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Abortion control bills vetoed by Minn. governor

ST. PAUL, Minn. (BP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed May 10 a pair of bills that would have limited the use of state funds for abortions and imposed licensing standards on abortion clinics, drawing recriminations from pro-life advocates.

The funding bill, House File (H.F.) 809, was contrary to the 1995 Doe v. Gomez Minnesota Supreme Court ruling authorizing the use of Minnesota Medical Assistance funds for coverage of abortions deemed necessary for medical and therapeutic reasons. According to the Legislature’s bill summary, H.F. 809 would have only allowed state funding of abortions in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest of the mother, as stipulated under the federal Hyde Amendment.

The licensing bill, H.F. 812, would have required abortion facilities to obtain licenses from the state commissioner of health and accreditation from a national organization with evidence-based clinical standards. The bill also stipulated periodic inspections from the health commissioner empowered to revoke or approve renewals.

Minnesota is one of 13 states under court order to allow Medicaid to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions, according to May 2017 statistics from the Guttmacher Institute. Only four states, Hawaii, Maryland, New York and Washington, voluntarily provide such funding; while Illinois and Arizona prohibit coverage in violation of court orders there, Guttmacher reported.

Pro-life advocates, including the Minnesota Citizens for Life (MCCL) and the Minnesota Family Council, accused Dayton of disrespecting women and taxpayers.

“By the stroke of his pen the governor has demonstrated profound disrespect for women and taxpayers — nearly all Minnesotans, in fact,” MCCL Legislative Director Andrea Rau said in a press release. “Under H.F. 809, Minnesota citizens would no longer be forced to continue to fund an act which they do not support and which does not further the public good.”

Minnesota taxpayers fund 43 percent of abortions in the state, Rau said, and since 1995, have paid more than $23 million to cover 77,000 abortions.

Minnesota Family Council Communications Director Stephani Liesmaki said Dayton disregarded the wishes of thousands of Minnesotans who urged the governor to sign the bills that are “common sense” and “pro-women.”

Dayton pointed to women’s health and privacy rights in his vetoes.

“This bill would interfere with critical medical decisions that should be made between a woman and her doctor,” Dayton said of the funding bill. “I will not approve a bill infringes upon Minnesotans’ Constitutionally-protected right, discriminates against women because of their socioeconomic status, or does not protect their health and safety.”

Dayton described the licensing bill as “broad and unnecessary,” and said it would “target health professionals who provide abortion services” by requiring investigations without protecting privacy rights.

“Its supporters cite lack of statutory authority for the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to regulate or license clinics,” Dayton said. “However, MDH believes that current professional licensing standards provide sufficient oversight to protect the health and safety of Minnesotans.”

The bills passed largely with the support of the Republican controlled Legislature, which had hoped the funding bill would trigger a court battle with the potential of reversing the state court’s 1995 ruling, the Minnesota Star-Tribune reported. Republicans are not expected to have enough votes to override the vetoes.

The vetoes marked only the latest in a string of vetoes by Dayton of pro-life bills. In 2011 and 2012, he vetoed bills prohibiting state funding for abortions; in 2011, he vetoed a bill banning all abortions after 20 weeks.

Across the U.S., 32 states and Washington D.C. follow the Hyde Amendment abortion funding provisions, according to Guttmacher. Three of those states, Iowa, Mississippi and Virginia, reportedly extend funding to include cases of fetal endangerment; three others, Indiana, Utah and Wisconsin, extend funding to abortions necessary “to prevent grave, long-lasting damage to the woman’s physical health,” Guttmacher reported.