Politics and Government

Walz signs bill guaranteeing abortion access in Minnesota

Person talks at podium and signs a bill
Gov. Tim Walz signs the PRO Act, (House File 1), at the Minnesota Department of Revenue on Tuesday, after a Friday debate lasting 15 hours led to the House passage.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday signed into law a proposal that guarantees in state law the right to abortion and other reproductive health care options.

The move backstops the current right to an abortion laid out in a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision, and it expands that to include access to birth control, sterilization, family planning support and other services. The law also prohibits local governments from enacting policies that infringe on those rights.

A bill next to markers
The Pro Act bill awaiting signature at the Minnesota Department of Revenue. The Minnesota Senate passed the bill on Saturday morning on a 34-33 party-line vote after over 15 hours of debate; Walz signed it into law Tuesday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

“We’re sending a message today that’s very clear: Your rights are respected in this state,” Walz said. “You make your final decisions about your health, your family and your life.”

The law took effect immediately, making Minnesota the first state to adopt such a change via legislative action in the post-Roe era. Several other states approved expanded reproductive care access at the ballot box last year.

Two people hug in crowd
Gov. Tim Walz and his wife Gwen Walz embraced after he signed the PRO Act, or House File 1, on Tuesday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

DFL lawmakers, abortion providers and reproductive rights advocates joined Walz at the Capitol complex as he signed the legislation. And they said the measure was just a first step in ensuring access to abortion in Minnesota.

Democrats are also carrying proposals to strike existing regulations on abortion, some of which have been deemed unconstitutional, and adding legal protections for patients that travel to Minnesota for an abortion, as well as abortion providers.

Person speaks at podium next to crowd03
Gov. Tim Walz speaks after he signed the act on Tuesday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

And they said that the PRO Act was a key first step to ensuring that patients could obtain an abortion in Minnesota, including people who travel from states where it’s been outlawed.

“Not only are we standing here today as proud Minnesotans but we are also here as Americans and with the signing of this bill, Minnesota forever will be a North Star as every one of our neighboring states continues to deny fundamental rights to their citizens,” bill author Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, DFL-Eden Prairie, said. “Today we are leading by example.”

People clap in a crowd
Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, Sen. Jen McEwen during the PRO Act signs ceremony on Tuesday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Dr. Melissa Richards, an OB/GYN, said she and her colleagues felt a sense of relief knowing that the law would ensure that patients could access abortion and reproductive care in Minnesota.

Person talks at podium1
Peggy Flanagan, Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota speaks during the bill signing ceremony on Tuesday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

“Under the PRO Act, ordinary patient care will remain ordinary,” Richards said. “Today is certainly a historic day as it is made clear that reproductive rights are and will remain a non-negotiable right here in the state of Minnesota.”

While the legislation won’t change much in terms of current access to abortion services in Minnesota, it has fueled strong support and opposition at the Capitol during the early weeks of the legislative session.

A person shows her fallopian tube earrings
Dr. Janna Gerwitz O’Brien, Minnesota American Academy of Pediatrics, shows her fallopian tube earrings after speaking during a press conference ahead of the Minnesota Senate debate on the PRO Act on Friday.
Nicole Neri for MPR News

In both legislative chambers, all Republicans voted against the measures. And they, along with anti-abortion groups, have called the law extreme and overreaching, due to its lack of restrictions on abortion. 

Democrats say the law takes politicians out of decisions that should be made by patients, their families and their physicians. 

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