Editorial Roundup: Minnesota

Minneapolis Star Tribune. January 8, 2023.

Editorial: Codify abortion rights with ‘PRO Act’

Passing state law would prevent politics from interfering with care and signal lawmakers listened to voters.

By this time next month, abortion rights in Minnesota could be laudably clad in the protective armor of state law, a necessary layer of defense after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling in 2022.

Fresh off a November election delivering DFL control of the state government, the political party’s leaders have made the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act a priority, a decision that commendably addresses the concerns that galvanized many voters this fall.

In legislative-ese, the PRO Act is House File 1, and its companion in the upper chamber dubbed Senate File 1. That single digit reflects the measure’s importance on the DFL agenda for the 2023 session. So do two powerful names on its list of sponsors: House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic.

Last week, Hortman told an editorial writer that the PRO Act could clear both chambers and land on Gov. Walz’s desk by the end of the month. That’s a blistering pace in a body that typically waits until the session’s waning days to push bills across the finish line.

The speed and the legislation are a reasonable response to Roe’s reprehensible demise and the alarming alacrity with which other states restricted access to this medical procedure. While a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling affirms abortion rights within the state, the federal court’s ruling on Roe illustrates how quickly precedent can be kicked aside by judges.

The PRO Act also farsightedly codifies the right to a comprehensive spectrum of reproductive health care. That includes the right to birth control, which relies on a foundation provided by a different U.S. Supreme Court ruling from decades ago.

If passed, this legislation would ensure that Minnesota remains a medical mecca. The state is already home to world-class hospitals and providers. Enshrining reproductive health freedoms in state law would ensure that patients get the best care possible.

The law’s passage would also strengthen the state’s ability to recruit and retain high-caliber physicians. These professionals will not want to work where politics circumscribe medical practice. The PRO Act’s passage would signal strongly that decisions here will be driven by expertise and a patient’s needs.

On Thursday, the PRO Act cleared the important Health Finance and Policy committee in the House. It has more committee stops ahead before floor votes, potentially later this month. There’s still time for the public and other lawmakers to weigh in, which is good.

But the debate that began this week at the Capitol was disappointingly ill-informed. Republicans on the House committee dug in against the PRO Act and voted against it. It’s clear that the GOP strategy is to argue that the bill is “extreme.”

In reality, it’s other states’ reckless new abortion restrictions that are “extreme.” Some examples:

— In Texas, Marlena Stell carried her dead fetus for two weeks because her medical provider feared running afoul of the state’s new abortion limitations with a procedure to remove it.

— Another Texas woman, Kailee DeSpain, had to leave the state to get an abortion after she developed a medical condition at high risk of triggering a life-threatening infection. “My doctors said to me: ‘We’re going to be blunt — you have to be dying on the table and we have to be able to prove that before we can intervene,’” DeSpain told The Independent.

— In Ohio, at least three minors who became pregnant after they were sexually assaulted have had to leave the state for an abortion.

Many of Minnesota’s most respected medical organizations have lent their support to the PRO Act, including the Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, as well as the state chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. None of these are “extreme” organizations.

Other states are putting politics before health. Minnesota should not be among them. Passing the PRO Act would ensure patients get the high-quality care they need without interference.

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Mankato Free Press. January 9, 2023.

Editorial: Elections: Make voting easy, protect poll workers

We’ve long advocated to make voting easier, secure and credible in Minnesota. Now, the Legislature can make it happen and we wholeheartedly support the effort.

With the DFL in charge of the House, Senate and governor’s office, the time has come to secure voting rights far into Minnesota’s future. It’s unfortunate the Republican Party in past few years has stonewalled DFL efforts, for example, to make it easier to vote and register to vote. The Minnesota GOP was walking lockstep with out of touch national party that was successful in making it more difficult to vote in many states.

That was a shameful effort that we continue to decry.

Democrats unveiled their plans last week to allow automatic voter registration when one renews or gets a drivers’ license, allows for 16- and 17-year olds to pre-register and allows people to be put on a list to get a mail-in ballot every year. The bill would also protect election workers who’ve been the target of disinformation campaigns and threats by dangerous election deniers.

While Democrat, and all political parties for that matter, often claim a “mandate” for this policy or that policy, voters clearly did report to credible media that many feared restrictions on voting brought on by Republicans. They liked easy registration in Minnesota and the ease of voting and as a result completely shut out Republicans from positions where they might influence this. Minnesota elections are one of the most secure in the country and the highest voter turnout rates show voters believe that.

Minnesota Republicans have criticized the DFL proposals citing unwritten rules that election law changes should be bipartisan. But here’s why that train has left the station:

The Republican National Committee in last year’s election filed 73 suits in 20 states and hired 37 lawyers to challenge all manner of voting that has been the staple of American democracy for decades. The RNC has said it has trained 5,000 volunteers to look for voter fraud.

And any meaningful voter fraud is non-existent.

Now Republicans should embrace the DFL voting access changes and protection for election workers. The last time voting in Minnesota was expanded – through no-excuse needed absentee ballots, it passed with a bipartisan support under former GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

But today’s Republican Party is unrecognizable compared to the one of the past. The Republican Party backed major statewide candidates and dozens of others who were election deniers.

Democrats are on the right track to expand voting rights, make it easier to vote yet still very secure and they should move forward without Republicans.

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