allowing the procedure at any point in pregnancy with virtually no restrictions.

What we're watching: The Legislature reconvenes in February.

  • If Democrats do pursue an amendment, Hortman said it would be prudent to pass it early enough to allow the campaign to get going.
  • They could also opt to put the measure on the ballot in 2026 instead.

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