Several hundred opponents of abortion crowded into the state Capitol rotunda Wednesday on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision to rededicate themselves to fighting for restrictions on the procedure, including a ban on taxpayer-funded abortions and licensing and inspection rules for abortion clinics.
"This is the year we should end taxpayer-funded abortions once and for all," said Jan Ochsner, development associate for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, which sponsored the rally.
Action at the state level has been a bright spot for the anti-abortion side since President Obama, who supports abortion rights, took office in 2009, MCCL president Leo LaLonde told the gathering. The group heard U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Burnsville, an abortion opponent, say he has pushed abortion restrictions without success.
"How many of these have become law? None," Kline said. In Minnesota in recent years, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has vetoed measures favored by abortion opponents, including licensing and inspection rules for abortion clinics.
Mention of Dayton's vetoes drew "boos" from the anti-abortion gathering.
A low-level battle continues at the Minnesota Legislature over the issue, according to LaLonde and Linnea House, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, the state's main abortion-rights advocacy group. Both expect the abortion-funding and licensing issues to return in the 2014 Legislative session, along with restrictions on abortion based on evidence of fetal pain.
Wednesday was the 41th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared abortion to be a constitutional right. Both sides see the anniversary in a different light.
"The Supreme Court made a horrible decision, leading to the destruction of 56 million lives," Kline told the audience, referring to the number of abortions since the Roe decision.
House, of the abortion-rights group, said of the anniversary, "We are really proud to stand with our partners in the Minnesota choice coalition... We think all women and families deserve the full range of reproductive options available to them.''
While the Roe decision narrows the field of restrictions that will pass constitutional muster, LaLonde said he has hopes for the MCCL agenda for 2014. That includes setting a "pain threshold" for the fetus beyond which abortion would be outlawed.
'The Court has softened a little bit in cases and has allowed a few more protections," LaLonde said. He added takes heart from the fact that despite Democratic-Farmer-Labor control of the Legislature, there is a majority of abortion opponents in the House.
"We've got a good pro-life majority in the House," LaLonde said, adding that "we could pass some legislation ....but not everything we want."
The legislative session begins on Feb.25.