Abortion rights groups fight 13 Minnesota laws at once

Published 10:24 pm Thursday, October 31, 2019

ST. PAUL — Abortion rights groups are challenging more than a dozen Minnesota laws in one legal effort, arguing that the state’s restrictions are medically unnecessary and legally flawed.

A coalition of groups on Wednesday urged Ramsey County District Court Judge Thomas Gilligan to let its case proceed while state attorneys argue the lawsuit should be tossed out.

The attempt to wipe a slate of abortion laws off the books all at once is unusual, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. In most states, groups usually try to challenge one law at a time right after they’ve been passed. And typically, federal courts are the ones asked to weigh in.

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The plaintiffs, including Gender Justice, said current laws go too far in dictating how abortion providers consult with their patients, what women must do before having an abortion and what must happen after an abortion.

“In 1995, these basic rights to privacy and personal decision-making were upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court in the case Doe v. Gomez,” said Megan Peterson, executive director of Gender Justice. “And yet, anti-abortion politicians have been quietly chipping away at our rights for years.”

Solicitor General Liz Kramer said people who bring lawsuits must prove the defendant’s actions caused concrete harm. She said the other groups that filed the case failed in this regard.

“It would be akin to saying that any environmental activists could come and challenge all the environmental statutes on the books,” Kramer said. “That would be impractical for our court system.”

Kramer also noted that this case is unusual in how long the statutes have been on the books.

“The plaintiffs have challenged 13 different statutes,” Kramer said after the hearing. “They have been in effect for between 11 and 111 years.”

Attorney General Keith Ellison, Gov. Tim Walz and a few state agencies are listed as defendants.

Ellison, an abortion rights supporter, dispatched lawyers to dismiss the case; he has said that he’s duty-bound to defend state laws.

Gilligan indicated he would take some time to make an initial ruling in a case that could take months or longer to ultimately decide.

Rep. Tim Miller, of Prinsburg, who has sponsored many bills to restrict abortions, said the case could be a turning point.

“I am a life advocate, and I believe that this is moving us in a direction that we won’t even have a say in this,” Miller said, “that there will be unrestricted abortions in the state of Minnesota through birth.”