Governor Walz signs the PRO Act into law

A winter view of the south side of the Minnesota State Capitol Wednesday, January 25. Photo by A.J. Olmscheid Copyright Minnesota Senate

Governor Tim Walz signed the PRO Act into law on January 31, codifying abortion rights into Minnesota state law and establishing a “fundamental right to reproductive health.” It became law immediately after the signing.

Joining Walz was House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL–34B), and Senate President Bobby Joe Champion (DFL–59), who also signed the legislation, alongside Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan and nearly 100 legislators and pro-choice advocates. 

“I, like so many others, was devastated when the Dobbs decision came out,” said Flanagan, who had brought her daughter and niece to witness what she called “a historic moment.” “So I, like many of you I’m sure, called my mom. She listened to my fears for my daughter’s future and then she told me she had been preparing me for my whole life for this fight and for this moment.

“So thank you to my mom and to all of the mothers and grandmothers and aunties and advocates who prepared us for this fight. This victory is for you.” 

Lt. gov. Peggy Flanagan

Several other individuals also spoke at the press conference including Speaker Hortman; Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic (DFL–60); Representative Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn (DFL– 49B); Senator Jen McEwen (DFL–8); Planned Parenthood North Central States President and Senator Ruth Richardson (DFL–52B); Dr. Melissa Richards, an OB/GYN; and Liz Van Heel, a patient. 

A few days prior to the signing on January 28, the Minnesota State Senate debated the bill for over 15 hours — beginning at around 11am on January 27 and ending at 3am the next day. 

Republican Senators attempted to pass 56 amendments to the bill, including a ban on third-term abortions, a ban on abortions for reasons of sex selection, a ban on abortion of fetuses with Downs Syndrome, and an array of other amendments. 

“It is absolutely impossible to tell the race of a baby in the womb and the race of the baby is usually the race of the parent,” said Senator Erin Maye Quade (DFL–56) after an amendment banning abortions for reasons of race selection was moved by Senator Jim Abeler (R–35). 

Every amendment failed, and most failed on a party-line vote. 

After several hours of questioning, some DFL legislators refused to yield questions from their Republican counterparts. 

The PRO Act passed with the 34 DFL members voting yes and the 33 Republican members voting no. It took less than a month for the legislation to be introduced and to make it to the House and Senate floors for a vote. 

Following the Senate vote, Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson (R–1) and House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth (R–13A) wrote a letter to Walz urging him to veto the PRO Act “on the basis of previous promises [made to Minnesotans]” by the Governor. 

The letter states, in part: 

“As the PRO Act was being rushed through the legislature, Republicans offered reasonable amendments with guardrails to protect women and children…The amendments included prohibiting third trimester abortions with exceptions for the life of the mother, a ban on gruesome partial birth abortions, and a requirements that all abortion facilities be licensed to ensure women are provided the safest environment possible.” 

Minnesota licenses abortion providers, not abortion clinics, similar to the ways in which all other health care providers are licensed in the State of Minnesota. 

In addition to abortion rights, the PRO Act ensures the right to prenatal care, birth control, and sterilization. The passage of the PRO Act was hailed by abortion advocates. 

“Minnesota has become a national leader for reproductive freedom and equity,” said Dr. Sarah Traxler, Chief Medical Officer at Planned Parenthood North Central States, in a press release from the organization. “And as states around us continue to restrict reproductive health care, Minnesota’s abortion access will only grow more critical. By passing the PRO Act, we’ve trusted patients and doctors to make decisions, and told people across the country they are welcome here.”