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Minnesota lawmakers considering bills to restrict abortions

May 16, 2019 10:55 PM

As the debate over abortion rights heats up around the country, Minnesota lawmakers have their own decisions to make.

Two bills, each with a House and Senate version, would restrict abortions in different ways.

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One would prohibit the procedure if a fetal heartbeat is detected “except in the case of a medical emergency."

It has not moved forward in either the House or the Senate.

The other bill, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would prevent an abortion if the “probable post fertilization age” is 20 weeks or more, except if the mother’s life is at risk.

RELATED: Alabama's governor signs abortion ban into law

“We believe that the baby should be treated as a patient and given the opportunity to be brought into this world,” said Sen. Michelle Benson, a Republican.

“The bill balances the mother’s right to not sustain physical harm, obviously, to have her life retained. If the doctor had to choose between the life of the mother and the life of the baby, the life of the woman would take higher status.”

Benson authored the bill. It is now in the Senate Human Services conference committee. It has not moved forward in the DFL-controlled House.

“It’s important to continue to protect the lives of the unborn, so we'll take the steps that Minnesota is ready for," Benson said. "And I think this is one Minnesota is ready for."

She also signed onto the heartbeat bill, but indicated the state may not be ready for that legislation yet.

Minnesota is one of at least 10 states that have introduced a so called “heartbeat” abortion ban.

“The impact on Minnesota women would be highly detrimental with either bill passing,” said Jennifer Aulwes, the regional director of strategic communications for Planned Parenthood North Central States.

“Less than one percent of all abortions happen after 20 weeks, and when they do, it is usually because a very much wanted pregnancy has gone terribly wrong, and either there's a fetal anomaly that's not compatible for life or the women's health or life is at risk."

It’s unlikely either bill will become law.

“There are very few issues that divide the two parties in Minnesota more than abortion,” said Steven Schier, a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS political analyst.

“Abortion restriction is not an agenda item for House Democrats. They control the chamber and there will be no action in favor of any sort of legislation passed by Republican Senate this session.”

He said these bills reflect what’s happening nationally, with Republicans emboldened by Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court now seems to have a reliable five-vote conservative majority,” Schier said. “As litigation approaches the court, the possibility for the pro-life movement is that the court will approve additional abortion restrictions beyond those allowed by the Roe v. Wade precedent.”

He expects there will be litigation, for example, over the recent abortion ban signed into law in Alabama. The Court has to decide whether to take an appeal.

“If Minnesota passes some sort of abortion restriction, it is a federal question, it affects the Roe v Wade precedent and would go through the federal courts,” Schier said.

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