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Ending state funding for abortions gets House OK

By Chris Steller

State-sponsored health programs administered by the Department of Human Services would not be able to pay for abortions, except as needed to continue participation in a federal program.

The House passed HF809 Monday 77-54. Sponsored by Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), the bill now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) is the sponsor.

Federal law known as the Hyde Amendment bans federal funds from paying for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or preserving the life of the mother. A 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision struck down a 1978 law similar to HF809 as unconstitutional.

Rep. Mary Franson presents HF809, a bill that would limit abortion funding from state-sponsored health programs, to members on the House Floor April 24. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Franson said her bill would apply the same restriction to the Medical Assistance program. “My constituents and I do not believe we should pay for elective abortion,” she said.

Rep. Abigail Whelan (R-Ramsey) said using taxpayer dollars for abortions “is a violation of the religious freedom of Minnesotans who are being forced to fund a practice that goes against their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan) said the entire range of health care should be available to women in Minnesota regardless of whether they are wealthy or poor.

“We’re developing a habit of not listening to low-income women and not listening to women of color within the Legislature,” said Rep. Peggy Flanagan (DFL-St. Louis Park).

Franson said some organizations offer financial assistance to help women pay for abortions.

HF809 includes a severability clause, which would state the Legislature’s intent as being that if a court were to find part of the bill unconstitutional, the rest would remain in effect.  

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