Abortion legislation passes out of the MN House 

Supporters of reproductive freedom crowded next to abortion opponents in front of the House Chamber Jan. 19 as members inside debated HF1, legislation that would codify the right to an abortion in Minnesota. (Photo by Andrew VonBank, copyright House of Representatives)

For the first time in the State of Minnesota’s history, the Minnesota State Legislature has voted to codify abortion in state law. The debate, which took several hours on the House Floor, ended in a vote of 69–65. All of the House Republicans, and one Democrat, voted against the bill. 

House File (HF1), the Protect Reproductive Options ACT, was introduced by Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn (DFL–49B) and it seeks to protect a right to contraception, a right to carry a pregnancy to term, a right to abortion, and a right to privacy for personal reproductive health decisions. 

“What it does not do is change the current landscape of reproductive freedom in Minnesota. This is a second level of protection to the constitutional freedoms we currently enjoy based on the legal precedent of Doe v. Gomez, at the Minnesota Supreme Court,” said Kotyza- Witthuhn. 

HF1 was met with several amendments, with several of them from Republican women legislators. 

Rep. Peggy Scott (R–31B) moved such an amendment, aimed at licensing abortion facilities. 

“Let’s protect the women who walk through those doors to the best extent that we can, to make sure that they are in a hygienically safe environment that passes inspections with the Department of Health,” said Scott. 

The bill’s lead author, Kotyza-Witthuhn, argued back that the State of Minnesota does not license facilities, it licenses providers. Specifically, Kotyza-Witthuhn noted that dentist offices — as an example — are not licensed, but dentists are. 

Rep. Kiel (R–1B) also moved an amendment around “partial birth abortions,” a non-medical term that refers to late-term abortions. 

“I can tell you that this is a painful procedure and I would suggest that this procedure is more painful for the infant, for the child, than it is for the mother, and that is pretty serious,” said Kiel. 

An amendment to the amendment was offered on the Kiel Amendment, by Rep. Athena Hollins (DFL–66B) and while the amendment to the amendment was adopted, after some discussion on its germaneness, the Kiel amendment was not adopted. 

Following several amendments, a discussion on the bill as a whole was had. Again many Republican women legislators took the lead on speaking in opposition. 

Thanks to Women’s Foundation of Minnesota for supporting stories about reproductive justice. Women’s Foundation has been listening, advocating, and supporting leaders to work for racial and gender justice since 1983.”

“I stand here today wondering how this became the Minnesota DFL party’s number one priority. When I ran for office this year and talked to many people in my district, there was so many concerns with inflation, high gas prices, and so many others that people had,” said Rep. Pam Alterndorf (R–20A). “This body is not respecting the voters of Minnesota, not even the pro-choice voters.” Alterndorf and some others specifically spoke up against a provision allowing for third trimester abortion in the law. 

Corresponding legislation will be debated on the Senate Floor next week and Governor Tim Walz has said he will sign the legislation. The debate on abortion has been discussed as one reason that compelled many DFLers to victory in an election cycle that was expected to do otherwise. Abortion has been legal in Minnesota since 1995 and the Doe v. Gomez court case was decided.