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Minnesota Senate passes bill that would protect abortion rights in state law

Minnesota Senate passes bill that would protect abortion rights in state law
Minnesota Senate passes bill that would protect abortion rights in state law 02:23

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- After more than 14 hours of debate, the Minnesota Senate passed legislation that would codify abortion rights in the state; it now heads to the governor's desk for signature.

The Protect Reproductive Options Act, also known as the PRO Act, passed in the Minnesota House last week. It states that Minnesotans have a "fundamental right" to an abortion and reproductive health care like fertility treatments and contraception.

The bill passed on a party-line vote early Saturday morning. Republicans tried to add in dozens of amendments that would have restriction abortion access. Abortion rights supporters and opponents demonstrated in the Capitol Friday ahead of the vote.

"What we saw was a need after Roe v. Wade was struck down this past summer, to codify the rights we currently have in Minnesota into the statutory law to provide that extra layer of protection," said Rep. Jen McEwen, DFL-Duluth.

Democrats who control the House, Senate, and governor's office have said that this bill is one of their top priorities since Roe v. Wade was struck down in June. 

"This past election voters spoke decisively and told us they believe every Minnesotan should be able to make their own reproductive health care decisions," said Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, DFL-Eden Prairie.

Abortion rights in Minnesota are already protected because a Doe v. Gomez, a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision. Democrats frame the bill as a "secondary" line of defense to that ruling. There is another proposal moving through the DFL-controlled legislature that would also remove restrictions from statute language that were struck down by another lower court ruling last year.

Since the fall of Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the states, said it saw a 13% increase in out of state patients seeking abortions.

"What the PRO Act says to patients in Minnesota and to patients across the country is that you are welcome here and we are committed long term to making sure there is abortion access in Minnesota," Emily Bisek with Planned Parenthood North Central States.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson called the bill "extreme" and said he was "disappointed" that the amendments Republicans suggested were rejected. 

"Today we are not codifying Roe v. Wade or Doe v. Gomez, we are enacting the most extreme bill in the country regarding youth sterilization, late-term abortions, and public liability for a vast array of reproductive services," he said.

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