A Minnesota District Court has struck down numerous state abortion restrictions, indicating they are in violation of the state constitution, permanently and immediately blocking their enforcement statewide. As the court stated: “The right to choose to have an abortion … would be meaningless without the right to access abortion care.”
As we reported in May, while the 1995 ruling Doe v Gomez held that Minnesotans have the right to have an abortion, and to decide to have abortion without government interference, restrictions — many of which were enacted in 2003 — were in effect intimidating providers and patients and complicating the process unnecessarily.
The ruling blocks the enforcement of the following:
- A ban on qualified advance-practice clinicians providing abortion care;
- A requirement forcing patients to delay their abortion care by at least 24 hours after consulting with a healthcare provider;
- A requirement that minors notify both parents before they can receive abortion care;
- A requirement forcing abortion providers to give irrelevant and misleading information to their patients;
- A ban on the provision of second-trimester abortion care outside of hospitals; and
- Regulations that subject abortion providers to felony criminal penalties for minor regulatory infractions.
The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed in 2019 by Gender Justice, a nonprofit advocacy organization, and the Lawyering Project on behalf of the nonprofit abortion fund Our Justice and two health care providers.
The court’s decision does not create new law. It reaffirms Minnesota constitutional law, respecting constitutional precedent in a way that the United States Supreme Court did not when they ruled in Dobbs v Jackson to overturn Roe v Wade in June.
The state has 30 days to appeal the ruling, but Pepis Rodriguez, litigation consultant at the Lawyering Project said in a webinar with Gender Justice Wednesday that they “feel confident any appeal would also go our way.”
“As we think about this fight, we know that it is absolutely about bodily autonomy and agency [which is] intertwined with the bigger fight for our democracy,” Gender Justice Advocacy Director Erin Maye Quade added. “We took a step to protect this fundamental right, which is inherently about protecting our democracy in Minnesota.”
Professionals already are undergoing training to dispense the two-pill abortion medication regime. One of the state’s largest hospitals, HCMC (Hennepin Healthcare), is beginning to prepare to offer abortions as well.
University of Minnesota Medical School Assistant Professor Dr. Christy Boraas noted in the webinar that the ruling will come as a huge relief to patients who no longer have to wait 24 hours after receiving a scripted phone call with information meant to dissuade them from the procedure. This will also provide relief for minors who will no longer have to prove they have notified both of their parents — even if estranged — by mail.
“I can’t tell you how many [patients] I have tried to call to [read the script that begins the 24-hour waiting period] and not been able to get a hold of someone,” Boraas said.
One of the restrictions upheld by the court is the requirement that providers report information about patients who receive an abortion to the Minnesota Department of Health, including their age and race. This data is published annually in a public report. But after Monday’s ruling, providers will no longer face felony penalties for failing to do so.
Eliminating restrictions was step one of a “leadership agenda” released by UnRestrict Minnesota coalition members.
Up next: pass legislation that codifies reproductive freedom into Minnesota law, legislation that safeguards anyone who seeks abortion care in Minnesota from prosecution by laws imposed by other states, and legislation that protects those who manage abortions on their own. Find the full agenda here.
“Roe was well-settled law,” Rodriguez explained. “In the last five years we saw a massive shift on the federal [Supreme Court] bench, and that’s how you end up with well-settled law being overturned. The same kind of strategy could be put into effect in Minnesota by anti-abortion advocates. … There may still be attempts to chip away at that politically. It is never over.”
“[Supreme Court] judges in Minnesota are elected,” added Maye Quade. “When you vote, you need to flip over your ballot and vote for judges.” Two judges are up for reelection in the November 2022 state election.
Find the full webinar here.
Our Justice helps cover the cost of abortion including hotels and transportation. Executive Director Shayla Walker noted that it is safer for patients to find lodging in hotels than private homes.
Midwest Access Coalition provides travel accommodations for those traveling to, from, or within the Midwest for care.
Spiral Collective helps coordinate transportation and offers abortion doula trainings.