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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.

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