Abortion rights bill fast-tracked in Minnesota to become law

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(ABC 6 News) – A bill to strengthen abortion rights in Minnesota by codifying protections into state statutes has passed its first test. It is called the Protect Reproductive Options, or “PRO” Act.

The bill is two pages, and committee Republicans consider it extreme, and broad. They spent much of the hour and a half long hearing attempting to add amendments. The amendments suggested would have added age and trimester limits, as well as parental notification and counseling.

“This is very detrimental. We are taking a life,” said Republican Representative Debra Kiel from Crookston.

Pro-life groups in attendance called the bill severe.

“It’s just absolutely horrific. This is house file number one. This is their top priority in the state of Minnesota. There is something wrong,” said Executive Director of Pro-Life Action Ministries Brian Gibson, after watching the hearing.

But pro-choice advocates and women who have experienced miscarriages and abortions also testified. Many argued that lack of abortion access puts women, and specifically Women of Color, at higher risk for severe medical complications and mental health issues.

“Continuing that pregnancy would have been detrimental mentally and emotionally,” said one woman, who testified about her miscarriage.

Committee Chairwoman Representative Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester) said in an interview after the hearing that even though abortion access is currently protected in Minnesota through Minnesota Supreme Court Case Doe v. Gomez she doesn’t want a repeat of the overturn of Roe.

“Courts have said yes, our Minnesota Constitution protects our right to those things. But, as we know, that can be overturned,” she said.

Simplified, the bill states that every person has a right to make autonomous decisions about reproductive healthcare, and it limits local government from regulating that right.

Reproductive healthcare is could include contraception, sterilization, abortion, family planning and more.

A House health panel approved the legislation 11-8 Thursday on just the third day of the 2023 session, and sent it to its next committee stop on an expedited path to a House floor vote.

“Normally we have a slower wind up for the committee. This year we’re jumping right into a bill,” Liebling said.

Backers hope to put the bill on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s desk by the end of the month.
As lawmakers across the country begin to reconvene, they’re getting their first chances to take up key abortion proposals since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade