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Let’s check the facts: MCCL’s new ad and the truth about abortion in Minnesota

by | May 7, 2024

By Paul Stark, Communications Director, MCCL

MCCL’s new TV and digital ad explains that Minnesota law allows abortion for any reason and at any time during pregnancy—and that some lawmakers and advocates now want to enshrine this extreme policy in the Minnesota Constitution.

But is the ad true? Are its claims accurate? Yes, they are. Everything in the ad is demonstrably correct. Below are responses (with supporting evidence) to common questions.

Does Minnesota law really allow abortion for any reason—all the way up to birth?

Yes. In 2023, lawmakers enacted a “fundamental right” to abortion (HF 1) with no limitations at any stage in pregnancy (legislators rejected dozens of amendments that would have made the law more moderate, including amendments to prevent elective abortions in the third trimester). Lawmakers in 2023 also repealed a 1974 law that had limited abortion after viability, leaving no gestational limit remaining in Minnesota statute (SF 2995). Now, in 2024, some want to enshrine this sweeping policy in the Minnesota Constitution so that future lawmakers won’t be able to legislate on the issue.

The truth about Minnesota’s current abortion policy is clearly acknowledged in the media and is not in dispute. KSTP explains: “It is true that Democrats who control the House and Senate passed the PRO Act in 2023 and removed all restrictions on when a woman can get an abortion.” KARE 11 notes that Minnesota law does “not include any specific prohibitions on abortions at any stage of pregnancy.”

 Aren’t late abortions extremely rare or non-existent?

Although most abortions occur earlier in pregnancy, 294 Minnesota abortions took place at 20 weeks or later in 2022 alone, according to the Department of Health. And the numbers are likely to increase following the 2023 legal changes, which included repeal of the law limiting abortion after viability. (Prior to its repeal, the legal status of the viability law had been unclear, but abortion practitioners still “adhered to it in practice,” according to an analysis in Minnesota Reformer.)

Now, no legal obstacle remains to prevent practitioners who focus on abortions late in pregnancy (like Warren Hern and the late LeRoy Carhart) from setting up shop in Minnesota—or to prevent existing abortion facilities from expanding the window during which they perform abortions. Passage of the proposed constitutional amendment would be a further invitation to anyone who wants to practice late abortion in Minnesota.

In fact, a former practitioner of third-trimester abortions in Kansas and New Mexico told the Sahan Journal that she “would not feel comfortable opening a third-trimester practice in Minnesota” when the viability law remained on the books, but that she would be open to it after the law’s repeal. “If I could find a hospital that would provide backup without regard to gestational age, then I would consider setting up a clinic in Minnesota,” she said. “Being surrounded by anti-abortion states, Minnesota would be a good location for a clinic.”

FOX 9 and WCCO “fact checks” of the MCCL ad did not dispute that Minnesota law allows unlimited abortion (as the ad says) but sought to downplay the significance and frequency of late abortions by appealing to statistics from before the recent legal changes. The truth is that we have very good reason to be concerned about more abortions late in pregnancy, which the legislature in 2023 went out of its way to make possible.

Don’t late abortions only happen for health reasons?

Evidence actually shows that late abortions are usually elective. “Data suggest that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment,” explains a study published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Arizona has collected data on health reasons for abortion at different stages of pregnancy, and the data indicate that about 80 percent of abortions at 21 weeks or later are not related to health at all (whether fetal health or maternal health). In any case, Minnesota’s extreme policy allows late abortions for any reason and is not limited to reasons of fetal or maternal health.

What makes Minnesota’s policy the most extreme in the country?

In addition to establishing a fundamental right to abortion without limits, at any time during pregnancy, Minnesota lawmakers in 2023 repealed numerous longstanding abortion-related laws. The repealed laws included a measure protecting born-alive infants from being left to die, a program providing practical support to pregnant women, a requirement that women receive informed consent before abortion, and a requirement that only physicians perform abortion.

With the repeal of the born-alive protection, Minnesota law no longer requires that “reasonable measures consistent with good medical practice” be taken “to preserve the life and health of the born alive infant.” Instead, only “care” is required, which the bill’s author described as “comfort” care (as opposed to lifesaving treatment). The language also now applies to any babies born alive, not just ones who survive abortion. Thus, while this change threatens abortion survivors, it could also endanger babies born with disabilities and congenital illnesses.

Isn’t MCCL the one trying to advance an extreme agenda?

“Legislators who passed [unlimited abortion] say the real extreme agenda is the one the ads push,” according to FOX 9. But only 30 percent of Minnesotans support the current no-limits policy, according to both a Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 poll and a KSTP/SurveyUSA poll. The legislators who enacted abortion-up-to-birth advocate a distinctly minority position.

The MCCL ad sides with the strong majority of Minnesotans—whether pro-life or pro-choice—who oppose this extreme policy.

Categories: Pro-Lifers