The Minnesota Legislative session is underway, and there are a number of issues at play that impact women and people of marginalized genders.
A big one? Paid family medical leave, the lack of which has been shown in record numbers of women — over 2 million across the U.S. — dropping out of the work force in the last year. The U.S. is the only wealthy country that does not have paid family leave.
“We are the only country, except Papua New Guinea, that does not have some sort of nationalized, paid leave standard,” says Erin Maye Quade, a former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives and former DFL-endorsed lieutenant governor candidate. She is the advocacy director for Gender Justice. “This is hugely important for women, people who can get pregnant, and for families.”
HF5, which had its first reading in the Early Childhood Finance and Policy Committee in the House, but not yet in the Senate, would allow Minnesotans to receive paid leave in order to care for themselves or their loved one if they are sick or if they are giving giving birth.
The House passed the bill last year, but it did not pass through the Senate. This year, Governor Walz has outlined paid family medical leave as one of his priorities, which would create a statewide program of family and medical leave, offering 12 weeks of leave.
A related workforce issue this year is a pay history bill, which would ensure Minnesotans are paid based on their qualifications and not their salary history. The Preventing Pay Discrimination Act (HF403) would address pay gaps experienced by women, people of color, and other marginalized groups. It would allow Minnesota to join 18 states that have passed salary bans and that have seen increased pay for women and minorities as a result.
“It has wide bipartisan support in committee, and I am hoping it can get wide bipartisan support on the floor,” Quade said.
Other issues on the docket for this session include the Patient’s Right to Know Act, authored by Sen. Lindsey Port (SD56) and Rep. Kelly Morrison (HD 33B), which repeals current Minnesota laws that force doctors to give medically inaccurate information.
For example, Minnesota law currently contains a lengthy script of all the information providers must impart on their patients seeking abortion. Written into the code it states that informed consent requires “the particular medical risks associated with the particular abortion procedure to be employed including, when medically accurate, the risks of infection, hemorrhage, breast cancer, danger to subsequent pregnancies, and infertility.”
The problem with that is that these “risks” are mostly inaccurate. For example, scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion raises the risk of breast cancer, or any other type of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
“Unfortunately, we do have laws on the books that require providers to shame, stigmatize, and provide irrelevant or biased information to the patient before they access abortion care in particular,” Quade said.