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Minnesota GOP leadership offers bill banning state funding for abortion

Members of the Republican leadership in the Minnesota Senate have introduced legislation to ban state funding for abortions, just weeks after saying that creating jobs and fixing the budget deficit would be the party’s top priorities. The bill was offered on the eve of Minnesota Citizens Concerned For Life’s (MCCL) March for Life at the State Capitol grounds.

The bill, SF103, states, “Funding for state-sponsored health programs shall not be used for funding abortions, except to the extent necessary for continued participation in a federal program.”

The legislation is a reaction to a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court case, Doe v. Gomez, which said that if the state offers pregnancy services to low-income women it cannot discriminate between which procedures it offers, and the bill anticipates a constitutional challenge.

“If any one or more provision, section, subdivision, sentence, clause, phrase, or word of this section or the application of it to any person or circumstance is found to be unconstitutional,” the bill reads, “it is declared to be severable and the balance of this section shall remain effective notwithstanding such unconstitutionality.”

MCCL, the state’s largest anti-abortion group has been sharply critical of the 1995 ruling. “The Doe v. Gomez ruling by a handful of extremist judges has been disastrous for Minnesota women and their babies,” Scott Fischbach, MCCL’s executive director, said in a statement.

Fischbach’s wife, Sen. Michele Fischbach of Paynesville, is President of the Senate and cosponsor of the bill. Another GOP leader, Majority Leader Amy Koch, has signed on to cosponsor the bill, a move that contrasts her previous statements about making jobs a priority.

“There’s a lot of important issues and we will get to them. But the priority now is the budget, jobs, and the economy,” Koch told MPR just before the legislative session started.

Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie, who serves as Assistant Majority Leader and chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, is also a cosponsor of the bill. It has been referred to his committee.

The other sponsors of the bill are freshman Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, and Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, who is also chair of the Finance Committee.

Reproductive rights groups assailed the introduction of the bill.

“Minnesotans know that we have different views on issues like abortion, and even though we may not agree on all points, our state Constitution has made sure all women have had the right to choose for more than 15 years,” said Linnea House, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota. “The anti-choice lawmakers want to focus on this issue at the expense of our state’s other priorities. They are overstepping in trying to force an anti-choice agenda that weakens our state’s Constitution. The budget crisis is critical, which makes it even more unbelievable that some lawmakers are attacking choice.”

She added, “Making the option of abortion accessible to all women did not create a budget crisis. In fact, this is a distraction from the state’s priorities.”

The bill’s Friday introduction was timed to precede Saturday’s March for Life, an MCCL event that brings about a 1,000 people to the Capitol to rally against abortion each year.

Saturday’s event drew the support of Minnesota’s Republican members of Congress as well as DFL Rep. Collin Peterson.

Rep. John Kline told the crowd that health reform legislation contained taxpayer funding for abortion. “You know that that awful legislation has language allowing taxpayer funding of abortion,” he said.

Despite Kline’s claim, independent fact-checkers, including FactCheck.org and Politifact, have frequently ruled “false” the that statement health care reform would pay for abortions.

Rep. Erik Paulsen said, “There is nothing more important than life,” while Rep. Michele Bachmann told the crowd, “We

can zero out that checking account with the stroke of a pen!” Rep. Chip Cravaack said, “This is just the start of a year dedicated to promoting and protecting a culture of life.”

Rep. Collin Peterson sent a written greeting to the rally. “I look forward to working with you over the next year as we continue to protect life for all human beings,” he said.

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