Democratic Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, signed a bill Tuesday that establishes the “fundamental right” to access abortion in the state.
Abortion is already legal in Minnesota, but in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, the Protect Reproductive Options Act goes one step further by emphasizing that every person has a basic right to make “independent decisions” about their own reproductive health as well as a right to refuse reproductive health care.
With the passage of the bill, Minnesota is now the first state to codify abortion through legislative action since Roe v. Wade was overruled, the bill’s lead author’s office in the Minnesota state Senate told CNN.
“Last November, Minnesotans spoke loud and clear: They want their reproductive rights protected, not stripped away,” Walz said in a news release. “Today we deliver on our promise to erect a firewall against efforts to reverse reproductive freedom. Regardless of who sits on the Minnesota Supreme Court, this legislation will ensure Minnesotans have access to reproductive health care for generations to come. Here in Minnesota, your access to reproductive health care and your freedom to make your own health care decisions are preserved and protected.
The bill states that local government cannot limit a person’s ability to exercise the “fundamental right” to reproductive freedom. It also clarifies that this right extends to access to contraception, sterilisation, family planning, fertility services and reproductive healthcare counseling.
“The Pro Act goes even further than just granting those abortion rights, it really asserts that all reproductive health decisions are none of our business, including access to contraception, including access to anything really related to personal and private decisions about your reproductive life,” Megan Peterson, executive director of the abortion rights campaign UnRestrict Minnesota, told CNN after Walz signed the bill.
In a letter to Walz before the signing, leaders of the Republican legislature argued that the bill had gone too far and urged the governor to veto what they called “an extreme law.”
“As the PRO Act rushed through the Legislature, Republicans offered reasonable amendments with guardrails to protect women and children,” wrote state Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson and House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, “ Sadly, each of these amendments was overruled by a Democratic majority.”
In 1995, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in Doe v. Gomez that abortion was a fundamental right protected by the state constitution. The Protect Reproductive Options Act ensures that even if a new state Supreme Court reverses the ruling, abortion rights will be protected under state law.
“By passing this law, Minnesotans will have a second layer of protection for their existing reproductive rights. A future Minnesota Supreme Court could overturn Doe v. Gomez, but with the PRO Act now in state law, Minnesotans will still be eligible for reproductive health care,” Luke Bishop, spokeswoman for Democratic state Sen. Jennifer McEwen, who authored the bill in the Senate, told CNN via e-mail.
Following the governor’s signing of the bill, the White House applauded Minnesota’s efforts, emphasizing popular support for women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.
“Americans overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, as clearly demonstrated last fall when voters rallied to defend access to abortion, including for campaign initiatives in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
“As congressional Republicans continue to support extreme policies, including a nationwide abortion ban, the president and vice president are calling on Congress to restore Roe’s protections in federal law,” he wrote. “Until then, the Biden-Harris administration will continue its work to protect access to abortion and support state leaders in defending women’s reproductive rights.”