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Harmful Restrictions on Abortion Access Repealed as Governor Walz Signs Health Omnibus Bill

UnRestrict Minnesota celebrates end of historic legislative session and major progress in expanding, strengthening, and defending reproductive freedom across the state

May 24, 2023

Erin Hart, Communications Director

Saint Paul, Minn.—Today Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed off on the repeal of a series of harmful restrictions on abortion access, marking the end of a historic legislative session that has dramatically strengthened and expanded rights and access to abortion and other essential reproductive health services for everyone in Minnesota — and instituted strong legal protections for everyone who provides, obtains, or helps others get abortion care in the state.

The repeal measures, included in the health and human services and judiciary omnibus bills passed by both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature, eliminate from Minnesota law a lengthy list of significant barriers to abortion access that had remained on the books despite state court decisions ruling many of them unconstitutional.

UnRestrict Minnesota is celebrating the repeals — and the historic progress made during the 2023 legislative session.

“Today the right and ability of everyone in Minnesota to get abortion care and other essential reproductive services stand stronger and better protected than they have in decades,” said Megan Peterson, executive director of Gender Justice, a member of the UnRestrict Minnesota coalition.

“In a single, extraordinary legislative session, we have systematically dismantled the barriers anti-abortion activists and politicians have been building for five decades to limit Minnesotans’ reproductive health care options.

“We have swept away most of the unnecessary, unjust, and unconstitutional restrictions that have kept too many people from getting the care they needed, and we have increased affordability and reduced government meddling in their personal decisions.

“We have made tremendous progress toward restoring abortion care to its rightful status as an essential health service like any other, and brought our state laws back into alignment at last with the views of the vast majority of Minnesotans for whom reproductive rights, justice, and freedom are fundamental values and ideals.”

The Minnesota Constitution guarantees a fundamental right to abortion, but Minnesota’s laws had become littered with restrictions on abortion care that accumulated over decades of efforts by anti-abortion activists and politicians to chip away at abortion rights and access incrementally — preventing too many people from getting care when they needed it, increasing the cost of care, and intimidating patients and health care providers alike.

Despite a 2022 decision by a Minnesota District court ruling that many of these laws violated the Minnesota state constitution, and similar decisions in the 1970s and 1980s, these restrictions remained on the books and could have been revived through further legal action by politicians and activists who remain committed to ending safe and legal abortion in Minnesota.

Restrictions eliminated by today’s signing of the omnibus bills include:

  • A requirement that doctors deliver state-mandated anti-abortion propaganda to patients seeking abortion care — including demonstrably false information, such as a debunked claim linking abortion to breast cancer.
  • A mandatory 24-hour waiting period for patients to get abortion care after they’ve received biased, state-mandated anti-abortion “counseling” — an unnecessary barrier to all patients, but especially those in Greater Minnesota who need to travel longer distances for care, or for those who have inflexibility with their work and life schedules.
  • A measure that unnecessarily prohibited anyone but doctors from performing abortions, outlawing abortions performed by advanced-practice registered nurses and other trained, licensed, qualified providers.

The new laws also eliminate some of the most invasive requirements of a law that previously forced abortion providers to report to the state an exhaustive list of personal details about abortion patients, and zero out the budget for a state program that previously funneled $3 million in taxpayer money annually to so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” that use misinformation and coercive practices to actively discourage people from seeking abortion care.

Additionally, the laws increase the Medical Assistance reimbursement rate for providers offering family planning services and abortion care by 20 percent. While the program still reimburses abortion care providers at a rate that does not match the actual cost of services, the rate increase will ease some of the financial burden incurred by providers and improve access by enabling them to serve more people who depend on Medical Assistance.

The signing of the omnibus bills comes at the end of a legislative session that also saw the passage of the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act — enshrining in Minnesota law every person’s right to make and act on the full spectrum of decisions available to them regarding their pregnancies and their reproductive health care, without government interference — and the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act, protecting everyone who seeks, provides, or helps someone get abortion care in Minnesota from legal action and criminal prosecution by anti-abortion activists and politicians from out of state.

“It would be difficult to overstate the significance of the harms we have reduced and the hurdles we have eliminated this year for people seeking, providing, and helping others get abortion care,” said Peterson.

“Minnesota has made great strides toward fulfilling the promise of true reproductive freedom for all Minnesotans, offering hope to everyone who must travel here from other states to seek care and refuge from cruel and unjust abortion bans in their own states, and establishing itself as a national leader in realizing a fairer, safer, and more compassionate and equitable vision for the future of reproductive health care.

“We are proud of Governor Walz, of the champions of reproductive health care in our legislature, and of the broad, diverse, and tireless coalition of organizations and individuals from every corner of the state who have come together to make history through these urgently needed and long-overdue advances and reforms.”