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.
“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.
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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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.