The Catholic Spirit: MCC stresses legislation and other initiatives to assist mothers, families in need

As Catholics gather across the country in January for pro-life Masses and marches — including in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19 for the national March for Life and at the Minnesota State Capitol and Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul Jan. 22 for a march and prayer service — The Catholic Spirit asked Maggee Hangge, policy and public relations associate with the Minnesota Catholic Conference, to address the abortion landscape in Minnesota.

Hangge’s emailed responses:

Q) The state’s Catholic bishops and Minnesota Catholic Conference fought hard against decisions by the Legislature and Gov. Tim Walz in January last year to codify a right to abortion in Minnesota for any reason and without limit on viability. What might the faithful do now to help end the right to abortion in this state?

A) Some clarification is in order. Minnesota was already bound by the 1995 state Supreme Court decision Doe v. Gomez — our own version of Roe v. Wade. The decision protected the right to abortion as a matter of state law and mandated that indigent women could receive taxpayer funded abortions.

In 2023, Minnesota Democrats codified that decision when they passed into law the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act so that if Gomez were overturned, abortion would continue. And then they went a few steps further by protecting “reproductive freedom” more generally, which means that Minnesota courts have license to protect almost any choice one makes regarding the use of one’s reproductive organs, including, possibly, removing them. And when this “fundamental” right is in conflict with other rights, such as parental rights or religious liberty, it is not clear which will prevail in court.

Notably, there is also no indication in the PRO Act that this so-called right of reproductive freedom is limited to adults. The PRO Act is extreme and dangerous, and the Catholic bishops’ letter in opposition to this law was read to all House members on the floor during the debate.

We also saw during the 2023 legislative session the removal of nearly all the statutory safeguards surrounding abortion that promote informed consent and protect women and girls from dangerous abortion providers.

Given the current political landscape, which makes the supply of abortion widely available, we must now redouble our efforts to reduce the demand for abortion at both the Capitol and in our parish communities. For example, some women procure abortions for economic reasons. To help lift this financial strain, we can work to pass bills such as a state income tax exemption on necessary baby items like cribs and car seats (HF2125 / SF2182). But it cannot stop there. If we desire to build a culture where every child is welcomed in life and respected by law, we must work to change hearts and minds. The practice of abortion cannot just be illegal, it must be unthinkable. That is a challenge for each of us.

Q) There was concern that Minnesota would become a destination state for abortions. Have you seen evidence that has happened?

A) Minnesota has already become a target destination for abortion tourism, and we will likely see that trend continue. This upward trend of abortion incidence can be seen from comparing the 2022 abortion report released by the Minnesota Department of Health with the 2021 report.

In 2021 and in recent years past, there were about 10,000 abortions per year in Minnesota. And the general trend was a slow decline in the number of abortions. In 2022, after Roe v. Wade was overturned and surrounding states started to limit abortion access, the number of abortions in our state increased by about 20 percent to around 12,000. Two thousand of the 12,000 abortions were performed on out-of-state residents. This is a 50 percent increase over the previous year. About 900 of those individuals came from Wisconsin, 400 from North Dakota, 200 from Iowa, 150 from Texas, along with people from South Dakota, Florida, Nebraska, Michigan, Missouri and more.

Without any safeguards in place surrounding abortion practices, and abortion clinics popping up around our borders, as we have already seen in Moorhead, and even a mobile unit roaming the state, the number of abortions performed here on both residents and out-of-state individuals will likely continue to increase.

Q) The Legislature left few care requirements in place for infants who survive attempted abortions. Can you remind us of where the state stands in this regard now?

A) Although nearly all of the health and safety protections surrounding abortion were repealed and are no longer law, a few laws were altered and left on the books. One of those laws is the formerly named “Born Alive Infant Protection Act.” The new version — “Recognition of an Infant Who is Born Alive” — is stripped of many of the protections previously afforded to infants born from botched abortions.

The law now states that an infant who is born should be recognized as a human person and that infant should receive standard, reasonable medical care. No definitions are tied to the statute, meaning what is considered “reasonable” is left vague. It is also unclear whether a baby who survived a botched abortion is considered born. This lack of clarity could be life threatening.

Q) Lawmakers eliminated the informed consent in writing requirement for an abortion, and the mandatory 24-hour waiting period before a woman can undergo an abortion. Is there legislation in the works to reverse those decisions?

A) Putting safeguards back into place, such as the 24-hour waiting period between requesting an abortion and the procedure, or Women’s Right to Know, would be quite difficult. The 2022 Doe v. Minnesota decision in Ramsey County District Court ruled these and other safeguards to be unconstitutional. Unless that case is explicitly overturned or re-tried, and the composition of the Legislature changes, there is little path forward for these health and safety protections to return.

In the short term, as noted above, we must focus our work on the demand side of abortion by walking with mothers and families in need. At the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the state’s bishops, we are working to enact policies that, among other things, reduce demand for abortion through our Families First Project. Legislation such as the Child Tax Credit, which passed in 2023 and was spearheaded by MCC, provides a tax credit or refund for each dependent child in a household if the household meets the income requirements. Notably, there is no cap on how many children qualify for the credit. Low-income families could see a tax credit of up to $1,750 per child. A family of eight with an $80,000 household income could receive $10,000 per year in tax credits.

Policies like these will help women and parents who find themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy feel more financially secure and supported if they choose life.


Q) Pregnancy resource centers became the target last year of some abortion advocacy groups and lawmakers eliminated $3.3 million in “Positive Alternatives to Abortion” funding. Who might propose that the funding be resumed?

A) The Positive Alternative grant was unfortunately fully repealed during the 2023 legislative session despite impactful testimony from many pregnancy resource center executive directors and clients throughout the state. The grant cycle that was expected to last through 2025 ended early and the pregnancy resource centers and pro-family organizations who budgeted for and depended on that money were short-changed. Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota, for example, lost a major portion of its budget.

This is a call to all Catholics now more than ever to help the pregnancy centers in our local communities, and especially those who were grant recipients, so that they can continue to serve clients at no charge and maintain their offerings. Should the political makeup of our Legislature change in future years, perhaps this grant program could be re-instated. But that remains to be seen.

Q) There also were efforts to complicate and make it less attractive for pro-life groups to apply for the state pregnancy resource center funding. Can you remind us of those efforts and what might be expected this year?

A) There was a bill introduced in 2023 that would have forced Positive Alternative grant recipients to refer for abortions, which goes against the core mission of many pregnancy resource centers. Since the grant was repealed during the final days of session, this bill did not move forward.

However, we are seeing bills in other states that threaten free speech at pregnancy resource centers. Such bills could effectively force pregnancy resource centers to refer for abortions as well. We will be on the lookout for this and other similar bills during the 2024 legislative session.

Q) Are there other abortion measures people should be concerned about in the session set to start Feb. 12?

A) There is much chatter around the Capitol and in the media about constitutional amendments. An attempt was made during the final days of the 2023 legislative session to combine an abortion ballot measure with the Equal Rights Amendment, which would both guarantee a right to abortion in our state Constitution and create new forms of nondiscrimination law when it comes to gender issues. The stand-alone Equal Rights Amendment, which, on its own, could also further entrench abortion rights, already passed the Minnesota Senate. If passed by the House, the questions would be on the ballot of every Minnesota voter. Whether we see these two amendments separately or combined, we are watching closely for both to come up for a vote one way or the other in 2024 and 2026.

Read the full story at The Catholic Spirit.

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