Texas law limiting right to choose could affect Minnesota

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Minnesota has been affected by the national climate surrounding abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the state’s policy tends to take a middle-of-the-road approach compared to the rest of the country, leaning more towards abortion rights but by no means being its most vocal supporter.  

The issue has been thrust into the national spotlight by the decision in Texas to pass a law banning abortion after six weeks. This can present problems to women because many women do not become aware that they are pregnant until after the six-week period. 

The Supreme Court has declined to intervene and block the six-week abortion ban. While they review the law, it faces legal challenges from abortion providers. This is unprecedented because the high court has intervened in every other attempt to circumvent the abortion law in the past.

The Texas abortion ban remains in effect. On December 1 the Supreme Court plans to hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case which has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that made abortion legal in the U.S. 

Three rules govern Minnesota abortion standards: 

  • the patient must receive State-directed counseling with information meant to discourage abortion, and then must wait 24 hours to conduct the procedure; 
  • the parents of a minor must be notified before their child is given an abortion; 
  • an abortion may be performed at or after viability—the ability for the fetus to survive outside of the uterus—only if the patient’s life is endangered.

Effect on MN

Courtesy of Planned Parenthood North Central States Val Jensen, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood North Central States

Val Jensen, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion with Planned Parenthood North Central States, said that Minnesota will continue to be a stronghold for reproductive freedom, but she is concerned about the impact of regional and national pressures.

“Anti-abortion governors in our neighboring states have become emboldened by SB 8 [the Supreme Court’s decision on the Texas abortion law] and are promising to pass similar legislation,” she said. “Anti-abortion legislators introduced four abortion bans in Minnesota this year. We expect these attacks to continue.”

Jenson added that while some politicians support abortion rights, mentioning the newly announced Reproductive Freedom Caucus in the state legislature, still others are forming anti-abortion majorities and introducing bills to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected. 

Bills of that nature, which are reminiscent of the Texas abortion law, have been introduced in the MN State Legislature the last three sessions. There are also many bills introduced that would further restrict the right to abortion in the state.

However, there is some action being taken in the state to protect abortion rights even if Roe V. Wade is overturned. The Protect Reproductive Options, or PRO act, would safeguard Minnesotans’ reproductive freedom. 

The act is currently being considered in the state legislature. If passed, it would establish in state law the right of all Minnesotans to make their own reproductive health care decisions, including those around abortion, contraception and pregnancy.

Minnesotans’ right to abortion is constitutionally protected by Doe v. Gomez, a 1995 state supreme court decision. But this has not stopped anti-abortion politicians from attempting to enact restrictions on abortion access in the state.

Jenson believes abortion access in the state could become critical because women from other states may come to Minnesota to seek an abortion. In the nearby states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska, the right to abortion hangs on the decision of the Supreme Court in its hearing of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which may overturn Roe v. Wade.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion access becomes a state concern. North and South Dakota currently have “trigger laws” that would immediately make abortion illegal in their states once Roe v. Wade is overturned. 

Courtesy of National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda Black women pro choice activists

Poor, BIPOC women most affected

“It’s low-income women, women of color, women in rural communities who will suffer” from the current restrictive national climate surrounding abortion access,” explained Jenson. “People with the means and the money to travel will do so,” but Jenson worries about those who are not so lucky.

“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.” Jenson states that it has often been the Black community that has suffered the most from these reproductive care restrictions. 

Crisis Pregnancy Centers

One area of major concern are Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC). These are often located near abortion clinics and are made to look like health centers, but are not licensed medical facilities. They are staffed by volunteers with no medical background who often wear white coats to give the impression of being doctors or nurses.

There are currently over 2,500 CPCs nationally compared to 10,700 health care centers like Planned Parenthood, which provide family planning options. However, CPCs have begun expanding as access to abortion becomes more limited.

Jenson sees CPCs as a fundamental threat to quality health care. “Their goal is ideological, not medical,” she explained, “They want to prevent pregnant people from obtaining abortion services using any means necessary, including by using delay tactics, disinformation and deception. And in Minnesota, CPCs are funded to the tune of $3.5 million per year.”

She said they are not up front with their religious and political ties with women seeking consultations. “They use scare tactics, visuals, and unsolicited ultrasound exams to intimidate and shame women seeking safe and legal abortion. These practices endanger the physical and emotional well-being of women seeking honest and nonjudgmental information.”

It’s not just abortion access that has deteriorated nationally. Sex education and access to contraceptives are also a big concern of Jenson’s, with many states limiting access to contraceptives and eliminating sex education programs. 

“By taking away the ability to prevent pregnancy and chipping away at the right to abortion, we are in a new era of reproductive health care where individuals may be forced to carry a pregnancy against their will.”

About RB King

RB King is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. She welcomes reader responses to kaysi003@umn.edu.

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