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Thursday, March 30, 2023

What Overturning Roe Means for Minnesota

Although abortions are still a constitutionally protected right in Minnesota, the topic has recently gained more political traction ahead of this fall’s elections.

Legally speaking, Minnesota’s boundaries are largely unaffected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reverse the precedent-setting Roe v. Wade ruling, which was made on Friday.

This is so because the Minnesota Supreme Court determined that a woman’s “basic right to privacy” is protected by the Minnesota Constitution, and explicitly outlawing abortions would be in violation of that right. The ruling, known as Doe v. Gomez, was handed down in 1995 and invalidated a state rule prohibiting the use of public monies for the needy for financing pregnancy-related expenses but not abortions.

It is unlikely to change very soon given the present makeup of Minnesota’s top court, which consists primarily of Democratic governors’ nominees.

It’s also improbable that much will change in Minnesota right now given the composition of the state’s senior elected leaders.

Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison made a commitment earlier this week to turn Minnesota into a kind of safe haven for anybody seeking abortions, even expectant women coming from neighboring states.

The director of Minnesota’s Planned Parenthood said she anticipates an inflow of women from other states where abortion is either prohibited or may be in the near future.

Friday saw the outlawing of abortions in Wisconsin and South Dakota.

An abortion-related statute is still in effect in Wisconsin. Under Roe, it had been declared unenforceable, but it is now in force.

Due to a so-called “trigger statute” that forbade the procedure as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court decision was made, South Dakota swiftly prohibited abortions.

A state bill that may now take effect in North Dakota will make abortions illegal in a month.

The sole abortion clinic in North Dakota will relocate from Fargo to Moorhead, Minnesota. The Red River Women’s Clinic’s relocation will result in North Dakota being without an abortion facility for the first time in more than 40 years.

Despite knowing the decision was coming since the draft judgment was leaked in May, clinic director Tammi Kromenaker described it as “devastating.”

Although abortions are still legal in Iowa, the Iowa Supreme Court this week reversed a ruling that had previously protected them. That implies that the Republican governor and the Republican-controlled legislature of the state might outlaw the practice.

The Gomez judgment in Minnesota is significant since the recent Dobbs ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which was a 6-3 decision, did not decide that abortion prohibitions are unconstitutional but rather that each state is free to regulate abortion under its own laws and constitution.

However, that is not a permanent guarantee, and advocates for abortion access will no longer have the support of the national supreme court.

Here comes the abortion politics.

Political candidates, government officials, and organizations of all sorts sent comments and emails to raise money after the judgment was made on Friday.

Democrats see a chance to organize people and raise money on worries of abortion crackdowns since they anticipate difficulties during the national midterm elections due to rising inflation and an unpopular president.

Gov. Tim Walz stated in a campaign email that “the governor’s office is now the final line of defense against an abortion ban in Minnesota.”

The assertion is not totally true.

The most straightforward approach for abortions to be outlawed in Minnesota would be a similar one that the U.S. Supreme Court followed to get there: changes to the court’s composition.

The Minnesota Constitution, like the U.S. Constitution, never uses the words “abortion” or even “privacy.” Therefore, much as the U.S. Supreme Court determined that Roe was incorrect, it is feasible for a future court to rule that the Gomez judgment was incorrectly read.

Since they often resigned in the middle of their six-year tenure, Minnesota’s justices are frequently appointed by the governor; however, if they want to continue serving after the obligatory retirement age of 70, they must run for reelection.

In Minnesota, party tensions over topics like abortion have been relatively unusual during the state Supreme Court justices’ nominally nonpartisan elections thus far. It will be interesting to observe whether it ever changes.

Two judges will be up for election this fall: Natalie Hudson, chosen by former governor Mark Dayton, and Gordon Moore, chosen by Walz. Both have no rivals.

Any modifications to the court’s current 5-2 composition (based on the party of the governor who initially appointed them) would have to be the result of a long-term strategy, most likely centered around a Republican governor appointing justices who would uphold abortion restrictions passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature.

The abortion debate is straightforward for voters in the governor’s election.

The presumed Republican nominee, Scott Jensen, has stated that he “would strive to prohibit abortion.”

Former NFL player Matt Birk, who is running as Jensen’s running partner, is likewise anti-abortion.

The DFL candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan, support keeping abortions legal.

The election for attorney general, the other statewide position that can influence abortion legislation, likewise provides a sharp difference. While his two Republican rivals oppose abortion access, Ellison does.

The Republican-endorsed candidate, Jim Schultz, is against abortions and claimed on Friday that Ellison had a “severe pro-abortion posture.” Schultz will compete against Doug Wardlow, who is also anti-abortion, in the Republican primary in August; absentee voting started on Friday.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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