Minnesota GOP legislators decried proposals in New York and Virginia to loosen abortion restrictions, which have sparked a furor among abortion opponents nationwide.
There are no similar bills in the Minnesota Legislature at this time, but dozens of lawmakers gathered Thursday in the State Capitol to show their opposition to any similar changes in abortion laws here.
“We’re simply saying we’re putting the stake in the ground in Minnesota and saying that’s not going to happen here,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said. “And it’s my hope that other states and the leaders of other states will stand up and say, frankly, that this is too far.”
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said he has not heard any discussion about loosening abortion regulations in Minnesota. He said the rally Thursday was “an expression of their feelings on the issue, but it has little to do with the work of this session.”
While lawmakers who support abortion rights do not appear to be making the issue a priority this year, some legislators who oppose abortion proposed ideas last week.
Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, sponsored a measure that would require physicians to test for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion and, except in medical emergency cases, they could not perform an abortion when a heartbeat is detected. Physicians would face a gross misdemeanor if they violated those rules. Another GOP bill proposed last week would have abortion facilities keep patients’ medical records for 30 years.
Miller’s proposal “is a serious attack on Minnesota women’s health and safety,” Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund, said in a statement. “It bans abortion before most women even know they are pregnant and is fundamentally out of touch with the people of our state.”
Meanwhile in New York, a proposal to reduce late-term abortion restrictions was signed into law last week; the Virginia measure has stalled.
The New York measure codifies Roe vs. Wade in state law, in case it is overturned in the U.S. Supreme Court, and removes a mention of abortion in the state’s criminal code. It also says health care practitioners may perform abortions after 24 weeks if it is necessary to protect the woman’s life or health, or if the fetus isn’t viable, meaning it would not survive outside the womb.
Democrats control the Senate, Assembly and governor’s office in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed off on the bill, saying in a statement that the legislation is critical “in the face of a federal government intent on rolling back Roe v. Wade and women’s reproductive rights.”
The Virginia measure would reduce the number of doctors required to sign off on a late-term abortion from three to one, and eliminate the requirement that abortions be performed in hospitals licensed or operated by the state. A political firestorm erupted after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, commented on decisionmaking around third-trimester abortions in a radio interview, and abortion opponents said he supported infanticide. Northam later said his comments were mischaracterized.
“This is going to lift up the whole pro-life movement like maybe it’s never been lifted up before,” President Donald Trump told the online publication the Daily Caller.
In Minnesota, Northam’s comment drew sharp criticism. Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, a doctor who said he has delivered 500 babies, called it “barbaric.”
“You can’t take someone who’s literally a few inches away from the beginning of life and say, ‘We’re going to exterminate you,’ ” Jensen said.