In an important win for women last week, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton vetoed two bills that would have seriously harmed Minnesotans’ ability to obtain an abortion. By vetoing these dangerous bills, he protected the rights, health, and economic security of women in Minnesota.
The first bill (H.F. 809) would have prohibited “state sponsored health programs” – like Medicaid – from covering abortion services except in very limited circumstances. This ban would have taken away abortion coverage from 1 in 5 women of reproductive age who are currently enrolled in Minnesota’s state Medicaid program and an additional 64,641 state employees who may be eligible for health insurance through the state employee plan – seriously threatening these individuals’ health and economic security.
Not only did the bill take away some women’s insurance coverage simply because of their income and how they are insured, the bill was also blatantly unconstitutional. In 1995, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that laws interfering with a woman’s decision to have an abortion violate the Minnesota Constitution. Specifically, the Court said that denying state funds for abortion, while funding health care services necessary to carry a pregnancy to term, unconstitutionally burdened a woman’s decision-making. As in that case, H.F. 809 would have been unconstitutional. Governor Dayton agreed with the National Women’s Law Center – and several other organizations and individuals who sent letters urging him to veto H.F. 809 – that this is not the kind of bill women in Minnesota need:
“All women deserve to be healthy and safe. I will not approve a bill that infringes upon Minnesotans’ Constitutionally-protected rights, discriminates against women because of their socioeconomic status, or does not protect their health and safety.”
The second bill (H.F. 812) would have imposed burdensome and unnecessary licensing requirements on facilities that provide abortion. These types of requirements – often called targeted regulations of abortion providers or TRAP laws – have no medical purpose. Rather, they impose requirements on abortion and abortion providers that are more burdensome than those imposed on similar medical procedures and practices, with the goal of making a woman’s ability to access safe and legal abortion harder or even impossible. In 2016, the United States Supreme Court held that lawmakers cannot impose unnecessary and scientifically unsupported requirements on abortion or abortion providers under the guise of protecting women’s health. Likewise, in vetoing H.F. 812, Governor Dayton saw through the Minnesota state lawmakers’ “health” justifications and firmly asserted that:
“Health care research, findings, and conclusions are best left to experts, who are trained to make medical, not political, decisions, and who are in the best position to protect a woman’s health.”
State politicians set on limiting a woman’s right to determine whether and when to become a parent should take note of Governor Dayton’s strong words. And if that isn’t enough to convince these politicians, maybe they should listen to their constituents: the public agrees that health insurance should cover all basic health care services, including abortion, and that medical decisions, including the decision of whether to have an abortion, should be left to a woman and her doctor.