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Action on abortion rights bill could come early

Democrats, who will control both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature in 2023, expect to take up reproduction rights bill early in session.

ST PAUL, Minn. — DFL lawmakers expect to take action early in the 2023 session to put an abortion guarantee into state law.

The Protect Reproductive Options Act, or PRO Act, couldn't gain traction in the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate. But on Nov. 8, Democrats regained control of the Senate for the first time in eight years, gaining a one-seat edge over the GOP.

"Those of us in the Reproductive Freedom Caucus, and as one of the chairs, I can say we are really motivated to make sure that we deliver on what we've been saying out on the campaign trail for months," Sen. Lindsey Port, a Burnsville Democrat, told KARE. 

"Minnesota is a very important island of reproductive care in the upper Midwest and we need to make sure that we codify that into law and it should be one of the priorities, one of the first things we get done this session."

There's currently no state law granting abortion rights in the state.

In the post-Dobbs landscape, it's legal here only because of a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision in the case of Doe v. Gomez. In that case the court ruled that the right to get an abortion is protected by the Minnesota Constitution, and that the women who qualify for Medicaid can get an abortion at government expense.

"What the Protect Reproductive Options Act would do is say in state law that an individual has bodily autonomy, and the right to make their own health care decisions," said House Speaker Melissa Hortman, a Brooklyn Park Democrat who will once again lead the House DFL Majority in 2023.

"It could potential move pretty quickly because it's a statement of individual rights and not a budget bill. It would be my hope we could find a way to move it in January."

Rep. Hortman said Doe v. Gomez, just as with Roe v. Wade, could be taken away by a future Minnesota Supreme Court.

"Just as we saw in the federal level, the US Supreme Court changed its personnel; the Minnesota Supreme could change. We have a mandatory retirement age for our judges, and no one knows what future elections will be in terms of gubernatorial control and future appointments to the court."

Hortman hasn't ruled out the possibility of sending it to voters in the future as a proposed constitutional amendment, but she said passing the PRO Act would be an important first step to get those legal rights on the books.

"Our agenda for Democrats is really a broad agenda focused on bread-and-butter economic issues. Choice is certainly very important, but also investing in public education, making health care more affordable and making sure our economy works for everyone."

Opponents weigh in

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the oldest and largest anti-abortion group in the state, called the PRO Act extreme.

"DFL leaders want to enshrine unlimited abortion in Minnesota statute. That is extreme, and it's out of step with Minnesotans who support commonsense protections for women and children, such as protection for unborn children late in pregnancy," a statement from MCCL read. "We will work to see that the extreme DFL effort does not succeed."

According to the Minnesota Department of Health's annual Induced Abortions Report, 83% of abortions performed in Minnesota in 2021 were at gestational age of 10 weeks or younger. The percentage at 15 weeks or younger was 94 percent, for 20 weeks or younger was 97%.  For 24 weeks and younger it was 99%.

Only one abortion was reported in the 25 to 30 week gestational age range that year. Providers didn't report a gestational age in 118 cases, or 1% of the total of 10,136 abortions that year in Minnesota.

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