The Potluck

Senate committee to consider hiring legal counsel in lawsuit targeting ‘outdated’ abortion laws

By: - July 1, 2020 12:18 pm

The Minnesota State Capitol. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

The Senate Rules Committee will convene Thursday to retain legal counsel to participate in a lawsuit in which the state is being sued by reproductive health care advocates challenging several Minnesota abortion laws.

The Committee on Rules and Administration will meet remotely at 7 p.m. Thursday to consider hiring the law firm of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr to represent the Senate to defend the statutes being challenged.

Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office is defending the state — as he is required by law to do — against a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of state laws regulating abortion and certain sexually transmitted infections advertisements.

It’s not clear why Senate Republicans seek to hire outside counsel.

The lawsuit contends Minnesota’s laws have become outdated, exist contrary to Minnesota’s constitutional respect for individual privacy, reflect antiquated views about women’s role in society and “fail to honor the diverse religious traditions of Minnesota residents.”

The suit seeks to strike down laws that require abortions be performed in a hospital after the first trimester; prevent nurses from providing early abortion care; only allow physicians to perform abortions; ban organizations from advertising treatments for STIs pertaining to abortions; mandate an extra appointment and waiting period before an abortion; and require minors to notify both parents before getting an abortion.

The First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, Our Justice, an obstetrician and a midwife are the plaintiffs in the suit over laws that they allege are targeted regulations of abortion providers, including a law requiring the burial or cremation of fetal tissue from an abortion or miscarriage.

First Unitarian Society supports members who seek abortions, and Our Justice is a nonprofit that has an abortion assistance fund to help people seeking abortions who cannot afford them. The midwife plaintiff seeks to provide abortion care but currently must refer her patients to providers who meet Minnesota’s requirements for providing abortions.

Last week a district judge denied four of the state’s motions, including a motion to dismiss the case.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs.