After the election in November, legislative leaders discouraged talk about what social issues the new Republican majority would pursue.
“If it doesn’t have anything to do with business and jobs, it shouldn’t be our first priority. If you don’t have a job, it’s hard to be involved in an abortion rally,” Rep. Kurt Zellers, the speaker of the Minnesota House, told MPR’s Gary Eichten.
“There’s a lot of important issues and we will get to them. But the priority now is the budget, jobs, and the economy,” Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch added.
Today, a bill restricting funding for abortion was submitted to the Minnesota Senate, co-sponsored by Koch. The bill, Senate File 103, is the first anti-abortion bill of the session (I’m not counting a bill for a Choose Life license plate).
Funding for state-sponsored health programs shall not be used for funding abortions, except to the extent necessary for continued participation in a federal program. For purposes of this section, abortion has the meaning given in Minnesota Statutes, section 144.343, subdivision 3.
The bill is aimed at the Minnesota Supreme Court’s Doe vs. Gomez decision of 1995, which struck down a ban on state-funded abortions with three exceptions:
(a) The abortion is a medical necessity. “Medical necessity” means (1) the signed written statement of two physicians indicating the abortion is medically necessary to prevent the death of the mother, and (2) the patient has given her consent to the abortion in writing unless the patient is physically or legally incapable of providing informed consent to the procedure, in which case consent will be given as otherwise provided by law;
(b) The pregnancy is the result of criminal sexual conduct as defined in section 609.342, clauses (c), (d), (e)(i), and (f), and the incident is reported within 48 hours after the incident occurs to a valid law enforcement agency for investigation, unless the victim is physically unable to report the criminal sexual conduct, in which case the report shall be made within 48 hours after the victim becomes physically able to report the criminal sexual conduct; or
(c) The pregnancy is the result of incest, but only if the incident and relative are reported to a valid law enforcement agency for investigation prior to the abortion.
But the state Supreme Court struck down the ban, saying it amounted to the government interfering in a health care decision that is between a woman and her doctor:
..this court’s decision will not permit any woman eligible for medical assistance to obtain an abortion “on demand.” Rather, under our interpretation of the Minnesota Constitution’s guaranteed right to privacy, the difficult decision whether to obtain a therapeutic abortion will not be made by the government, but will be left to the woman and her doctor.
Abortion foes have long claimed — and the court acknowledged at the time — that the Minnesota decision provided guarantees beyond those conveyed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its Roe v. Wade decision.
The bill filed today anticipates an eventual challenge to the Minnesota Supreme Court by adding a provision that if any part of the would-be law is struck down, the rest of it remains in place.
The state Supreme Court is also more conservative now than it was in 1995.