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State Senator's View: Minnesota leading the fight for reproductive freedom, justice

From the column: "In Minnesota, we trust and value that people are the best advocates for their own health care and their own bodies."

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John Cole/Cagle Cartoons
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In Minnesota, we expect to be able to make our own private reproductive health care decisions, without government or politicians’ interference. This has been our standard since at least 1995, when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case Doe v. Gomez that our state’s constitution provides for a fundamental right to privacy that includes the right to access abortion care.

However, court decisions protecting our rights are only as strong as the judges who uphold them. We know from the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s decision reversing Roe v. Wade that we must act now to enshrine our fundamental rights and to protect them from the whims of a future court.

Consistent with these values, and in response to the fall of Roe, in this last fall’s election Minnesotans turned out and elected pro-choice majorities to our state House and Senate and reelected a full slate of pro-choice statewide candidates, including our governor. Over the course of that election season, we heard from Minnesotans across the state who were shocked and appalled that the U.S. Supreme Court had cast aside decades of precedent and had taken away a previously recognized fundamental right.

Prior to the overturning of Roe, dozens of legislators from the House and the Senate came together to form a new caucus, the Reproductive Freedom Caucus, to protect and expand reproductive freedom and to be ready in the event Roe v. Wade was struck down. I’m proud to be one of the founding co-chairs and members of this caucus, a first of its kind in Minnesota.

Now, two years on, with the power to protect reproductive health care in the hands of the states, it is our duty to protect Minnesotans’ fundamental rights to make autonomous decisions about their own reproductive health care.

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I am honored to do this work and to be the lead Senate author of the Protect Reproductive Options Act. The PRO Act enshrines our fundamental reproductive health care rights — including decisions about contraception, carrying a pregnancy to term, abortion care, fertility services, sterilization, family-planning counseling, and more — into our state statutes. This ensures that those rights cannot simply be taken away by a future rogue court.

The PRO Act is an affirmative recognition of the rights we already hold and value in Minnesota and serves as a foundation and a bulwark against future assaults on our freedoms.

The caucus is also working for the passage of the Reproductive Freedom Codification Act, which would repeal unconstitutional barriers to reproductive care, including laws that force providers to provide medically inaccurate information to patients. It is also championing the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act, which would protect the privacy and rights of patients and providers seeking sanctuary from other states’ oppressive anti-abortion laws.

Of course, the right itself — to make autonomous decisions about one’s own reproductive health care — does not necessarily secure meaningful access. To support and expand reproductive freedom, the caucus has also adopted a broader legislative agenda, supporting policies like paid family and medical leave, improved maternal health initiatives, comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education, the equal rights amendment, gender-affirming care, and protecting access in hospital system mergers. Addressing reproductive health comprehensively will improve health and well-being outcomes across the board.

The dignity and agency to decide health care decisions without government interference was the mandate Minnesota voters sent this November. We will ensure the voters’ directive is honored.

We can take pride that here in Minnesota, our fundamental rights to make our own individual reproductive health care decisions — without interference from the government or politicians — will continue to be protected. In Minnesota, we trust and value that people are the best advocates for their own health care and their own bodies.

I am thankful for the work done by advocates over the past decades and into the present, and I am grateful to live in a community and state that will stand strong in the face of attacks on our liberties. The actions we are taking now can give us hope. For us and for generations to come, in our communities and our nation, the North Star State is leading the way.

Sen. Jen McEwen represents Duluth in the Minnesota Senate. A DFLer, she wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.

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Sen. Jen McEwen

A COUNTERING VIEWPOINT: On abortion, Minnesota could end up like North Korea

“Abortion is a subject that stirs deeply held convictions for many of us. No matter where you land on the issue, I found in my discussions with folks around the area that most of you support some common-sense safeguards that protect the health and well-being of the mother and the unborn. That’s why I am so disappointed that despite our best efforts, many of the widely supported safeguards that we tried to add to the bill were rejected. Because of this bill, Minnesota’s abortion policy will be closer aligned to countries like North Korea and China than France, the United Kingdom, and the rest of the western world. This is extremely troubling and does not reflect our Minnesota values.”

— Rep. Roger Skraba, R-Ely, in a statement Friday after voting against abortion language in House File 1; Skraba noted the bill that now goes to the Minnesota Senate doesn’t require abortion facilities to be licensed by the state, doesn’t require that second- or third-term abortions take place in a hospital, and doesn’t ban partial-birth abortions or abortions in the third trimester

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Rep. Roger Skraba, R-Ely

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