Minnesota becomes first state to pass abortion protections bill after “Dobbs”

Minnesota on Tuesday became the first state to enshrine abortion rights and other reproductive health care.

The PRO Act, short for Protect Reproductive Actions, states that “every person has the fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about that person’s own reproductive health,” including abortion and contraception. “Following last year’s landmark elections in this country, we are the first state to take legislative action to implement these safeguards,” Democratic Gov. Tim Walz said

The bill states that local government must not restrict an individual’s ability to exercise the “fundamental right” to reproductive freedom. It also clarifies that this right extends to access to contraception, sterilization, family planning, fertility services and advice related to reproductive health care.

Abortion rights were previously protected by a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that the state constitution protects abortion rights. A district judge last summer ruled several restrictions introduced by previous lawmakers unconstitutional, including a 24-hour waiting period and parental notification requirements for minors.

Although the new law is unlikely to have any immediate further impact on access to abortion in Minnesota, the governor, legislative leaders and supporters of the bill said it offers a new layer of protection should the makeup of state courts one day change, like it was previously the case before the US Supreme Court before hearing Roe v. Wade knocked down. Opponents condemned the law as “extreme” and said it and other expedited laws will leave Minnesota with essentially no restrictions on abortions at any stage of pregnancy.

As lawmakers gather across the country, they are getting their first opportunity to address major abortion proposals in the six months since the US Supreme Court Roe v. Wade and left the question of whether abortion is legal to the states. Numerous bills are in the pipeline nationwide that would either expand or restrict access.

Abortion is currently illegal at all stages of pregnancy in 13 states, including neighboring Wisconsin and South Dakota, with various exceptions. Bans in several states, including neighboring North Dakota, remain on hold pending court challenges. Due to restrictions elsewhere, Minnesota has seen a surge in pregnant patients coming to the state for abortions.

“Americans overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to make her own health decisions, as was so clearly demonstrated last fall when voters defended access to abortion — including on ballot initiatives in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, and Montana Vermont,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

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