What we know — and don’t know — about how Minnesota Republicans would approach abortion if they win fall elections

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Minnesotans have legal access to abortion after Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court last week. This is due to protections in the state constitution.

REUTERS/Nicole Neri
Gov. Tim Walz


Local Democrats claim that Republicans will repeal Minnesota’s abortion laws in light of the landmark federal decision.


span style=”font weight: 400 If Scott Jensen has his will, Minnesota would be one of the most antichoice states in America,” Gov. Tim Walz spoke to reporters at Capitol Tuesday in reference to the Republican leading candidate for the state’s highest office.


If Walz is reelected, or if Democrats control the state House and Senate next year, any legislation that would significantly restrict abortion access will likely fail. If Republicans gain full control of the state government, however, the political picture will be different. Abortion foes would be more powerful.


Jensen called for broad restrictions on abortion, while acknowledging that state abortion protections would have to be overturned in order to reach his goal. The House and Senate GOP leaders have not been as clear about their plans and the ways they intend to restrict abortion access.

What Jensen might do to Roe

Minnesota law has restrictions regarding abortion. There is a 24-hour waiting period. The state law states that abortion is not allowed after a fetus has become viable outside of the womb. This is approximately 24 weeks in the second trimester. There is an exception for situations in which a doctor says that abortion is necessary to “preserve life or health” of the pregnant woman. In 2020, around 70% of abortions occurred less than nine weeks into a pregnancy. 99 percent however, were reported to have occurred before the 24-week mark.

These state laws are supported by a constitutional right of abortion as defined by the state Supreme Court in 1995. Doe v. Gomez was a case in which the state court went beyond the Roe ruling that low-income women receiving medical assistance could be covered for abortion.


Jensen offered many stances in his campaign to become governor.

Jensen said that he would ban abortion if elected governor in March, just before Roe was overturned. Jensen, a family physician and practicing surgeon, stated that he would not support exemptions from rape or incest but might allow abortion to “protect a mother’s span>


Jensen stated to WCCO that if a mother’s health is at risk, it would be a medical concern and an exception.

Jensen made a written statement acknowledging Minnesota’s Supreme Court’s right to abortion, even though Roe was overturned last week. This statement didn’t call for any challenge to the ruling in an attempt to ban most abortions. That would either require the court overturning its earlier decision — which is unlikely given the current composition of the bench — or passing a constitutional amend.


A simple majority of state legislators can ask voters to reject an amendment to their state constitution or to ratify it. To pass, these ballot questions must be voted on by a majority of voters.


Jensen did not specify what limits on abortion he would push for in his new statement. Instead, he stated that he would seek out loving and caring options like universal adoption, family-planning measures to prevent pregnancies, counseling and alternative referrals and other measures that value individuals – both unborn span>


In a Tuesday video, Jensen stated that “rape and incest would fall within the realm ‘is her mother’s life at risk’.”


Jensen stated that a mother’s health can be at risk “quite easily without us being able to see it”, such as when she has suicidal thoughts.


Jensen stated that a mom who has an unplanned pregnancy should not have to prove or demonstrate that there was rape or incest. She should instead be able to communicate with her doctor and make the final decision about whether this is, if they will, jeopardizing her life.


Legislative Republicans


The Republican legislators have not offered any concrete plans for how they would tackle abortion if elected. While the GOP controls the Minnesota Senate, the DFL has a majority of the Minnesota House. However, that could change in the fall midterm election. These elections often turn out poorly for the party headed by the president.

House GOP Leader Kurt Daudt


House Republicans spokesperson Kurt Daudt praised the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a written statement. He declined to discuss what legislation they might pursue next year if they are elected majority. Kurt Daudt, House Minority Leader, praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in a written statement following the ruling.



Roe



However, he said that there would not be an “immediate effect” in Minnesota. Minnesota state legislators who are against abortion have tried to increase abortion restrictions over the years or suggested other measures to encourage women to give birth.

In the last year, House Republicans introduced bills to stop state health programs paying for abortion span styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>. They also wanted to ban abortions in clinics, and impose new licensure requirements.

Heartbeat law supporters often claim that a “fetal beat” is detected at six weeks. However, medical experts believe this term is misleading. While there may be some cardiac activity during pregnancy , the heart doesn’t develop fully until much later in the pregnancy span styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>. Ultrasound machines create an audible sound that lasts around six weeks.

Rep. Rep. Anyone could file a civil suit against anyone who does an illegal abortion or abets one under the plan.


Senate Republicans have not yet set out a specific agenda for limiting abortion.

Senate Majority leader Jeremy Miller, a Republican hailing from Winona said in a statement following the decision to overturn Roe that his caucus was “committed to working together…to find consensus on protections to babies and support for mothers and families who choose to live.” However, it will depend on individual legislators’ views.

Given the popularity of abortion rights throughout the state, it might not be politically beneficial for Republican leaders to discuss specific ways they might address abortion prior to the fall election.

State Sen. Michelle Benson


Senator Michelle Benson, a Republican from Ham Lake, who has long supported abortion restrictions, introduced this year a bill.



Those who administer the abortion pill mifepristone must be doctors.



Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life has made this a priority. They have previously objected to the shipping of such pills to women via the mail.

Nevertheless, Benson stated that the Legislature would have to reach consensus on any abortion laws when the draft opinion in federal case was released in May. They must be approved by the House, Senate, and governor’s offices. Benson stated that the Doe ruling is an “extra step” in major abortion restrictions and would require more conservative judges to approve or voters to pass a constitutional amendment.


Benson stated that if Minnesota is to become a more pro-life state, it will need to make some changes to its judiciary.

State Sen. Paul Utke


Senator Paul Utke (a Park Rapids Republican) said Tuesday that people would be looking for ways to challenge existing abortion laws through the courts, but had not heard of a campaign to amend the constitution.


Utke stated that legal challenges are unlikely to be a quick process.


Walz warns against fast action


Walz believes that a change could occur in the judiciary very quickly. The governor stated that three of seven Minnesota Supreme Court justices would soon reach the 70-year old retirement age. This means that the court’s balance could shift under Walz or Jensen’s second term.

Later, however, Claire Lancaster, a Walz spokesperson said that only two judges are close to reaching mandatory retirement age and that one of them will reach the age limit in the next four year governor’s term. Justice Barry Anderson will be eligible for mandatory retirement in October 2024, and Natalie Hudson in February 2027. Judges can still voluntarily retire at any time before reaching 70.


However, the governor argued that it would be foolish to think Republicans wouldn’t find a way quickly to address abortion or to evade or challenge any state law or constitutional access protections.


“Abortion in Minnesota is legal, but that could change in November,” said he.

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