Attorney General Keith Ellison intends to defend a slate of state laws restricting abortion access against a recent legal challenge, despite his personal views on the issue.
“My job is to defend the laws of the state of Minnesota without regard to my own personal opinions,” Ellison said during a forum in Fergus Falls, Minn., on Friday. “That’s the job that I have, that’s what I signed up for, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
The comments, prompted by a question about how he will approach such cases given his history of supporting abortion access, marked the DFL attorney general’s most definitive public statement on the lawsuit since it was filed in late May.
The lawsuit, brought by legal advocacy groups Gender Justice and the Lawyering Project on behalf of two anonymous health professionals and First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, is aimed at overturning a series of laws supporters say deny women access to constitutionally protected abortion services and “impose burdensome and unnecessary restrictions” on providers.
Targeted statutes include a 24-hour waiting period, two-parent notification requirements for patients under 18, and a provision mandating that fetal remains be buried or cremated.
The challenge also seeks to strike the requirement that all abortions be performed by a physician. Several other states, including California, Colorado and Vermont, allow nurse practitioners or other health professionals to perform some procedures.
Gender Justice Legal Director Jess Braverman said she wasn’t surprised or concerned by Ellison’s vow to defend the statutes. She noted that it isn’t unusual for cases to force attorneys to take professional positions that may conflict with their personal views.
“We are prepared for the state to put on a vigorous defense,” Braverman said. “We believe in the end the court will find these laws to be unconstitutional.”
Abortion opponents, meanwhile, welcomed Ellison’s latest comments. Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life spokesman Paul Stark said the targeted measures have “helped empower and protect thousands of women” over the years.
“The taxpayers of Minnesota deserve a vigorous defense of our common-sense abortion laws,” he said.
The lawsuit is politically awkward for Ellison, the state’s top prosecutor, as well as for DFL Gov. Tim Walz, who is also named in the suit in his role as the state’s chief executive. Both support abortion rights, and Ellison has joined legal actions targeting restrictions on reproductive rights handed down by the Trump administration. Ellison had previously said that his office was reviewing the case and that while he personally supports abortion rights, he has a “duty to defend the constitutionality of Minnesota statutes and will do so in this case.”
“It’s my job to represent the state, so we’re going to do a good job,” he said in an interview after the Fergus Falls event. “I maintain my own personal views, but it’s just the way it is.”
Ellison initially faced a June 24 deadline to file an official response to the lawsuit. On Friday, a judge granted his office’s request to extend that date to July 31. Attorneys for the state had argued that more time was needed given the length and complexity of the complaint.