Minnesota Governor Tim Walz Signs Bill Legalizing Abortions Up to Birth

State   |   Paul Stark   |   Jan 31, 2023   |   3:01PM   |   St. Paul, Minnesota

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has signed a bill into law that will legalize abortions up to birth.

Walz signed into law the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act to enshrine in state statute a “fundamental right” to abortion without limits or safeguards. The bill had passed the House and Senate by narrow margins after Democrat leaders quickly pushed it through the legislature in the opening weeks of the session. 

Authored by Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, D-Eden Prairie, the bill would allow abortion on demand even late in pregnancy when unborn babies are viable and can feel excruciating pain. The bill also would also deny parents the right to know if their minor daughter is seeking an abortion.

“The PRO Act means a right to abort any baby for any reason at any time up to birth. It means that the elective killing of a human being in utero is perfectly legal even in the third trimester of pregnancy, when the child can feel excruciating pain and could live outside the womb. It means that parents have no right to know when their teenage daughter has been taken to undergo an abortion,” said MCCL Co-Executive Director Cathy Blaeser. “Gov. Walz’s absolutist abortion policy puts Minnesota in the company of just a small handful of countries around the world, including North Korea and China. It is extreme, inhumane, and harmful to women and children who deserve so much better.”

Polls show that most Minnesotans and most Americans disagree with the no-limits policy enshrined by the PRO Act. A 2022 KSTP/SurveyUSA poll found that only 30 percent of Minnesotans think abortion should always be legal.

ACTION ALERT: Contact the governor here to complain.

During the House and Senate floor debates, bare majorities rejected dozens of amendments that would have made the bill less extreme. The defeated amendments included ones to protect unborn children in the third trimester (with exceptions), to protect against the barbaric procedure known as partial-birth abortion, to provide the option of anesthesia when unborn children can feel pain, and to protect women’s health by requiring that third-trimester abortions take place in a hospital and that abortion facilities be licensed by the state.

Proponents of the PRO Act sought to downplay the reality and frequency of elective late abortions, even though evidence shows that most abortions after 21 weeks occur for elective reasons. “This law doesn’t just allow late abortion for medical emergencies or hard cases,” said Blaeser. “It allows late abortion for any reason whatsoever, and it’s an open invitation to notorious late abortion practitioners to come to Minnesota to set up shop. Here in Minnesota, you don’t even need to be a doctor or have a licensed facility in order to perform abortions. The lack of guardrails to protect women and children is appalling.”

Dyuring the debate, Minnesota Catholic bishops opposed the bill. They reminded lawmakers that they have a responsibility to protect all human life, including babies in the womb.

“In a post-Dobbs world in which states that allow abortion have the responsibility to both regulate the practice and protect nascent human life, we should be working to find common ground on the challenges before us in Minnesota,” the bishops said. “We stand firm that every child should be welcomed in life and protected by law.”

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Minnesota already has very liberal abortion laws that allow unborn babies to be aborted into the second trimester and force taxpayers to pay for them.

Instead of trying to expand abortions, the Catholic bishops said lawmakers should be working on better ways to support struggling families.

“We also contend that there is a social duty to remove unnecessary barriers to contracting marriage, having children, and being able to raise them well. By raising the family to the top of our state’s policy priorities, we can help restore the family to its proper position as the foundational building block of society where children best flourish,” the bishops said.

They pointed to a set of “Families First” policy proposals from the Minnesota Catholic Conference that call for “nutritional aid for expectant mothers; health care coverage during and after pregnancy for both mother and child; child care assistance; and adequate housing.” They asked lawmakers to consider paid family leave and adoption reform as well.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported 10,136 abortions in 2021.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, states may protect unborn babies from abortion again. For almost 50 years, the 1973 ruling forced states to legalize abortions for basically any reason up to viability and allowed abortions up to birth. According to NRLC, more than 64 million unborn babies were legally aborted under Roe.

Now, many state are moving in opposite directions on the issue, with Republican-led states passing laws that protect unborn babies and mothers and Democrat-led states working aggressively to expand abortions.

Two new polls show growing public support for legal protections for unborn babies. A Marist College poll found 69 percent of Americans support limiting or banning abortions, up from 62 percent in June. Another new poll from UMass Amherst found a 5-percent drop in those who say Congress should pass a law to make abortions legal nation-wide and a 6-percent increase in support for a national abortion ban, WCVB News reports.

Additional abortion-expanding bills have also been introduced at the Capitol. One bill, H.F. 91/S.F. 70, would repeal numerous longstanding abortion-related laws, including a law protecting newborns who survive abortion.