Catholic Spirit: Minnesota Catholic bishops protest as House passes bill to place right to abortion into law

The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a bill 69-65 to place a right to abortion into state law Jan. 19, only hours after a letter from Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Minnesota’s six other Catholic bishops urged them against the move.

The full Senate is expected to debate the measure next week. Lawmakers are acting on the issue as pro-life advocates prepare for the March for Life Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C., and a Jan. 22 March for Life at the State Capitol in St. Paul.

Minnesota’s Supreme Court found a constitutional right to abortion in the state in a 1995 ruling. Backers of codifying that right argued it was added security after the U.S. Supreme Court in June overruled its 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade, that made abortion legal across the country. The federal high court’s latest ruling placed the issue of abortion back into the hands of state and federal lawmakers.

In a letter hand-delivered to all lawmakers, Archbishop Hebda and the state’s other Catholic bishops also urged legislators to vote against a bill moving through the House, HF91, that would remove protections for abortion-minded mothers and their babies.

“We are disappointed to see the quick pace at which these destructive bills are moving, and we hope to give legislators pause,” the bishops said in their letter, released by the Minnesota Catholic Conference. “When contemplating policy on any issue, we must consider all those who will be affected. In this case, that includes the mother, father, and most especially, the unborn child whose life is being taken.”

“We stand firm that every child should be welcomed in life and protected by law,” said Archbishop Hebda and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Williams of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Bishops Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Daniel Felton of Duluth, Chad Zielinski of New Ulm, Donald Kettler of St. Cloud and Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester.

Democrats control the House and the Senate in Minnesota. The 2023 legislative session opened Jan. 3, and HF1 was introduced Jan. 4 as the Protect Reproductive Options Act. Its companion bill in the Senate is SF1.

The bill states that individuals have “a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions” about their reproductive health, “that the Minnesota Constitution ensures the fundamental right to reproductive freedom, and that local units of government cannot restrict an individual’s ability to exercise the fundamental rights in this section.”

Also encouraging people to act, MCC’s website provides a locator feature for reaching Minnesota lawmakers, a bill tracker and action alerts.

The other abortion bill, HF91, would remove protections for babies born alive after an abortion that were established in the state’s Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which requires reasonable medical care for an infant surviving an abortion.

HF91, and its companion bill in the Senate, SF70, also would remove parental notification requirements for minors seeking an abortion and the Woman’s Right to Know informed consent law. And it would remove Minnesota’s abortion reporting law, an annual report on procedure statistics prepared by the Minnesota Department of Health. Those protections also were struck down in a lawsuit that is being challenged.

“We are deeply troubled by Minnesota’s current situation: in spite of the fact that scientific inquiry has definitively determined that human life begins at conception, a woman can procure an abortion for almost any reason at any stage of pregnancy up till birth,” the bishops said in their letter. “To put this in perspective, in 2021 there were 222 abortions involving viable babies older than 20 weeks. Almost half of all abortions are paid for with taxpayer funds. Currently, an 11-year-old girl can get an abortion without even one parent knowing. There is no requirement in place that a licensed physician perform an abortion. And abortion proponents, including some elected officials, are working proactively to shut down pregnancy resource centers, who work diligently to give women a choice other than abortion.


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