District Court Rules Many Minnesota Abortion Restrictions Unconstitutional


A Minnesota district court has ruled that some state laws restricting access to abortion violate the state Constitution, a significant victory for abortion rights groups just weeks after the fall of Roe c. Wade.

The court on Monday blocked the application of a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion after consulting a doctor and the requirement of notification of both parents for patients under 18, as well as a requirement of informed consent. The decision also ruled unconstitutional a mandate that only doctors can perform abortions, even those administered by medication, as well as a law requiring that abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital.

The court cited a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling that access to abortion is a constitutional right.

“These abortion laws violate the right to privacy because they violate the fundamental right to access abortion care under the Minnesota Constitution and do not stand up to scrutiny,” wrote the Ramsey County Judge Thomas Gilligan in his decision.

The ruling comes after more than three years of litigation in a case brought by abortion rights groups who were pushing to overturn more than a dozen abortion restrictions in one fell swoop. The state could appeal, but the ruling appears to bolster Minnesota’s status as a haven for abortion access in the Midwest after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal constitutional protections in Roe v . Wade. Neighboring states such as South Dakota and Wisconsin have various laws on the books that prohibit abortion.

“With the half-country abortion ban set to go into effect in the coming weeks and months, it’s more important than ever to take advantage of the protections in state constitutions like Minnesota’s,” said Amanda Allen, director of the Lawyering Project and trial co-lawyer with the nonprofit Minnesota Legal Association Gender Justice. “Minnesota is fortunate to be a safe place for people in the midst of this national public health crisis.”

The decision was quickly criticized by Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion rights groups, who said the laws were modest measures that support pregnant women.

“A lot of women have been helped by these policies,” said Scott Fischbach, executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group. “Now they will be harmed because those protections are taken away by a grossly flawed court decision, which goes far beyond Roe v. Wade. This mistake must be corrected.”

Fischbach said previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions upheld similar informed consent and parental notification laws. Republicans are already pressing Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office has defended state laws in court, to appeal the ruling. Ellison, a first-term DFL attorney general who faces re-election in the fall, has pledged to advocate for women who travel to Minnesota for abortions.

The case was the first big test in a post-Roe of Doe v. Gomez, a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision that found abortion access to be a constitutional right, going further than Roe v. Wade deciding that medical assistance can also be used. to pay for abortions for low-income women.

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