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'Not on my watch': Minnesota governor vows to uphold abortion access after release of leaked court decision

Minnesota could become an island for abortion access in the Midwest if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

People protest after leak of U.S. Supreme Court draft majority opinion on Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision, in Washington
Protesters sit outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington early Tuesday morning, May 3, 2022, after the leak overnight of a draft majority opinion that appears to signal the court's decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision later this year.
Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters
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ST. PAUL — Abortion would remain legal — at least right away — in Minnesota under a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and return the issue of abortion access to the states.

Politico late on Monday, May 2, reported that the high court was poised to strike down the precedent based on a leaked copy of a draft opinion. In the draft opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito, the majority writes that "Roe was egregiously wrong from the start” and should be overturned.

The leak of the draft opinion has been described as a rare, if not unprecedented, occurrence, according to reporting from Reuters.

The news sparked an immediate reaction from state and federal officials overnight. Abortion advocates were quick to note that even if the decision stands, abortion services would still be legal in the state. And until the court hands down a formal opinion, abortion services would continue across the region, provider organizations said.

“First, our doors are open today and our doors will remain open every day for abortion care as long as legally possible," said Sarah Stoesz, Planned Parenthood North Central States president and CEO. “This leaked opinion is horrifying. We all knew the day could come that safe and legal abortion would be decimated in our country, and now we are facing that reality."

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Minnesota policymakers had been preparing for the decision for months following oral arguments in a Mississippi case late last year. And Democratic-Farmer-Labor leaders late Monday said they would keep fighting at the Capitol to ensure abortion would remain legal in the state.

"Not on my watch," Gov. Tim Walz said in a tweet sharing the Politico story.

The governor's reelection campaign on Monday night sent out a news release noting that the field of Republican candidates for governor has said they would push to outlaw abortion access in the state.

“If this ruling holds, the governor’s office will be the last line of defense for reproductive rights in Minnesota," Walz Campaign Manager Nichole Johnson said.  "When the Republican candidates for governor say that they will end reproductive rights in our state, Minnesotans should take them at their word.”

Minnesota’s Supreme Court in a 1995 case upheld the right to an abortion under the state’s constitution, so the U.S Supreme Court’s decision wouldn’t affect the state’s restrictions. But Minnesota clinics could see an influx of people from neighboring states coming across the border for abortion services if the court upholds a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy except in the case of a medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality.

Minnesota’s neighbors to the west — North Dakota and South Dakota — have “trigger” laws that would immediately outlaw abortion within 30 days if Roe v. Wade is struck down.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Monday night tweeted that she would tee up a special legislative session to roll back access to abortion in the state if the draft proved to be authentic.

"If this report is true and Roe v. Wade is overturned, I will immediately call for a special session to save lives and guarantee that every unborn child has a right to life in South Dakota," the first-term Republican wrote on Twitter.

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Meanwhile, Wisconsin and Michigan still have laws on the books deeming abortion illegal. Those states could enforce those provisions depending on the high court’s decision.

To the south, Iowa GOP lawmakers are organizing a campaign to pass a constitutional amendment that says abortion is not protected by the state’s constitution.

Minnesota abortion providers have said they were preparing for an influx of out-of-state patients if the court rules to overturn Roe v. Wade and triggers state laws that limit services around the region.

Meanwhile, abortion opponents have said they'll continue pressing state lawmakers to restrict access to abortion services in the state.

"When this decision is finally handed down, the real work of pro-life organizations across the country will begin," Minnesota Family Council said in a statement. "As we have been doing for years, we will work to protect women and children in Minnesota from abortion at the Legislature, in the courts and through elections."

Under current law, Minnesota requires a 24-hour waiting period between the first contact with a provider and an abortion procedure and requires physicians who perform abortions to read from a script before the procedure. State law also mandates that both parents of a minor have to sign off before an abortion.

The state has seen a relatively steady decline in induced abortions since 1980 and the total number of procedures reported to the state in 2020 was less than half that reported four decades ago. In 2020, the Minnesota Department of Health reported that 807, or roughly 9% of the total 9,108 abortions in the state, were induced in residents of Iowa, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota or Wisconsin.

MORE FROM DANA FERGUSON:
Fifty-seven state lawmakers announced that they would leave their seats due to redistricting, desires to seek another office or for personal reasons. The exits include some of the Capitol's best-known deal makers, opening room for one of the largest crops of new freshman legislators in decades.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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