Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


Minnesota lawmakers have more to do to ensure timely access to abortion, an essential component of reproductive health care.

Legislators in other states have rushed to turn back the clock following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last summer to recklessly kick aside decades of precedent and overturn Roe v. Wade. This historic 1973 decision concluded that the right to an abortion is found within the Constitution. Roe's demise returns decisions on the matter to the states.

Fortunately, DFL majorities in both Minnesota legislative chambers are moving the state forward, not backward, regarding reproductive health. Lawmakers had been in St. Paul for less than a month this year when a bill codifying abortion rights cleared both legislative chambers. DFL Gov. Tim Walz promptly signed it into law Jan. 31.

That legislation is known as the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act. It establishes a fundamental right to a spectrum of reproductive health care in Minnesota, including birth control. While a state Supreme Court decision currently protects abortion access, the PRO Act provides another layer of protection should future state justices overturn that ruling.

Lawmakers shouldn't stop there, however. Over the years, other barriers have been implemented to chip away at abortion access or stigmatize the procedure. Abortion opponents often claim these are "commonsense restrictions." In reality, these serve only as harmful impediments to health care. It's time to repeal them.

Examples include:

  • A 24-hour waiting period that is a financial and time burden, especially for women who must travel to clinics from rural areas or other states.
  • Requiring providers to ask invasive questions of patients seeking an abortion — such as how much money they make, the number of miscarriages they've previously had, why they're having the procedure, and how they are paying for this care — and then report gathered data to the state.
  • Limiting the number of abortion providers by requiring that only physicians provide care instead of allowing nurse practitioners or other qualified medical professionals to do so.
  • Two-parent notification requirement for patients under 18. This fails to recognize that sometimes a parent isn't involved in a child's life after a divorce or other circumstances. Or that sharing this information could put a young patient at risk of abuse. While research shows that a trusted adult often accompanies minors seeking an abortion, there is a court option to get around parental notification. But younger patients especially may not have the resources or time to pursue this.

Jettisoning the parental notification requirement may give some pause. But this treats abortions the same as pregnancy care, where minors are allowed to decide and consent to their own care.

Legislation to repeal these requirements (HF 91/SF 70) has won strong support from notable women's health advocates. Among them: the Minnesota Medical Association, which represents more than 10,000 physicians and students in the state. Other backers include the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, the Minnesota section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Minnesota Nurses Association and Gender Justice.

Last summer, a Minnesota district court judge ruled that many of these restrictions violate the state Constitution. The decision blocked enforcement of many of them, such as the 24-hour waiting period, two-parent notification and the requirement that only doctors can provide abortions.

But as the regrettable Roe ruling illustrates, courts can change. That's an important reason to repeal state abortion restrictions despite the district court ruling. Leaving the restrictions on the books also creates unnecessary legal ambiguity for providers and patients.

Legislators have teed up other worthy abortion protection bills, such as HF 366/SF 165, which would provide patients and providers legal protection against prosecution by other states putting dangerous restrictions in place.

Making reproductive health a legislative priority this year is appropriate. Minnesota is home to world-class medical centers, and its laws should reflect that. And patients who live or travel here deserve care that is guided by compassion, science and individual choice.