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Bills Threaten Abortion Rights in Minnesota

Minnesota state’s Health and Human Services Policy Committee has endorsed three bills that endanger abortion rights in the state. In a state traditionally dominated by pro-choice Democrats, several anti-choice Republicans are taking advantage of their new majority in the state House.

The first requires abortion providers to distribute information on fetal development and possible medical complications from abortion at least 24 hours before an abortion is performed. The second would ban so-called “partial-birth abortions” and includes no exception for women whose pregnancies threaten their lives or health. These two bills will now go before the House Civil Law Committee.

A third bill which has already been passed by the House Civil Law Committee would require the age, race, and home counties of minors receiving abortions to be reported. Although the reports would not includes the names of the girls or the judges, State Rep. Phil Carruthers (DFL), pointed out that many counties have only one judge. Carruthers also said that he fears that the legislation “create(s) a potential climate of intimidation for judges who have been instruction by the federal courts to use their best judgment.”

In related news, the New Hampshire and Massachusetts legislatures heard bills that would exact criminal punishments on doctors who perform certain surgical abortion procedures. Opponents of abortion rights have deemed these procedures “partial-birth” abortions. The New Hampshire bill would ban the use of certain surgical abortion procedures and charge doctors who perform them with second-degree murder. A similar bill introduced in Massachusetts for the fourth straight year would punish doctors with 3-5 month prison sentences.

The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in New York reported last year that bans on “partial-birth” abortion procedures have passed in 28 states. The majority of these bans were struck down or revised to include an exception for women whose lives are endangered by pregnancy. The Supreme Court has thus far declined to become involved in the issue.

Sources:

Minneapolis Star and Tribune and Kaiser Family Foundation - 3/17/99 and Center for Reproductive Law and Policy