Bill guaranteeing right to abortion in Minnesota passes first committee

A bill that would make the right to abortion state law in Minnesota cleared its first hurdle Thursday after passing the House Health Finance and Policy Committee.

The Protect Reproductive Options Act would provide “a fundamental right” to an abortion and other reproductive health care services without restrictions.

While abortion is currently protected under the state constitution based on the 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court case Doe v. Gomez, Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers hope the bill will prevent a reversal of the decision at the state level. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned of Roe v. Wade in July.

The bill is short and simple — aiming to protect the right to receive or refuse reproductive health care that includes but is not limited to contraception, sterilization, maternity care and abortion care. Local governments would be prohibited from regulating access to these services.

“This past election, voters spoke decisively, and they believe every Minnesotan should be able to make their own reproductive health care decisions,” said Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, DFL-Eden Prairie, who introduced the bill, during Thursday’s committee hearing. “These decisions are deeply personal and private and should be made by a patient and their doctor.”

Republican committee members expressed concerns about the bill not limiting how late in a pregnancy abortions can be provided or requiring parental consent for minors who seek abortions.

The committee voted on three amendments to the bill introduced Wednesday, requiring abortions after the first trimester of pregnancy to be performed in a hospital, prohibiting partial-birth abortions and prohibiting third-trimester abortions (between 27 and 40 weeks of pregnancy). All amendments failed to pass.

“It’s clear that my Democratic colleagues are not willing to make concessions in even the most extreme situations,” said Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch, during Thursday’s committee hearing. “This bill codifies the absolute most extreme position on abortion.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Health’s 2021 Induced Abortions Report, 94 percent of abortions performed in Minnesota that year were at the gestational age of 15 weeks or younger and 99 percent were at 24 weeks and younger. Only one abortion was reported in the 25- to 30-week range.

Those who testified in support of the bill at the committee hearing said abortion is an issue of bodily autonomy, and the government should not be able to prevent people from accessing reproductive health services.

“As a doctor, every day when I walk into the health center, I know my patients will come in from all walks of life,” said Sarah Traxler, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood North Central States. “While no two patients are the same, I know that all patients deserve to control their own bodies.

“We need to know that our medical ethical obligations to care for our patients are not restricted by politics. Minnesotans deserve to make their own healthcare decisions based on science with experts, not politicians or judges.”

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