Why Minnesota Republicans might be hesitant to push abortion constitutional amendment

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Republicans who wish to limit abortion in Minnesota are limited by rights provided by the Minnesota Constitution.

The GOP could try to overturn or modify a 1995 decision of the state Supreme Court in Doe v. Gomez regarding abortion. The party could also send a constitutional amendment for Minnesota voters.

REUTERS/Nicole Neri
Gov. Tim Walz


Recent weeks have seen Democrats raise the possibility of a state referendum on abortion in 2024. Republicans, however, are likely to attempt such a maneuver if the Minnesota House or Senate is controlled after the fall elections.


“An antichoice governor such as Scott Jensen could utilize the platform to advocate and manipulate the additional Constitutional Amendment to ban abortion under all circumstances,” Walz stated during a June news conference. He was referring to his presumed Republican opponent in the governor’s election.

A constitutional amendment to limit abortion has not been discussed by prominent Republicans this year. Jensen told MPR News last Wednesday that he would not push for a vote on one, even if elected.


There are two reasons Republicans may hesitate to explore this option. The GOP lost a vote on a constitutional amendment banning the same-sex marriage ban in 2012. Several Democratic-leaning states across the country have rejected restrictions on abortion.


Minnesota Constitutional Amendments


Minnesota doesn’t allow ballot measures to simply alter state laws. These referendums are popular in the west U.S. states, and they are also possible in other parts. However, voters have the ability to amend state constitutions.

The Legislature must pass a measure proposing a constitutional amendmentspan styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>._ It does not require the signature of a governor, and cannot be vetoed. The proposed amendment is then put to a vote at the state level in the next general election.

Since Minnesota was made a state, 213 amendments to the Constitution have been voted uponspan styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>, but only 120 have been approved. Most recently, a 2016 amendment was passed by voters that created a council to set salaries for legislators.


2012 was notable for the intense political fights over two constitutional amendments that were supported by many Republicans and some Democrats. They would have banned homosexual marriage and established new voter identification requirements. Both were rejected.


Republicans controlled both the House and Senate at that time, and passed the measures on to the voters.


Richard Carlbom was the campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families. He said that an anti-abortion bill would be met with serious obstacles in Minnesota.


Polls in 2012 showed that voters supported a ban on same sex marriage during a large portion of the campaign. Carlbom stated that “we were really far behind” in the polls a few months prior to the election. Carlbom stated that there were good reasons why donors would not invest in them, as there had been precedents of similar measures being passed in other states.


The opponents of the amendment needed to create a system that would generate momentum and excitement that would propel them to victory.

Richard Carlbom


Carlbom stated that he believes abortion access advocates would be better off if Republicans tried to ban all or most abortions. More than 80% of respondents to a June poll by MinnPost and Change Research showed that they were satisfied with the results.



Two-thirds of those surveyed opposed an absolute ban on abortion



64 percent of respondents supported abortions in the first trimester. Popular were exemptions for incest, rape and to save a pregnant woman’s life.


A plurality of 47% of voters voted for abortion to be illegal in the 2nd trimester. The poll revealed that 18% of respondents were not sure. A plurality of 49 per cent also believed abortion should be legal in all circumstances where a woman decides to have an unplanned pregnancy and her doctor can safely perform it span>


To pass constitutional amendments, the measure must be voted ‘yes’ by a majority (not just the majority) of all those who voted in the whole election. This means that people who vote on any other matter but not on a constitutional amendment count as ‘no votes.


Carlbom stated that it was up to him to find a way to create energy, excitement, and momentum to get you from 67 percent opposition, to 51 to 52 percent support in Minnesota.


Legislators could put in more restrictive restrictions on abortion. Some states have held referendums to determine whether the constitution contains a right for abortion. This doesn’t make it illegal, but allows legislators to regulate or limit it if they wish.


Dan Hall was a Republican state senator from 2011 to 2020. He helped push the same-sex marriage Amendment to the ballot.


Hall stated that if a constitutional amendment was to be included in that, it would be fantastic. “If a Constitutional Amendment was to be a part of that, that would be fantastic .”


He was however skeptical about the possibility of such an amendment. Hall stated that he was unsure if the state would agree to such an amendment at this time.

Former state Sen. Dan Hall


The top Republican leaders in the Legislature have not yet shared their plans for how they will approach abortion next year. None of them have called for a constitutional change. After the leak of the decision, Sen. Michelle Benson, a Ham Lake Republican, spoke out in May to reporters.



Roe



Minnesota would need to be “more pro-life” if it were to have “some changes in its judiciary.”


A number of Republican senators refused to comment on the strategy for abortion policy.

Jensen stated that he would ban abortion if elected governor. Jensen said last week that he wouldn’t support or advocate for a constitutional amendment banning abortion.


Do Democrats want to fight for an amendment?


The constitutional amendment to ban homosexual marriage was defeated. In 2012, voters elected Democratic majorities in both the Senate and the House of the State. Lawmakers then passed a law allowing same-sex married.


DFL repeatedly claimed that the DFL believes abortion will help voters in the midterm elections. Would Democrats be open to a referendum on abortion?


Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park), House Speaker, stated in an interview that she believes Republicans will pursue a constituional abortion amendment if they control both the House and Senate. She said that she would not want such a ballot initiative because she believes “fundamental rights shouldn’t be up for a vote .”


Walz stated that he is concerned about the “thumb-on-the scale” from a Republican governor’s Office, which could somehow sway an election. But he assured him that he does not fear Minnesotans voting on this.


Walz stated that they did not fear them voting for marriage equality, nor did we fear them voting for voter ID. Minnesotans are well aware of this. “I think it’s vital for everyone to understand the risks in this climate .”


Latest history of abortion ballot measures


Colorado was the only state that voters have recently weighed in on abortion. It voted in the same way as Minnesota in 2020’s presidential election.

Colorado voters rejected a 2020 ballot measure that would have prohibited abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy. This margin was larger than Biden’s victory for the state.

Oregon is another state that is controlled by Democrats. voted against a 2018 constitutional amendment which would have restricted public funding for abortions in a 64-to 35 percent range.

In Republican-leaning States, ballot measures and constitutional amendments that restrict abortion have been passed elsewhere in the United States. Louisiana was one of these states. In 2020, Louisiana voters approved a constitutional amendment that said there was no right for abortion in state constitutions.

In 2018, voters in Alabama approved a ballot initiative to change the state constitution so that Alabama recognizes and supports the “sanctity of unborn human life and the rights and dignity of unborn children,”


A closer election took place in Tennessee, a deep-red state in 2014. In that area, 5 points of voters voted for the Constitution to allow the Legislature to regulate abortion.


Recent examples of conservative states rejecting anti-abortion policies are also available

One: North Dakota. Voters in 2014 strongly rejected a constitutional amendment which would have given fetuses legal right by declaring that every person “at any stage” of their development should be protected and recognized.


South Dakota rejected 55 to 44 a 2008 ballot measure that would have prohibited all abortions, except for those involving rape or incest, and to protect the lives of pregnant women.

This year, eight states will vote on , according to the Washington Post .

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