Health Care

Minn. governor signs abortion protections

The new law adds access to contraception, maternity care, family planning and abortion to state law.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaks to the media Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, in St. Paul, Minn. Minnesota Democrats completed a trifecta Wednesday by winning both houses of the legislature to take full control of state government for the first time in eight years. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Minnesota became the first state since the midterm elections to add substantial legal protections guaranteeing the right to an abortion when Gov. Tim Walz (D) on Tuesday signed a bill codifying access to reproductive care.

In a ceremony with legislators and advocates, Walz signed the Protect Reproductive Options Act, which will add access to contraception, maternity care, family planning and abortion to state law.

Abortion access was already guaranteed under state law after a 1995 decision by the state Supreme Court. The new law, supporters said, was meant to protect those rights in the event that a future set of justices could change their mind, and in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to strike down the federal right to an abortion guaranteed under Roe v. Wade.

“Today, we are delivering on our promise to put up a firewall against efforts to reverse reproductive freedom. No matter who sits on the Minnesota Supreme Court, this legislation will ensure Minnesotans have access to reproductive health care for generations to come,” Walz said in a statement. “Here in Minnesota, your access to reproductive health care and your freedom to make your own health care decisions are preserved and protected.”

Minnesota Democrats staked their pitches to voters last year on a promise to protect abortion rights in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court decision — though Republicans pointed out that, even if they had won control of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, they would not have been able to threaten abortion access because of the 1995 precedent.

Democrats won control of the state Senate, which had been in Republican hands, while maintaining control of the state House. Walz won re-election by an 8-point margin.

The bill passed its final hurdle in the state Senate on Saturday by a single vote after 14 hours of debate. It cleared the state House on a party-line vote last week.

Republicans had urged Walz to veto what they characterized as an “extreme” measure that would allow abortions to proceed after a fetus is viable.

“As the PRO Act was being rushed through the legislature, Republicans offered reasonable amendments with guardrails to protect women and children, much of which would have aligned with your previously stated position,” Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson (R) and House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth (R) wrote to Walz this week. “Signing the PRO Act would be breaking your word to Minnesota voters.”

The Minnesota bill is the first pro-abortion rights measure to be passed into law by a legislature elected in the 2022 midterm elections. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) earlier this month signed a measure protecting and expanding abortion rights passed just before the legislature formally adjourned to make way for new lawmakers.

Dozens of abortion-related measures have been introduced in states across the country in the opening days and weeks of new legislative sessions, many in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year striking down the Roe precedent.

Many of those measures are likely to become significant flashpoints in legislative sessions ahead. Lawmakers in at least 10 states have introduced proposals that would ban virtually all abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion-related legislation.

Lawmakers in several more have introduced measures that would make a crime of prescribing or distributing abortion-inducing medication, the process by which most abortions in the United States are carried out.