St. Paul, MN— Today, our nation’s most extreme abortion ban takes effect in Texas, propelling our country into a new era in which safe and legal abortion is at extreme risk. The law, S.B. 8, bans abortion at six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant, and empowers private citizens to sue health care providers and private citizens who “aid and abet” an abortion.
Minnesota is fortunate to have the right to abortion constitutionally protected through a 1995 state supreme court case, Doe v. Gomez. However, even the Gomez decision has not prevented anti-abortion politicians from promoting abortion bans and passing restrictions to make it increasingly difficult to access abortion in Minnesota.
“Today it’s Texas, and tomorrow it could be Minnesota,” said Sarah A Stoesz, President of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund, “The right of Minnesotans to choose whether or when to become a parent shouldn’t be at the whim of anti-abortion politicians. We must be proactive and pass legislation – like the Protect Reproductive Options Act - that guarantees our rights in Minnesota to the full range of reproductive options, from contraception to abortion.”
These policies exacerbate health inequities by harming people of color, people with low incomes, and those living in rural areas the most. People struggling to make ends meet are often forced to delay accessing contraception and abortion services because they need time to secure the funds. They are also less able to travel out of state to get the care they need.
The implementation of the Texas law comes as the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is set to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health this fall, a Mississippi case that is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the decision that established the right to abortion. If SCOTUS significantly weakens Roe, abortion rights would be determined by state law, paving the way for extreme state politicians to ban abortion.
In Minnesota, anti-abortion politicians have repeatedly introduced bills to ban abortion, refused to protect access to birth control and have blocked efforts to ensure that young people receive medically accurate comprehensive sexual health education. Should state anti-abortion politicians succeed in banning abortion and limiting access to reproductive health care and education, some Minnesotans would face a grim reality of forced pregnancy.
To enhance the current protections under the Gomez decision and protect the right of all Minnesotans to get the full spectrum of reproductive health care they need, when they need it, Minnesota must pass the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act (HF 259/SF 731). The PRO Act would establish, in state law, the fundamental right of all Minnesotans to make their own reproductive health care decisions, including decisions around abortion, contraception and pregnancy.
Status of abortion in Minnesota today
While abortion is a safe, legal medical procedure available in Minnesota, state law imposes medically unnecessary requirements for abortion care patients and providers, and access remains difficult for too many in our region. For example, state statute requires patients to receive medically unnecessary counseling before an abortion and forces patients to wait 24 hours between counseling and their abortion procedure. Too often people in our region face unnecessary barriers to abortion care, especially in rural communities; currently only seven health clinics provide abortion care in Minnesota and of these, just two are outside the metro area.
Although Minnesota has a constitutionally protected right to abortion based on the 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision Doe v. Gomez, it is unclear how this decision will impact our state into the future. The Gomez decision was based on the right to Medicaid funding for abortion and in its decision, the court held that the right to an abortion is one of the limited circumstances in which the Minnesota Constitution provides greater protections than those offered under the federal constitution. The court held that the right to privacy under the Minnesota constitution protects “not simply the right to an abortion, but protects the woman’s decision to abort; any legislation infringing on the decision-making process, then, violates this fundamental right.”
What Minnesotans think about abortion
A 2019 NPR/PBS News Hour/Marrist poll found that only 13% of Minnesota adults overall want to overturn the Roe standard and only 31% of Minnesota Republicans want to overturn it. The overwhelming majority of Minnesotans who oppose overturning Roe deserve to know that with the new conservative Supreme Court majority, we need to take action at the state level to make sure that abortion remains safe and legal in Minnesota.
How we will protect our right to abortion in Minnesota
While legal experts agree that the Gomez decision provides Minnesota with strong state constitutional protections, access to abortion in Minnesota is guaranteed by electing state leaders who are committed to reproductive rights, and by ensuring we have health care providers who are committed to providing abortion care. Future legislatures and governors could attempt to erode protections under the Gomez decision by passing new unconstitutional abortion restrictions, or by proposing a constitutional amendment declaring that nothing in the state constitution should be understood as establishing the right to an abortion (as we’ve seen recently proposed in Iowa). Given these legislative possibilities and the new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, it is crucial that we consider how state law could be strengthened to protect the right to abortion.
How the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act protects access to abortion
While Minnesota is fortunate to have a Minnesota Supreme Court decision, Doe v. Gomez, that recognizes the right to abortion under the state constitution, we should also take steps to recognize the right to abortion in state law. Passing the Protect Reproductive Options Act would codify the right to abortion into law, along with the right of each Minnesotan to make their own decisions about contraception and pregnancy. Passing the PRO Act would add a double layer of protection for abortion rights by ensuring that abortion remains safe and legal in Minnesota if Roe v Wade or Doe v. Gomez were overturned or eroded.
Founded in 1992, the Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization. As the advocacy and electoral arm of PPMNS, we mobilize supporters of all parties to defend and increase access to family planning services and fact based, medically accurate sexuality education. We work to inspire and engage citizens to take up the cause of reproductive health and rights through education, electoral activity, grassroots organizing and legislative advocacy.
Visit us at www.plannedparenthoodadvocate.org