St. Louis, Mo., Jan 31, 2023 / 09:40 am (CNA).
The state Senate of Minnesota on Saturday morning narrowly passed a bill that would allow abortions in the state throughout pregnancy and for any reason. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, who has said that he will sign it into law.
Catholic leaders had strongly denounced the bill, proposing instead a slate of pro-family measures that they say will reduce demand for abortions in the midwestern state.
Known as the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, H.F. 1/S.F. 1 would codify into law a constitutional right to “reproductive freedom,” ensuring the right to abortion in Minnesota up to birth for any reason. Separate bills under consideration in Minnesota would remove parental notification requirements for minors procuring abortions as well as remove state protections for babies born alive after an abortion.
The bill had cleared the Minnesota House on Jan. 19, also by a narrow margin, 69-65. The party-line vote in the state Senate took place following 15 hours of contentious debate, MPR News reported. The controversy among Minnesota lawmakers is reminiscent of the fight over a similar bill in Colorado last year; that bill, which passed in Colorado, spawned two marathon debates, one lasting 23 hours — the longest such hearing in at least 25 years of Colorado history.
Abortion already is available in Minnesota throughout pregnancy for most reasons because of a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling, Doe v. Gomez, which found that certain abortion restrictions infringed on a “fundamental right of privacy” found in the state constitution.
The state’s Catholic leaders lamented the haste with which the bill is advancing and implored lawmakers to “pause” and consider the broader implications.
“When contemplating policy on any issue, we must consider all those who will be affected. In this case, that includes the mother, father, and most especially, the unborn child whose life is being taken,” Minnesota’s bishops said in a Jan. 26 statement.
“In a post-Dobbs world in which states that allow abortion have the responsibility to both regulate the practice and protect nascent human life, we should be working to find common ground on the challenges before us in Minnesota. We stand firm that every child should be welcomed in life and protected by law.”
The bishops’ concerns about H.F. 1/S.F. 1 go beyond abortion, however. They warned that an enshrining of “reproductive freedom” in the state could open the door to additional unintended consequences, including the ability of minor children to undergo sex-transition therapies and sterilization without parental consent. Also of concern is the potential infringement on the conscience and religious liberty rights of individual and institutional medical providers who do not wish to provide these treatments, the bishops said.
The Catholic leaders offered suggestions for legislative priorities that they said would help to offer support to mothers in need, reducing the demand for abortion. They noted that the Minnesota Catholic Conference has compiled a set of pro-family policy proposals at a dedicated website under the banner of a project called Families First.
Summarizing their proposals, “this support means, among other things, policies that fund: nutritional aid for expectant mothers; health care coverage during and after pregnancy for both mother and child; child care assistance; and adequate housing. Enacting reasonable paid family and caregiver leave laws would help people retain work and care for their newborns. Reconsidering whether our adoption policies are unreasonably burdened by excessive costs or barriers to participation is also an imperative,” the bishops said.
“We also contend that there is a social duty to remove unnecessary barriers to contracting marriage, having children, and being able to raise them well. By raising the family to the top of our state’s policy priorities, we can help restore the family to its proper position as the foundational building block of society where children best flourish.”
Minnesota is the latest U.S. state to make moves in its Legislature to enshrine a right to abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year. In addition to the impending codification of abortion as a right, Minnesota’s governor is poised to end state funding for crisis pregnancy centers amid activist pressure. According to MPR News, pro-life pregnancy centers outnumber abortion clinics in the state by 11 to 1.
Since 2005, Minnesota has given over $3 million in taxpayer money every grant cycle to 27 pro-life pregnancy centers as part of an abortion alternatives grant program, MPR News reported. Walz has proposed ending that funding in his latest budget proposal, contending that pregnancy centers do not provide “necessary comprehensive, unbiased, and accurate medical information in a manner consistent with national standards of care.” This follows a Minnesota attorney general report in 2021 that concluded that pregnancy centers “seek to prevent people from accessing abortion care as well as contraceptives.”
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