The Minnesota Senate voted Thursday to cut off state money for abortions, a strong priority of Republicans who control the Legislature but one that Gov. Mark Dayton vowed he would veto.
“Minnesotans do not want their taxpayer dollars used to fund abortions that take the life of an unborn child,” said Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake. The Senate separately voted for more state oversight of abortion clinics, as Republicans use their legislative majorities to further goals of the anti-abortion movement.
The state House previously approved both measures, so they’re on their way to Dayton’s desk. He reiterated Thursday that he would veto them both.
“I oppose both of them, and I will continue to oppose them,” Dayton said.
Debate over the two measures grew heated at times before lawmakers passed each on a vote of 35-29. All Senate Republicans voted for both bills along with one DFLer, Sen. Kent Eken of Twin Valley.
Kiffmeyer’s measure takes aim at a 1995 state Supreme Court case that first established that women receiving medical assistance are entitled to abortion coverage. The aim of passing it is to set up a constitutional conflict that anti-abortion activists say could overturn the ruling.
“Minnesota did not vote to change this policy,” Kiffmeyer said. “The Legislature did not vote to change this policy.”
Minnesota is one of about a dozen states where taxpayer dollars pay for abortions. Federal legislation commonly known as the Hyde Amendment bars the use of certain federal funds to pay for abortion, except in cases where pregnancy puts a woman’s life at risk, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Since the 1995 ruling, the state has paid roughly $24 million in reimbursements for abortions, a fraction of the $150 million spent in one year alone on pre- and postnatal services, according to the Department of Human Services (DHS). The state of Minnesota paid $1 million on more than 4,200 abortion procedures in 2015, the most abortion claims paid in the two decades.
The 6 percent increase in reimbursements from 2014 to 2015 coincided with a 12 percent increase in the number of people enrolled in Medical Assistance, according to the DHS.
“It discriminates against women based on the health insurance they have,” said Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul. “This bill discriminates against people because of their income and because of their insurance.”
Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, said it was a bad idea to intentionally pass a law that conflicts with a state Supreme Court ruling, arguing that “efforts to enact it would be met with lawsuits.”
The second measure regulating abortion facilities, sponsored by state Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, is intended to provide more oversight of clinics that perform 10 or more per month. Hospitals and outpatient surgical centers would not be affected.
“This is about patient safety and about making sure Minnesotans are served properly in those clinics,” Fischbach said.
DFLers decried the licensing bill as a way to limit access to abortion, calling it medically unnecessary.
Activists against abortion are riding a national wave of momentum following big electoral gains by Republicans last year, both nationally and at state legislatures. Dayton said he was at least relieved that Minnesota’s Republican majorities did not attach the abortion provisions to one of the much broader spending bills under consideration at the Capitol.
Sending them separately to his veto “is totally within their prerogative and totally within the bounds of the legislative session,” Dayton said.