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What is the “Woman’s Right to Know Act?”

It’s a 2003 law that requires doctors who provide abortion care to give Minnesotans medically irrelevant, and politically biased information before patients are allowed to get care. The law also mandates that doctors direct patients to medically inaccurate information hosted on government websites, requires patients to wait 24 hours after their first, medically unnecessary, appointment to have an abortion, and mandates health care providers tell patients about the man’s responsibility to pay child support, as well as tell patients they may be eligible for medical assistance even if they are not, in fact, eligible.

Misleadingly titled the Woman’s Right to Know Act, this law is actually an effort to sway a person’s decision about whether or not to have an abortion, and increase the stigma surrounding abortion and shame those who seek abortion care. It was passed under the guise of “informed consent” and is the only medical procedure that lawmakers have mandated exactly what doctors must tell their patients.

The law makes assumptions about the circumstances people who seek abortion care are facing – and reinforces stigma, particularly by mandating doctors talk about a man’s obligation to pay child support before a patient is allowed to have an abortion. The law also mandates that doctors tell patients that medical assistance may be available for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care, even if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, testing has found a fatal fetal anomaly, or if the patient isn’t actually eligible. Even if the doctor believes any information they are mandated to deliver may cause emotional harm to their patient, the doctor risks losing their license if they do not talk about it.

Providing this information goes far beyond standard protocol to obtain informed consent. Just like all health care procedures, doctors already counsel patients and provide patient-relevant medical information and informational materials based on medical protocols and science.

In the 2021 Legislative Session, Senator Lindsey Port (SD56) and Representative Kelly Morrison, M.D. (HD 33B) introduced the Patients’ Right to Know Act, which would give healthcare providers the right to provide medically-accurate, evidence-based information to their patients without interference from lawmakers. The bill repeals the Woman’s Right to Know Act, and prohibits future laws that require healthcare providers to give medically-inaccurate and/or irrelevant information to patients before they receive healthcare—including abortion care. Ask your lawmakers to support the Patients’ Right to Know Act