Ellison won’t appeal state judge’s abortion decision

People speak during a large rally outside.
Attorney General Keith Ellison commits to protecting the rights of out-of-state residents who travel to Minnesota to seek abortion care during a march and protest at the Minnesota State Capitol on July 17.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Updated 12:30 p.m.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said Thursday he will not appeal a district judge's abortion ruling that invalidated several Minnesota restrictions.

That court decision earlier this month by Ramsey County Judge Thomas Gilligan struck down a 24-hour waiting period, a two-parent notification requirement for minors and hospitalization rules, among other laws.

People who disagree with Ellison’s decision say they will explore other legal avenues to counter Gilligan’s ruling.

In a statement about his decision, Ellison said he doesn’t believe an appeal would be successful. He said his office has devoted thousands of hours and many dollars defending the laws that were ruled unconstitutional. Gov. Tim Walz and state regulators were listed as defendants in the case, first filed in 2019.

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“In my view, and in the view of my co-defendants, not appealing the district court’s decision in Doe v. Minnesota is in the public interest and is the right legal decision,” Ellison said in the statement. “It is also the right choice for Minnesota taxpayers and all Minnesotans who need the finality of knowing that they can make intimate decisions about their own bodies free of undue interference by the government.”

"I'm really glad," said Jess Braverman, legal director with Gender Justice which originally co-filed the complaint in 2019. "I think it is helpful for providers and patients to have some finality on an understanding of what laws and regulations and rules apply if they're getting an abortion in Minnesota."

"I think that the court's ruling really goes a long way towards our goal, which is to ensure that abortion is treated like health care -- which it is," she continued.

Braverman also said since Gilligan ruled, Gender Justice has heard from more people who want to provide abortion care now that the restrictions are gone.

"People have been saying that these restrictions made it difficult, or impossible, for them to provide [abortion care]," she said. "And now, in light of the court's ruling, they're interested and so we're really excited about that."

Those on the other side of the abortion issue disagreed with Ellison’s decision to let the judge’s ruling stand.

"The district court ruling was an extreme ruling that wiped out really common sense abortion laws in Minnesota," said Paul Stark, communications director with group Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). "And we think that mistaken ruling should have been appealed by the attorney general, and we're very disappointed that he's not doing that."

Stark said the MCCL is looking into potential legal options. Stark didn’t elaborate, but one option could be to try to get the federal courts to intervene. 

In an interview Thursday, Ellison acknowledged there could be more court challenges ahead.

"You asked me, does this end it? You know, I think the parties may and certain parties who might want to appeal would have the right to move for intervention,” Ellison said. “And we'll see whether they do or not, I'm confident that maybe somebody might. But I don't think that it'll change any outcome that we have. I think this is going to be the law of the state of Minnesota and based on the Supreme Court precedent of Doe vs. Gomez in 1995." 

Ellison is a DFLer seeking a new term this fall. His Republican opponents have criticized his handling of the case.

Endorsed Republican attorney general candidate Jim Schultz reacted to the announcement by calling it a “dereliction of duty.”

“These bipartisan statutes are clearly constitutional and Minnesota deserves an attorney general who will stand up to activist judges,” Schultz tweeted.

Ellison was asked about those who contend that he put up a lax defense of state laws. 

"If I didn't put zealousness into defending these statutes, I could have bailed on this three years ago and just simply not defended. But we do believe -- I do believe -- that Minnesota statutes should be defended by the AG and that's exactly what we did," he said. "Look, it's political season, I expect my opponents to do what politicians sometimes do in campaign season, but we're focused on the law."