MN House passes pair of abortion bills

Rau and Kiel
MCCL Legislative Director Andrea Rau, left, and Rep. Debra Kiel, right, discussed legislation to license abortion clinics during a state Capitol news conference. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

The Republican-controlled Minnesota House passed a pair of abortion-related measures Monday that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has threatened to veto.

One bill (HF 809) would prohibit the funding of abortions under state-sponsored health care programs. The other (HF 812) would set new licensing and inspection requirements for abortion clinics.

Lawmakers voted 77-54 on the prohibition bill, which would apply to the Medical Assistance program.

Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, said tax dollars should not be used for abortions.

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“I believe that women deserve better than abortion,” Franson said. “Providing free abortion does nothing to help women.”

Ahead of the House debate, Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, accused Republicans of playing politics on abortion and wasting time that could be used to resolve the state budget.

“My Republican colleagues are inserting themselves into a decision about the health care of women, that should be the decision for a woman, her family and her health care provider,” Murphy said

The licensing measure passed on a 79-53 vote.

Supporters of the bill, including the group Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), say it is not aimed at restricting abortions. They say it will ensure the safety of patients.

Rep. Debra Kiel, R-Crookston, made a case for her bill by pointing to the criminal case against Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia. Kiel said the law is needed to prevent future problems in Minnesota.

“While we have no reason to believe that Minnesota’s existing abortion facilities aren’t living up to this expectation, there’s absolutely nothing stopping another facility from opening up that doesn’t meet this standard,” Kiel said.

The requirements in the bill would apply to clinics that perform 10 or more abortions per month. The clinics would have to pay a licensing fee of $365 every two years.

Dayton vetoed a similar bill in 2012.

A Dayton spokesman issued a statement Monday saying “the governor opposes any new law restricting a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions.”

Many DFL lawmakers spoke against the bill.

Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said it would place additional burdens on clinics and potentially put staff at risk.

“It could be another attempt to target abortion providers, to make public their names, along with the names of other people who work at abortion facilities,” Liebling said.

Supporters have a different view.

Andrea Rau, legislative director for MCCL, said before the debate that thousands of businesses already face state licensing and inspection requirements.

“I would think that the abortion industry would actually welcome the ability to put the government stamp of approval on their facilities,” Rau said. “If not, I ask what are they hiding? What are they afraid of?”