Republican legislators no longer deserve to call themselves "prolife'' after approving heartless and hypocritical antiabortion measures that put extremist politics above what's best for Minnesota women and children.
Lawmakers claiming to be good financial stewards should also be called out because the proposed 50 percent cut in the state's low-income family planning program -- which is coupled with a ludicrous gag rule on abortion referrals -- will only lead to more unplanned pregnancies.
That is not in the state's financial interest. It also undermines the overarching goal -- stopping abortions -- of the antiabortion forces who hijacked the legislative agenda this year. In 2010, the 33-year-old Family Planning Special Projects program served nearly 90,000 uninsured or unemployed Minnesotans.
Unintended pregnancies only lead to more abortions. Mothers who do carry their children are less likely to get prenatal care and more likely to smoke or drink. These babies are at greater risk of premature birth, low birth weight and developmental disorders that can lead to a lifetime of suffering and costly treatment.
These children often depend on state health and social-services programs -- which the Republican-dominated Legislature has also voted to gut. Initial care costs for just a few unplanned children with severe medical problems could easily wipe out the $2.67 million saved by cutting the program's annual funding in half. Hospitalization for preterm or low-birth-weight infants cost the nation an estimated $5.8 billion a year.
The gag rule also doesn't square with Republican ideology. How can the party that decries big government rationalize a measure that restricts speech and inserts the state between providers and patients? The gag rule would cut off funding to providers in the family-planning program if doctors provide abortion referrals. It also would bar funding for organizations that perform abortions. That measure targets Planned Parenthood, which provides affordable birth control and sexually transmitted disease testing outstate but offers surgical abortions at one clinic in Minnesota.
Unfortunately, the state's powerful antiabortion lobby has checked off just about every other item on this year's legislative wish list. On Monday, the Minnesota Senate passed two bills that would radically restrict reproductive rights in the state; the legislation had already cleared the House. One bill would eliminate Medicaid funding for abortions. Another would ban almost all abortions after 20 weeks, which could cruelly compel a woman to carry a stillborn to term.
Hamline Law School Prof. David Schultz has testified that both bills are unconstitutional. That lawmakers passed them anyway strongly suggests that these bills are nothing but bait for court challenges at the state and federal level -- legal fights that a veto would head off unless it's overridden and the bills become law. The legal tab would likely be picked up by taxpayers.
The Minnesota State Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that state health programs can't refuse to cover abortions if coverage is provided for prenatal and childbirth expenses. Antiabortion forces are obviously hoping that the current court is more conservative and would rule differently. The same holds true for the 20-week ban and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gov. Mark Dayton should use common sense and compassion when these measures come across his desk -- and veto them.