Minnesota Democrats in the House made the case Monday to pass an expansive version of the Equal Rights Amendment, one that would ask voters in 2026 if they want to enshrine protections for everything from race, sex and gender identity to abortion and infertility treatments in the state's Constitution.

The amendment, which cleared a House committee, now heads to the full House floor for a vote with two weeks left in the session and no agreement yet with the DFL-led Senate. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Kaohly Vang Her, DFL-St. Paul, said there's urgency to put the question to voters after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and decades of constitutional protections for abortion.

"We were told Roe v. Wade was as good as law, but it was not. It was only as good as law until it was overturned," she said. "We are seeing rights being limited across the country, whether it's someone's right to choose how they want to plan their families or someone's right to be an individual for themselves."

The hearing was also a preview of what could become an expensive statewide campaign over the proposed amendment, including fierce opposition from religious and anti-abortion groups that accused Democrats of shrouding the amendment's intent while leaving out protections based on religious beliefs.

"Abortion advocates know if they were truthful about what they are trying to push into our Constitution, Minnesotans across the state and throughout the Twin Cities would vote a resounding no," said Cathy Blaeser, co-executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the state's largest anti-abortion group. "The apparent strategy is to dupe them into something they overwhelmingly oppose."

Time is running short in the 2024 legislative session and there's pressure on Democrats to pass something while they have full control of the House and the Senate. The full House is on the ballot this fall, which means the majority could flip from Democratic to Republican next year. All Republicans voted against the latest version of the amendment in committee Monday, accusing Democrats of ramming the proposal through at the last minute.

"You want to jam through an amendment at the very end of session with legitimate concerns thinking if we push this through, this is a winning issue," said House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring. "That is absolutely irresponsible legislating in this place."

Since the Supreme Court's 2022 decision, voters in six states have weighed in on constitutional amendments regarding abortion, with abortion rights groups prevailing in every state. This fall more than a dozen states may have abortion-related measures on their ballot.

A version that passed the state Senate last year with bipartisan votes would ask voters in 2024 if the Minnesota Constitution should be amended to guarantee equal rights to people no matter their "race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry, or national origin."

Constitutional amendments must pass both the House and Senate before they can go on the ballot. The House didn't take it up last year, arguing that the language needed to more explicitly ensure legal protections for abortion and gender-affirming care.

The House version passed Monday includes protections for those making decisions "about all matters relating to one's own pregnancy or decision whether to become or remain pregnant." Supporters of the House language said their version will hold up better to legal challenges than the Senate's bill.

Sen. Mary Kunesh, DFL-New Brighton, who is carrying the amendment in the Senate, said in a statement that she's "glad to see the House acting to keep this important conversation going." Democrats control the Senate by a single vote, which has been challenged following the arrest of Sen. Nicole Mitchell, DFL-Woodbury, who faces burglary charges.

"Our caucus needs time to review and discuss the new language," Kunesh said. "We share a commitment to equal rights and protections, and will work within our caucus and with the House to bring our paths together and pass the Equal Rights Amendment."

Opponents said the House version attempts to trick voters by referring to "pregnancy" protections rather than using the word abortion. They also criticized the proposed amendment for leaving out religion and creed in its list of protections.

"Religion should be included in this ERA as it is in most civil rights ordinances," said Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference. "Doing so is consistent with both policy and core American values."

Democrats said religious beliefs are already safeguarded by the state Constitution, and referring to pregnancy rather than abortion reflects broader protections intended by the amendment, whether someone is seeking to terminate a pregnancy or wanting fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization.

"It's so broad and it disheartens me to hear people saying this is only about abortion," said Rep. Athena Hollins, DFL-St. Paul. "Anybody who has had a baby knows there are tons of issues that come up when you are having a child."