Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill into law Tuesday that enshrines the “fundamental right” to access abortion in the state.
Abortion is already legal in Minnesota, but in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the Protect Reproductive Options Act goes a step further by outlining that every person has the fundamental right to make “autonomous decisions” about their own reproductive health as well as the right to refuse reproductive health care.
“This is very simple, very right to the point,” Walz said Tuesday on “CNN Tonight.” “We trust women in Minnesota, and that’s not what came out of the [Supreme Court’s] decision, so I think it’s critically important that we build a fire wall.”
With the passage of the bill, Minnesota is now the first state to codify abortion via legislative action since Roe v. Wade was reversed, the office of the bill’s lead author in Minnesota’s 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 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. 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 restrict a person’s ability to exercise the “fundamental right” to reproductive freedom. It also clarifies that this right extends to accessing contraception, sterilization, family planning, fertility services and counseling regarding reproductive health care.
“The Pro Act also goes beyond just granting those rights to abortion, it really says all reproductive healthcare decisions aren’t our business, including access to contraception, including access to really anything that is related to personal and private decisions about your reproductive life,” Megan Peterson, the executive director of pro-abortion rights campaign UnRestrict Minnesota, told CNN following Walz’s signing of the bill.
In a letter to Walz ahead of the signing, Republican legislature leaders argued that the bill went too far and urged the governor to veto what they called “an extreme law.”
“As the PRO Act was being rushed through the legislature, Republicans offered reasonable amendments with guardrails to protect women and children,” state Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson and House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth wrote, “Sadly, each of these amendments were struck down by a Democrat majority.”
In 1995, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in Doe v. Gomez that abortion was a fundamental right protected under the state’s constitution. The Protect Reproductive Options Act ensures that even in the event of a new state Supreme Court reversing the ruling, the right to abortion 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 have a right to Reproductive healthcare,” Luke Bishop, a spokesperson for Democratic State Sen. Jennifer McEwen, the bill’s author in the Senate, told CNN over email.
Following the governor’s signature of the bill, the White House applauded Minnesota’s efforts, pointing to the 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 so clearly demonstrated last fall when voters turned out to defend access to abortion – including for ballot initiatives in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
“While Congressional Republicans continue their support for extreme policies including a national abortion ban, the President and Vice President are calling on Congress to restore the protections of Roe in federal law,” she 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.”
This story has been updated with additional information.