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Minnesota abortion bill would shield providers, out-of-state patients



Minnesota has advanced legislation that would shield local providers and their out-of-state patients from action by states that punish those seeking or providing abortions, as Democratic lawmakers move to establish the state as a Midwestern haven for reproductive rights.

If it becomes law, the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act would expand on an executive order issued last year by Gov. Tim Walz (D) that shields abortion patients and providers from other states’ laws. The bill passed Monday by 68 to 62 votes in the state’s Democratic-controlled House and will now need to clear the Senate, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, which established a national right to abortion, antiabortion groups and several GOP-led states have moved to block patients from obtaining the procedure in states where it remains legal.

Some of these efforts are inspired by a 2021 Texas law that allows private individuals to sue anyone who provides abortion or helps patients access the procedure. States such as Missouri are considering similar proposals that explicitly target residents who travel out of state for the procedure. The Biden administration has said such proposals violate interstate commerce laws, The Washington Post has reported.

What to know about the Texas abortion law


“Neighboring states have started passing and implementing harmful laws attacking not only abortion rights but also individual liberties and privacy more broadly,” said state Rep. Esther Agbaje (D), who wrote the House legislation. “Providers now have to be concerned about the type of health care they provide and whether they will be prosecuted for giving patients the reproductive health care that they need.”

GOP lawmakers called the bill an attempt to impose Minnesota legislation on other states. “This is an extreme bill that disregards the priority of the rule of law in exchange for ensuring only the lives of wanted children are allowed to happen,” said state Rep. Peggy Scott.

The bill would require patients to consent before Minnesota health care providers release any reproductive health records, even if other states issue subpoenas. It would shield health-care providers from possible disciplinary action, and also prevents the arrests or extradition of any person charged for a crime in another state for reproductive health care provided in Minnesota.

Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, a nonprofit, said its Minnesota clinic now regularly sees patients from states that have strict restrictions on abortion, such as Texas, Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The overturning of Roe played a role in the surge, said spokesman Jared Lathrop, who called Minesota’s proposed safe harbor bill “exactly what we need.”

Antiabortion lawmakers want to block patients from crossing state lines

Twenty-six percent of patients seeking care at the alliance’s Minnesota clinic last year were nonresidents, more than double the figure in 2019. There have been 96 patients from Texas since February 2022, up from two in the whole of 2019, Lathrop said in an email.

California last year enacted legislation that prevents companies and law enforcement from cooperating with other states that seek to target patients who sought abortion in California. Washington state lawmakers are also debating a similar proposal.


In January, Minnesota’s legislature passed a bill enshrining abortion rights into state law, making those rights harder to overturn in court.

Source: Washington Post

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