As other states restrict abortion and gender-affirming health care, Minnesota is poised to become a Midwest destination for those seeking abortions and gender-affirming health care.
Democrats in the state Senate passed a trio of progressive priorities Friday, including protections from legal repercussions and extradition orders for transgender people and their families traveling to Minnesota to receive gender-affirming care. A separate abortion bill would enact similar protections, making patient data on abortions private and restricting subpoenas from other states that have banned the procedure.
Senators also banned the controversial practice of conversion therapy, which aims to modify a person’s s*xual orientation or gender identity. According to Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, Minnesotans’ freedoms will be protected by all three pieces of legislation.
“People should have the liberties that are guaranteed in our Constitution. People should have the right to self-determination,” Dibble said. “And in Minnesota, people should be free from the laws of other states that would impact and negatively affect all of those basic American rights.”
The House has already approved the three proposals the Senate voted on Friday. The Senate bill sponsor said the abortion bill would be amended and sent back to the House for final approval, but all measures are expected to be on DFL Gov. Tim Walz’s desk soon. The governor’s office said he would sign all three.
Conversion therapy is prohibited for kids and vulnerable ad*lts. Dibble had been campaigning for the ban for some years. He described the technique as “heinous and barbaric” and equivalent to torture.
The practice was outlawed by a 36-27 vote in the DFL-controlled Senate. Republican Senators Zach Duckworth and Jeremy Miller joined 34 Democrats in voting for the prohibition.
On the Senate floor, some Republicans spoke out against the conversion therapy prohibition for children and vulnerable ad*lts.
“I just don’t want to close the door on quality help and even discussions and dialogue that might be productive,” said Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, who was concerned that the bill might discourage kids from talking to trustworthy adults. No Republicans supported the abortion bill, which passed on a party-line vote.
“To people who are forced to flee their home states because they are not safe there, we say, ‘Welcome, and you are safe here in Minnesota,’ ” said Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, an obstetrician-gynecologist who sponsored the measure.
GOP Sen. Paul Utke, of Park Rapids, called the abortion bill “unconstitutional” and said Democrats are trying to extend Minnesota’s laws beyond its borders.
“This legislation pushes Minnesota towards extensive litigation over constitutional issues with other states,” Utke said.
Since the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, certain states, notably Wisconsin and South Dakota, have prohibited abortions, while others have added restrictions.
The party-line decision in the Minnesota Senate on transgender health care came only two days after North Dakota’s Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation suggesting health care practitioners there might face felony charges for delivering gender-affirming care to kids. Iowa, South Dakota, and other states have recently enacted legislation to limit such care.
Republican senators in Minnesota expressed worries about how the codification of gender-affirming medical care practices might affect minors.
“They can’t even weigh the consequences, mentally, of what they’re doing,” said Sen. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe. “This process, much of it has irreversible consequences.”
Gruenhagen was recently the subject of an ethics complaint after he emailed Senate Democrats a video he initially claimed contained images of gender affirmation surgeries on minors.
The complaint was filed against Gruenhagen by the bill’s sponsor, Senator Erin Maye Quade. On Friday, she dismissed Republican criticism.
“Their health care, which they decide to have, is none of our business,” said DFL-Apple Valley Rep. Maye Quade. “Their doctors, medical associations, and parents all say this is appropriate care, and that’s enough for me.”
Supporters and opponents of the three pieces of legislation exchanged placards and chants across the State Capitol rotunda on Friday morning.
Roseville resident Angie Ebel said she came to promote bodily liberty. She and others were anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on access to the frequently used abortion medication, mifepristone. Later that day, the Supreme Court ordered that mifepristone would remain on the market while the legal challenge to its availability proceeded.
“It’s frightening just that these things are up for debate. And that it’s a slow whittling away — like with Roe — slowly things get taken away and all of a sudden you look up and these giant things have happened. They are playing the long game and it scares me,” Ebel said.
Morrison said the looming mifepristone ruling added urgency. “This is a shifting legal landscape. It changes daily right now and there is a lot of confusion among patients and providers,” she said. She hopes the bill will help clarify things in Minnesota.
Ebel said the legislation makes her happy to be a Minnesotan, a sentiment shared by many supporters on Friday morning.
“I have trans friends all over the country who are looking for a safe place to go,” Minneapolis resident Orla Gotthelf said. “It’s unfortunate that we need a refugee state, but I’m glad we’re becoming a safe haven.”
Meanwhile, Jen and Jordan Pepin traveled to the Capitol from St. Michael, Minn., to protest the proposals.
“We’re here hoping the legislation doesn’t pass.” “We believe we are at a tipping point in our state,” Jordan Pepin said. “A lot of the issues that we’re putting under the umbrella of politics go well beyond how we run government and are getting into more and more moral issues, and just a lot of moral decay that we’re hoping will not continue.”
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