NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota Legislative Update

March 3, 2017

NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota continues to work against two unconstitutional anti-choice bills that would infringe on abortion rights.

Medicaid Coverage Ban

SF 702/ HF 809 would deny abortion coverage to women who are covered under Minnesota’s Medical Assistance (Medicaid) program.  This bill is clearly unconstitutional.  In 1995, the Minnesota State Supreme Court held that “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.”  This constitutional level decision also required that if MA covers pregnancy care, it must also cover abortion care.

In states that do not provide Medicaid coverage for abortion, most low-income women still manage to obtain an abortion.  Most are forced to divert money from living expenses, such as rent, food, or utilities.  An abortion would cost a woman on Medicaid nearly a third of her monthly income.

The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee heard SF 702 on Tuesday, where it passed along party lines.  The bill is now headed to the Senate floor, where an anti-choice majority is likely to pass it.

In the House, the Health and Human Services Reform Committee heard HF 809 on Thursday, where it was a subject of heated discussion.  Representative Rena Moran (DFL, St. Paul) spoke eloquently and passionately about the bill, asking, “Why don’t we stop doing things for low income women and start doing things with them?  They have ideas and solutions and they know what’s best for them and their families.”  Video of the hearing is available here.

The bill passed out of committee and was referred to the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee.

Abortion Clinic Licensure

SF 704/HF 812 would require abortion clinics to meet discriminatory, unnecessary, and burdensome ambulatory surgical center standards.  Last June, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a similar Texas law was unconstitutional because it placed an undue burden on women seeking abortion.  Abortion is extremely safe and clinics already meet the licensing requirements of the state licensing boards for medicine and nursing.  If this bill is enacted, 4 of the 5 abortion clinics in Minnesota will be forced to close.

The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee heard SF 704 on Tuesday evening.  The bill passed along party lines, but Sen. Dan Schoen (DFL, Cottage Grove) was able to include an amendment protecting the privacy of patient records.  The bill is headed to the Senate Finance Committee.  Sen. Pappas (DFL, St. Paul) also confirmed that she had spoken to Governor Dayton, who is committed to vetoing the bill if it reaches his desk.

In the House, the Health and Human Services Reform Committee heard HF 812  on Thursday.   Newly elected Rep. Liz Olson (DFL, Duluth) informed committee members that she had visited the Women’s Health Center of Duluth, the only abortion provider in greater Minnesota.  The clinic is fully insured, complies with all relevant laws, and is certified by the National Abortion Federation, which conducted a successful inspection last fall.  Despite the constitutional questions raised about the bill, it passed out of committee and was referred to the House Government Operations Committee.  Video of the hearing is available here.

Defund Planned Parenthood Bill Introduced in House

HF 1962, chief authored by Rep. Kathy Lohmer (R, Stillwater) was introduced on Thursday.  The bill would deny tens of thousands of Minnesota women access to Planned Parenthood by cutting off the state funding and federal funding that many women rely on in order to get basic reproductive health care like birth control, clinical breast exams and cervical cancer screenings.

The bill has not yet been scheduled in committee, but could be included in the 2017-18 House budget bill.


Coming Up:  

Wednesday, March 16, 6:30-8 PM, NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota:  Lobby Day Volunteer Training

Wednesday, March 29:  Pro-Choice Lobby Day.  Register now to receive briefings on important bills impacting reproductive rights and to lobby your legislators.



NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota February Legislative Update

February 24, 2017

Two anti-choice bills pass Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee.

SF 702/HF 809, an insurance coverage ban on abortion and a TRAP (Targeted Regulation for Abortion Providers) bill (SF 704/HF 812) that would require clinic licensure, were heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee on February 23. Chief-authored, respectively, by Sen. Kiffmeyer (30, R) and Sen. Fischbach (13, R), both bills passed through the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and will be heard by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety next week.  You can see video of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota Executive Director Andrea Ledger’s testimony here.

Senate File 702 prohibits state-sponsored health programs from funding abortions.    

NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota opposes SF 702/HF 809, a bill to deny Medical Assistance coverage of abortion. This bill would discriminate against women based on the type of insurance they have, specifically targeting low-income women and women of color. Although the Hyde Amendment prohibits Medicaid funding for abortion, Minnesota’s constitution guarantees women the right to use Medical Assistance to cover abortion.

Executive Director Andrea Ledger testified against the bill, using evidence from the 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision, Doe v. Gomez, which held that “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.”  The court further held that so long as Minnesota funded pregnancy care, it could not refuse to fund care related to abortion.  The decision was upheld in the 2014 case Walker v. Jesson.  For a woman who uses Medicaid, an abortion would cost a very significant portion of her income, forcing her to make difficult decisions about the needs of  her family and her health.  Further, studies have shown that in states which deny Medicaid coverage of abortion, women still find a way to have an abortion, they just push the abortion later into pregnancy.

The bill was also opposed by Pro-Choice Resources, Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota South Dakota Action Fund, the Minnesota chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Minnesota Medical Association, and the Minnesota chapter of the ACLU.

Senate File 704 would require abortion clinics to meet discriminatory, unnecessary, and burdensome licensing standards.  

NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota opposes SF 704 as an unconstitutional restriction on a woman’s right to abortion. This bill would certainly incur a constitutional challenge based on the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.  Similar bills have shut down abortion clinics across the country, limiting options for women seeking abortion and endangering their health.  

NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota Executive Director, Andrea Ledger, testified in opposition to the bill, using the Supreme Court findings from Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt which state that “the surgical-center requirement, like the admitting privileges requirement, provides few, if any, health benefits to women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.” Other states have spent millions defending against unconstitutional restrictions on abortions, both in their own legal fees and in judgments to pay challengers’ legal fees. Ledger further clarified that abortion is an extremely safe procedure, with a complication rate of less that 0.01% in Minnesota in 2015. Written testimony was submitted from Women’s Health Center of Duluth, the only abortion clinic in greater Minnesota, which stated that the costs of meeting surgical-center requirements mandated by this bill would reach upwards of $800,000.

The bill was also opposed by the Minnesota Department of Health, Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund, the Minnesota chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Minnesota Medical Association, and the Minnesota chapter of the ACLU.

Republicans seek to define contraception methods as “abortifacients”.  

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Commerce and Regulatory Reform heard a reinsurance bill that would not only bring back insurance company discrimination based on preexisting conditions, but would also define two popular methods of birth control as “abortifacients”.

The bill would require insurance companies to offer plans to enrollees that do not include IUDs or Plan B contraception.  The idea that birth control causes abortion is based on sham science that has been debunked by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

You can read more about the bill here, which includes this great quote from Rep. Laurie Halverson:  “I don’t belabor the point because this is not a healthcare committee, but I think all of us, as we talk about healthcare coverage, talk about wanting to expand coverage and how people can get the care they need. We never say ‘except for.’ ‘Except for women,’ is what we’re saying in this particular section of the bill?”

Good news–state FACE Act introduced.

On Thursday, HF 1642, the Minnesota Freedom to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act was introduced by Chief Author Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn.  The bill makes sure that clinics are safe spaces for patients seek reproductive health care.

The bill is part of the broader Minnesotans for Trust, Respect, Access campaign, a coalition that includes Gender Justice, NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota South Dakota Action Fund, and Pro-Choice Resources.  The campaign is also supporting the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act (Rep. Erin Murphy/ Sen. Sandy Pappas) and the Physician’s Integrity Act (Rep. Laurie Halverson/ Sen. Matt Klein, M.D.)

Monday evening, Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund is hosting Across the Line, an immersive virtual reality experience that combines 360° video and computer generated imaging to put viewers in the shoes of a patient entering a clinic for an abortion.

Coming Up:  

Monday, Feb. 27, 5:30 PM-8:00 PM, Amsterdam Bar:   Across the Line:  A Virtual Reality Experience (RSVP required for viewing the virtual reality experience.)

Tuesday, Feb. 28, 1 PM:  Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy will hear SF 704 (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) and SF 702 (Medical Assistance Coverage Ban on Abortion)

Wednesday, March 16, 6:30-8 PM, NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota:  Lobby Day Volunteer Training

Wednesday, March 29:  Pro-Choice Lobby Day.  Register now to receive briefings on important bills impacting reproductive rights and to lobby your legislators.


After Election Statement from ED, Andrea Ledger


This morning when I woke up, I had to explain to my six-year-old daughter that we had not elected the first female president.  We were both disappointed and we both cried.  Then, we talked about where we go from here.  We talked about love and respect and working hard for what we believe in.

I can’t give up.  The future is too important.  I am just as committed to reproductive rights today as I was yesterday and I know that all of you are, too.  I thank each and every one of you for your hard work, your financial contributions, and your strength during this election cycle.

Here in Minnesota, we now have an anti-choice House and Senate.  We’ve been here before—in 2011 and 2012, anti-choice politicians passed an unprecedented number of bills that sought to decimate our family planning safety net and virtually eliminate access to abortion.  We organized and provided Governor Dayton with the grassroots support he needed to veto every piece of anti-choice legislation.  With your help, we can do it again.

We know that this election wasn’t about reproductive rights.  7 in 10 Minnesotans believe in access to safe, legal abortion, free from government interference.  Overwhelming majorities of voters support a strong family planning network that provides access to contraception and reproductive health care.  Unfortunately, that won’t stop anti-choice extremists from attacking women’s health on day one of the 2017 legislative session.

I’m ready to fight back.  It won’t be easy, but we’ll do it one phone call, one door knock, and one lobbying visit at a time.  Will you join me? 

So, let us shed our tears.  Let us console one another.  But together, let us move forward.

Andrea Ledger

Executive Director
NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota


Bodies, Buttons, and Bans: Reflections on Abortion Law Since Roe

The thing about working for a pro-choice organization is that everyone has an Opinion about what I do, and they’re always ready to tell me all about it. It’s what keeps my life so fresh and exciting. Honestly, though, it’s one of my favorite things. Strangers love the opportunity to talk about the most stigmatized issue in American politics, and let’s be real – so do I.

Which is basically how I ended up tabling for NARAL at the St. Cloud Pride festival a couple weeks ago, talking to a woman who remembers the day the Roe v. Wade decision came down in 1973. She was looking through the buttons strewn in haphazard display across the table, when she came across something and her smile fell off her face. It was a simple button, a classic: my body, my choice. She passed a finger over it, and told me sadly, “I used to have a button that said this. Decades ago.” She looked up at me, forcing the smile back. “Funny how we’re still saying the same things, all these years later.”


And that – that’s what always hits me hardest. It’s not the antis who call me a murderer or compare me to ISIS (a real thing that really happens); it’s the women who’ve been fighting this fight for decades who turn to me and tell me, “We thought we won. We thought it would be over.”

So how did this happen? How is it that, 43 years after Roe, I’m still handing out buttons that say the same damn thing that women have been saying for decades? How did we lose so much ground that we’re worrying about women dying in back alley abortions again? Lucky for me (and for you, dear reader), I like listening to Supreme Court cases for fun, and I’ve learned a lot about those little legal runarounds that make the difference between whether abortion is accessible de jure or de facto. Like, sure, abortion is legal and accessible by right and by law, but how much does that matter when it is, in fact, totally inaccessible? Roe made abortion legal, but it also stipulated that states have the right to regulate it based on two legitimate interests: health of the mother, and protecting potential human life. And wow oh wow, state and federal governments alike jumped on those two clauses like starving hyenas.

By 1976, three years after Roe, the Hyde Amendment outlawed any federal coverage of abortion; women on Medicaid and every other federally funded health insurance were banned from using that insurance to obtain an abortion. States went further, coming up with creative restrictions to discourage or outright prevent women from getting abortions. In 1983, the Supreme Court heard Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health (otherwise known as Akron v. Akron — why, Ohio? why?) and struck down provisions of Ohio law restricting access, including a 24-hour waiting period and a requirement that doctors tell women that a fetus is a human life from the moment of conception.

But apparently the decision saying, that has nothing to do with women’s health or any other legitimate interest wasn’t enough; less than ten years later Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey brought similar laws back to our highest court. The waiting period restriction was back before the Court, with the added fun of a husband notification clause. And the Court abandoned the strict scrutiny that had decided Akron and upheld nearly every aspect of the Pennsylvania law. In its place, we got the “undue burden” standard, giving states a free pass to restrict abortion as long as it didn’t pose an undue burden on a woman seeking abortion.

The Casey decision saved Roe, but the cost was high. The devil’s in the details, or, in the case of the undue burden clause, the lack thereof. Women who’d fought tooth and nail for access to safe and legal abortion watched the guarantee of Roe crumbling before their eyes as states passed ever-bolder restrictions on access. Waiting periods, parental consent, “informed consent” and state-mandated counseling, 20-week bans and other cutoffs popped up all over the country. The anti-choice movement managed to rename dilation and extraction (D&X) as “partial birth abortion” and next thing you know, we’ve got a federal ban.

And then there are the direct attacks on providers that became so prevalent we had to name them: TRAP laws, or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. Laws that demand abortion providers be outfitted as ambulatory surgical centers – regulating hallway width and the number of bathrooms and janitorial closets. Laws that require hospital admitting privileges for providers, privileges that are almost impossible to obtain because of insurance reasons. All this, done in the name of “women’s health.” Women’s health, somehow threatened by one of the safest medical procedures – safer than getting your wisdom teeth out.

In 2013, the Texas state government passed two TRAP provisions collectively known as HB2. The new requirements – that clinics meet ambulatory surgical standards and providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital – had forced more than half of the abortion clinics in Texas to close their doors. The remaining clinics were overwhelmed with patients, and the number of desperate women attempting at-home abortions skyrocketed. And it wasn’t just Texas: the same laws – almost word-for-word identical – were popping up everywhere; we saw the ambulatory surgical regulations version here in Minnesota. It began to look like the end of Roe.

When the case went to the Supreme Court as Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, I was both terrified and ecstatic. Here it was, our chance to take back all the ground we’d lost – but only if at least one Supreme Court justice changed tracks completely on the issue of abortion. I was convinced we were looking at a 5-4 decision that would crush Roe for good. Even when Justice Scalia died, I didn’t dare to hope; after all, a 4-4 decision would still mean that the lower court ruling would stand, and even more clinics would close.

But wonder of wonders and miracle of miracles, Justice Kennedy finally decided that women are people after all, and we got a 5-3 decision in our favor. The Court declared HB2 unconstitutional; the burden, undue. And Justice Ginsburg used language open enough that I begin to hope again.

“So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade…and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey,” she writes, “Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H. B. 2…cannot survive judicial inspection” [emphasis mine].

The Court broadened the narrow victory scraped by Casey, calling into question the lawfulness and constitutionality of the hundreds of restrictions. These are not the only undue burdens, Ginsburg seems to say, and I’m coming for the rest of them, too.

This week, NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota will celebrate our fiftieth anniversary, and I’ve been looking into our history. A letter from the president of the organization, dated January 25, 1973, starts with the joyful declaration, we won! I look at that, and I think of the woman at Pride, running her hand over buttons. I think of the women I’ve talked to while canvassing, those with pre-Roe abortion stories and those who marched with women’s lib groups. I think of Sarah Weddington, who argued Roe v. Wade and won. I think of Kathryn Kolbert, who argued Planned Parenthood v. Casey and saved Roe for another generation. I think of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose concurrence in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt both preserved Roe and expanded Casey.

And that, I think, is what I want to take with me. Not frustration and despair that abortion access is still a battle, but instead the spirit and determination of the women who have been fighting this battle for generations. So, to every woman who’s come before me: Yes, we’re still saying the same things. It is still my body, my choice. And we’re going to keep on saying that until we’re heard.

If you are interested in attending NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, tickets can be purchased here: https://act1.myngp.com/Forms/1592303943252180992


NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota 2016 Election Cycle Endorsements

After attacks on women’s reproductive freedom from stanch anti-choicers, NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota is proud to endorse the following candidates for this election cycle that will stand up for Minnesota women and families.

House of Representatives

03A    DFL    Rob Ecklund
07A    DFL    Jennifer Schultz
07B    DFL    Liz Olson
10B     DFL    Erin Wagner
13B     DFL    Matthew Crouse
19A     DFL    Clark Johnson
19B     DFL     John (Jack) Considine
20B     DFL    David Bly
23A     DFL     Zac Huntley
24A     DFL    Bev Cashman
25A     DFL    Linda “Wally” Walbruch
25B     DFL    Duane Sauke
26A     DFL    Tina Liebling
27B     DFL    Jeanne Poppe
29B     DFL    Steve Kilburn
35A     DFL    Andy Hillebregt
35B     DFL    Wes Volkenant
36B     DFL    Melissa Hortman
37A     DFL    Erin Koegel
37B     DFL    Susan Witt
40B     DFL    Debra Hilstrom
41B     DFL    Mary Kunesh-Podein
42B     DFL    Jamie Becker-Finn
43A     DFL    Peter Fischer
45A     DFL    Lyndon Carlson Sr.
45B     DFL    Mike Freiberg
46A     DFL    Peggy Flanagan
48A     DFL    Laurie Pryor
49A     DFL    Ron Erhardt
49B     DFL    Paul Rosenthal
50A     DFL    Linda Slocum
50B     DFL    Andrew Carlson
51B     DFL    Laurie Halverson
52A     DFL    Rick Hansen
52B     DFL    Mary T’Kach
53A     DFL    JoAnn Ward
55A     DFL    Mary Hernandez
56A     DFL    Jared Christiansen
56B     DFL    Lindsey Port
57A     DFL    Erin Maye Quade
59A     DFL    Joe Mullery
59B     DFL    Raymond Dehn
60A     DFL    Diane Loeffler
61A     DFL    Frank Hornstein
62A     DFL    Karen Clark
62B     DFL    Susan Allen
64A     DFL    Erin Murphy
64B     R         Emory Dively
66A     DFL    Alice Hausman
67B     DFL    Sheldon Johnson


7           Erik Simonson
8           Shawn Olson
9           Jason Weinerman
11          Tony Lourey
13          Michael Willemsen
20         Kevin Dahle
22         Brian Abrahamson
29         Janice Holter Kittok
35          Roger Johnson
36          John Hoffman
37          Jerry Newton
40         Chris Eaton
41          Carolyn Laine
44          Deb Calvert
45          Ann Rest
46          Ron Latz
48          Steven Cwodzinski
49          Melisa Franzen
50          Melissa Halvorson Wicklund
52          Matt Klein
57          Greg Clausen
59          Bobby Joe Champion
61          Scott Dibble
65          Sandy Pappas
66          John Marty



South Dakota Canvass Summit

Last weekend, 20 staff members and activists from NARAL’s South Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado affiliates were brought together for an intensive training on canvassing best practices. Attendees learned about the importance of door-to-door community engagement as a tool to build membership and raise critical funds for reproductive freedom. This summit served as the launch of the South Dakota summer canvass to organize to protect the state’s last remaining abortion clinic.


New canvassers learn about canvassing basics from our very own Jess! Jess is NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota’s Canvass Director

The summit is integral to NARAL’s aggressive, state-centric plan to build a nationwide network of pro-choice activists who will fight to defend and expand our reproductive freedom, including access to abortion and contraception.

The efforts of national and affiliate staff were featured in Sioux Falls largest paper, the Argus Leader.

The Stats:

The Summit was undoubtedly a success! In less than five hours, the newly-trained team:

  • Knocked on nearly 1,000 doors in Sioux Falls
  • Had over 300 conversations about TRAP laws
  • Signed up over 100 new pro-choice supporters
  • Raised almost $2,000 dollars
  • Garnered attention of SD electeds and candidates interested in collaborating with NARAL
  • Caught the eye of local anti-choice groups

Gabby, Field Program Organizer, trains newly hired South Dakota canvasser.

What’s more, the canvassers IDed folks on the door and found that the majority of the donors were registered Republicans. This finding inspired and motivated the attendees—especially the South Dakota team— as it further proved that 7 in 10 Americans support our work, regardless of political affiliation.

Susan Kroger, executive director of the South Dakota affiliate, says:

“I would like to thank the national team for choosing to invest in South Dakota and for helping us to organize this summit.  For this first time in South Dakota we have a paid canvass team and we are set to grow our membership exponentially. South Dakota needs us, and we couldn’t have done this without National’s investment.”


Alison, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri (left) and Susan, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota (right) before heading out to canvass in Sioux Falls.

If you’re interested in writing for NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota’s blog, please contact: info@prochoiceminnesota.org


Pioneer Press: Letter to the Editor

NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota Executive Director, Andrea Ledger, wrote a Letter to the Editor that was published yesterday in the Pioneer Press. Check out the post here. Below is the letter that was published.


At the Minnesota Legislature this year, and on Donald Trump’s campaign trail, we have seen a surge of attacks on women’s health care. As if this were not enough, there is now proposed state legislation that targets abortion clinics in hopes of shutting them down. These bills seek to add burdensome and medically unnecessary regulations to abortion clinics and, if enacted, would force four of the five Minnesota abortion clinics to close their doors. Instead of passing bills that address the needs of women and families, like 12-month prescription contraceptive coverage and paid family leave, anti-choice legislators remain focused on limiting access to safe and legal abortions.

Let’s be clear. These new abortion clinic regulation bills, as stated by the medical community, are medically unnecessary, and the new regulations border on absurdity, like requiring specific temperature settings for various parts of the building. The true goal of passing this legislation is to shut down abortion clinics. If abortion clinics close, women, especially in rural Minnesota, would lose access to safe abortion procedures.

Legislators should be working to ensure that abortions remain safe and to help families plan for pregnancies and their children. Providing 12-month prescription contraceptive coverage for women and providing parents paid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child are two critical issues that should be signed into law.

Access to a 12-month supply of prescription contraceptive coverage is a common-sense solution that will prevent unwanted pregnancies. A 2012 study showed a 46 percent decline in abortion rates among women who were given access to a year’s supply of contraceptives.

The other issue being ignored by some legislators is paid family leave. The Minnesota Senate passed SF 2558, which creates an insurance program that provides up to 12 weeks of partial wage replacement during family leave. This program will make it easier for both mothers and fathers to care for new children. It’s time for the House to act on this important issue.

Minnesota legislators need to focus on issues that make a positive impact on the well-being of families and women. Giving women access to 12-month prescription contraception coverage and allowing parents to care for their new child without the worry of losing a paycheck does that. Wasting time debating ventilation systems at clinics providing abortions might be a priority of Donald Trump and his supporters at the Legislature, but it is certainly not a priority of Minnesota.

Andrea Ledger