Roe is gone, but what does that mean in Minnesota?

By: - June 24, 2022 9:24 am

Planned Parenthood is getting ready for a post-Roe world. Photo by Dylan Miettinen/Minnesota Reformer.

The U.S. Supreme Court, as expected, overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, which for 50 years had protected Americans’ right to an abortion. The new law of the land, issued in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, means states are now free to criminalize abortion.

What does this mean for Minnesotans seeking abortion care?

Your questions, answered:

How does the court’s decision change abortion law in Minnesota?

It doesn’t. Minnesota legal precedent still guarantees the right to an abortion. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in the 1995 case Doe v. Gomez that abortion rights are protected by the state’s constitution. Think of it as Minnesota’s own Roe v. Wade.

But wait, if Roe v. Wade could be overturned, why not Doe v. Gomez?

The Minnesota Supreme Court is made up of seven justices, and five of them were appointed by either Gov. Mark Dayton or Gov. Tim Walz, both Democrats. For the moment, Doe v. Gomez appears to be safe.

Are there restrictions on abortion in Minnesota?

Yes. Regulations include the requirement to “receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage the patient from having an abortion, and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided,” according to the abortion rights research group Guttmacher Institute. Also, both parents of a minor must be notified. A group of abortion rights advocates are currently challenging the restrictions in court.

The GOP is optimistic about the November election. What happens if they win a trifecta?

If Republicans win both chambers of the Legislature and presumptive GOP nominee Scott Jensen is elected governor, they’ll probably move to enact new regulations and restrictions on abortion, which in turn would invite litigation from abortion rights groups. The court would likely rule against the Republicans.

A GOP-majority House and Senate could also propose an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution banning abortion. If it passed both chambers, voters would get to decide during the next general election. Republicans took this approach in 2012, when they asked voters to approve amendments banning gay marriage and requiring voters to present an ID at the polls. Both were defeated, and Republicans lost both chambers in the 2012 election. The effort to amend the Constitution was widely considered to be a debacle for the GOP.

A recent MinnPost poll showed two-thirds of Minnesotans oppose a ban on abortions.

So, abortion is likely to remain legal here for a while, but what about our neighbors?

North Dakota and South Dakota have enacted so-called trigger laws, so that abortion will now be illegal there.

Wisconsin has a pre-Roe law on the books that criminalizes abortion. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called a special session of the legislature there to legalize abortion, but lawmakers left the 1849 abortion ban in place.

Last week, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution does not provide a right to abortion, paving the way for an abortion ban there. The legislature there has already begun enacting requirements and restrictions, as Iowa Capital Dispatch reported recently. For example, women must wait 24 hours to receive an abortion.

So Minnesota is a refuge for abortion rights in the upper Midwest?

Exactly. Minnesota organizations are getting ready to help people come here for abortions. Emily Mohrbacher, who is director of client services at Midwest Access Coalition, told the Reformer in 2020: “We’re prepared to support many more people as Roe … is potentially dismantled bit by bit.” She said she expects operating costs will rise as they help more people, and they expect communities of color to be disproportionately affected.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a news release Tuesday that “No one will be prosecuted in Minnesota for seeking, helping someone else seek, or providing an abortion that is legal in Minnesota.”

Are there problems with people seeking abortion care here?

The abortion rights group Unrestrict Minnesota counts eight providers specifically providing abortion here, most in the Twin Cities, with one in Rochester and one in Duluth.

That means these clinics could see a steep rise in demand from people traveling from out-of-state, which could lead to problems with access given the relatively few number of clinics.

Abortion providers say they are ready, however.

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children