ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday signed legislation establishing a "fundamental right" to an abortion in law, a move that represents a victory for Democrats at the State Capitol and positions Minnesota as the only state in the region to guarantee access after the fall of Roe v. Wade.
"Your access to reproductive health and your right to make your own health care decisions are preserved and protected," said Gov. Tim Walz. "And because of this law, that won't change with the political wins or makeup of the Supreme Court. This is a bill for Minnesota today and all future generations."
The "Protect Reproductive Options Act" codifies protections for not just abortion, but also contraception, fertility treatments, sterilization and other reproductive health care.
Minnesota is now among the first states in the country to strengthen abortion protections in a post-Roe America.
Democrats, after they secured majorities in both chambers of the legislature following November's election, vowed action in wake of the 50-year precedent's collapse. The landscape in Minnesota did not change after that U.S. Supreme Court ruling because of the 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision providing protections, but supporters of the PRO Act noted that makeup of the courts can change, and wanted to spell out protections in state statute.
"Fundamentally, this legislation is about who decides who should be legally entitled to make reproductive health care decisions for an individual," said House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park. "It can't be decided by politicians. It can't be decided by judges. Minnesotans deserve reproductive freedom."
The bill's signing comes after the Senate debated it for 15 hours into the early hours of Saturday morning. Supporters and opponents flooded the rotunda with signs ahead of that vote.
Republicans staunchly oppose to the measure, calling it "dangerous" and "extreme." They tried and failed to pass dozens of amendments, including prohibiting third trimester abortions except when the mother's life is at risk and requiring licensing of facilities providing the procedure.
"Without these reasonable protections, the PRO Act goes well beyond current law," Republican leaders Rep. Lisa Demuth and Sen. Mark Johnson wrote in a letter to Walz. "Signing the PRO Act into law would be breaking your word to Minnesota voters. We urge you to veto this extreme law."
Democrats point to how rare abortions are late in pregnancy; state data show there was just one abortion after 25 weeks in 2021.
Minnesota is an island for access in the region, as surrounding states already ban or will likely further restrict the procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Several supporters who spoke during the bill signing characterized Minnesota as a "north star," now creating a safe haven to seek the procedure.
Planned Parenthood North Central States, which is the state's largest abortion provider, has seen a 13% increase in out-of-state patients and a 40% increase in second trimester abortions.
The PRO Act is just one proposal the DFL-led legislature is considering on abortion. One bill would repeal abortion restrictions on the books right now, including those that are not enforceable by a court order -- like a 24-hour waiting period and parental notification law struck down by
Separate legislation is aimed at protecting patients and providers from legal actions stemming in other states where abortion is banned or seriously restricted. Other states like Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey passed these so-called "shield laws" since Roe was struck down, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman told reporters on Tuesday that both bills could come up for a floor vote in the first two weeks of February.
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