After 15 hours of contentious debate, the Minnesota Senate passed legislation early Saturday morning that guarantees the right to abortion, a bill pro-life Republicans have called the “most extreme” in the nation.
The Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act passed the state Senate 34-33, after Republicans had unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill 35 times. The bill states that “every individual has a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about the individual’s own reproductive health.”
Democrats had fast-tracked the legislation in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last summer to overturn Roe v. Wade – ending federal protections for abortion. While the right to abortion was previously guaranteed in a 1995 decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court, Doe v. Gomez, abortion rights activists and Democrats said the PRO act was necessary to codify abortion rights into state law, as well as rights to contraception, fertility treatment, and pregnancy.
“What Minnesotans are afraid of is to see, potentially, that what happened at the federal level with our U.S. Supreme Court could eventually, in some future time, happen here in Minnesota,” said bill sponsor state Sen. Jennifer McEwen, a Democrat from Duluth. “The decisions of our courts, the upholding of our fundamental human rights, are only as strong as the judges who uphold them.”
Supporters of the bill say it will not change the status quo in Minnesota.
“The PRO Act solidifies Minnesotans’ human rights into state law and is an insurance policy that our rights won’t be taken away by politicians or judges,” said Dr. Sarah Traxler, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood North Central States.
“All I want, and doctors across Minnesota want, is to provide the best care we can to our patients. And by passing the PRO Act into state law, the Minnesota Legislature will allow us to do just that,” she added in a statement.
Opponents disagree, arguing the bill establishes a right to abortion up until the moment of birth. Republicans had attempted to amend the bill with “guard rails” that would restrict abortions in the third-trimester, but the newly-elected Democratic majority blocked their amendments.
“Today we are not just codifying Roe v. Wade or Doe v. Gomez, as the author has indicated, we are enacting the most extreme bill in the country,” said Republican Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, of East Grand Forks during debate.
The PRO Act now heads to Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s desk for his signature. He has said he supports the bill and will sign it into law.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.