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Minnesota Becomes First State to Pass Abortion Protections Bill After “Dobbs”

The bill protects pregnant people's right "to continue the pregnancy and give birth, or obtain an abortion."

Protesters rally at the Minnesota State Capitol to call for a stop to the abortion bans being instituted in some states around the country, on May 21, 2019, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Minnesota state legislature has passed a bill that guarantees the right to abortion, codifying a state Supreme Court ruling from nearly 30 years ago.

Early on Saturday morning, the state Senate voted 34-33 in favor of the bill following several hours of debate on a series of amendments that Republicans put forward in hopes of derailing the proposal.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) has said that he will sign the bill into law.

The Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act would ensure that abortion rights in the state — as laid out in Doe v. Gomez, a state Supreme Court case from 1995 that established that abortion access was protected by the state constitution — are enshrined into law. Like the 1995 ruling, the new legislation does not put any restrictions on abortion based on the gestational age of a fetus, leaving it to pregnant people and their doctors to decide whether or not to have an abortion.

Though the court ruling has been in place for decades, reproductive rights advocates have said that the passage of the PRO Act is necessary due to the federal Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Women’s Health ruling last summer, which overturned abortion protections that were established in Roe v. Wade.

“The decisions of our courts, the upholding of our fundamental human rights, are only as strong as the judges that uphold them,” said state Sen. Jennifer McEwen (D), author of the PRO Act, noting that what happened to Roe could happen on the state court level.

It’s still possible for abortion rights in Minnesota to be overturned in the future. But the passage of the PRO Act makes it much more difficult, as it would require both the upending of Doe v. Gomez and the repeal of the bill. To undo the bill, which is set to become law, Republicans would have to secure the governorship as well as both houses of the state legislature, a feat they haven’t accomplished for at least three decades.

The bill makes clear that every person in the state has the right “to make autonomous decisions” on their own pregnancies, as well as on contraceptives.

“Every individual has a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about the individual’s own reproductive health, including the fundamental right to use or refuse reproductive health care,” the bill’s text states, adding:

Every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give birth, or obtain an abortion, and to make autonomous decisions about how to exercise this fundamental right.

When the PRO Act is signed into law, Minnesota will become the first state in the country to codify abortion rights protections after Dobbs. The state will also be the sixth in the U.S. to enact a statute guaranteeing abortion rights regardless of the trimester that a person’s pregnancy is in.

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