Abortion in Minnesota

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Abortion in Minnesota is legal. Access to abortion correlates to a number of other women's health rights issues, including maternal death, insured pregnant women, infant and child deaths, teen drug and alcohol abuse, and cancer screening. 52% of Minnesotan adults said in a poll by the Pew Research Center that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Abortion bans were instituted by 1900 with the rational of trying to prevent deaths because of unsafe abortion practices.  Abortion was a criminal offense for women by 1950.  By 2007, the state had informed consent laws on the book, providing information that contradicted Journal of the American Medical Association conclusions.  The state legislature tried and failed to pass abortion restrictions in 2012, 2018 and 2019.

The number of abortion clinics have been declining in recent years, going from twenty in 1982 to fourteen in 1992 to six in 2014.   There were 10,123 legal abortions in 2014, and 1,861 in 2015. Abortion was criminally prosecuted between 1911 and 1930, resulting in 30 convictions against women in that period.  Doctors were being convicted of performing illegal abortions in the early 1970s.  The state has an abortion rights community, involved in activities such as facilitating travel for women seeking abortions and protesting in support of abortion rights.  There is also an active anti-abortion rights community, which includes organizations like Minnesota Family Council and Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. The state has also seen anti-abortion related violence.[citation needed]


The abortion debate most commonly relates to the "induced abortion" of an embryo or fetus at some point in a pregnancy, which is also how the term is used in a legal sense.[note 1] Some also use the term "elective abortion", which is used in relation to a claim to an unrestricted right of a woman to an abortion, whether or not she chooses to have one. The term elective abortion or voluntary abortion describes the interruption of pregnancy before viability at the request of the woman, but not for medical reasons.[1]

Anti-abortion advocates tend to use terms such as "unborn baby", "unborn child", or "pre-born child",[2][3] and see the medical terms "embryo", "zygote", and "fetus" as dehumanizing.[4][5] Both "pro-choice" and "pro-life" are examples of terms labeled as political framing: they are terms which purposely try to define their philosophies in the best possible light, while by definition attempting to describe their opposition in the worst possible light. "Pro-choice" implies that the alternative viewpoint is "anti-choice", while "pro-life" implies the alternative viewpoint is "pro-death" or "anti-life".[6] The Associated Press encourages journalists to use the terms "abortion rights" and "anti-abortion".[7]


Free birth control correlates to teenage girls having a fewer pregnancies and fewer abortions. A 20014 New England Journal of Medicine study found such a link.  At the same time, a 2011 study by Center for Reproductive Rights and Ibis Reproductive Health also found that states with more abortion restrictions have higher rates of maternal death, higher rates of uninsured pregnant women, higher rates of infant and child deaths, higher rates of teen drug and alcohol abuse, and lower rates of cancer screening.[8]

According to a 2017 report from the Center for Reproductive Rights and Ibis Reproductive Health, states that tried to pass additional constraints on a women's ability to access legal abortions had fewer policies supporting women's health, maternal health and children's health.  These states also tended to resist expanding Medicaid, family leave, medical leave, and sex education in public schools.[9] According to Megan Donovan, a senior policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, states have legislation seeking to protect a woman's right to access abortion services have the lowest rates of infant mortality in the United States.[9]

Poor women in the United States had problems paying for menstrual pads and tampons in 2018 and 2019. Almost two-third of American women could not pay for them. These were not available through the federal Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC).[10] Lack of menstrual supplies has an economic impact on poor women.  A study in St. Louis found that 36% had to miss days of work because they lacked adequate menstrual hygiene supplies during their period.  This was on top of the fact that many had other menstrual issues including bleeding, cramps and other menstrual induced health issues.[10] Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, and Pennsylvania all had exemptions for essential hygiene products like tampons and menstrual pads as of November 2018.[11][12][13][14]

Minnesota was one of only two states in the nation in 2019 (along with Alabama) that did not have a law that terminated parental rights of men who produced a child via rape or incest.[15][16]


Legislative history[edit]

In the 19th century, bans by state legislatures on abortion were about protecting the life of the mother given the number of deaths caused by abortions; state governments saw themselves as looking out for the lives of their citizens.[17] By 1950, the state legislature would pass a law that stating that a woman who had an abortion or actively sought to have an abortion regardless of whether she went through with it were guilty of a criminal offense.[17] Parental consent laws passed by Massachusetts and Minnesota in the 1980s created over 12,000 petitions to bypass consent.  Of these, 21 were denied and half of these denials were overturned on appeal.[18][19]

The state was one of 23 states in 2007 to have a detailed abortion-specific informed consent requirement.[20] Arkansas, Minnesota and Oklahoma all require that women seeking abortions after 20-weeks be verbally informed that the fetus may feel pain during the abortion procedure despite a Journal of the American Medical Association conclusion that pain sensors do not develop in the fetus until between weeks 23 and 30.[21] Alaska and Minnesota both require that women seeking abortions after 20-weeks be informed that, while experts disagree on the issue of whether or not a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, it is possible. This expert confusion written into the law is there despite a Journal of the American Medical Association conclusion that pain sensors do not develop in the fetus until between weeks 23 and 30.[21] The state legislature was one of four states nationwide that tried, and failed, to pass a fetal heartbeat bill in 2012.[22]

In 2018, the state was one of eleven where the legislature introduced a bill that would have banned abortion in almost all cases.  It did not pass.[22] The state legislature was one of ten states nationwide that tried to unsuccessfully pass a fetal heartbeat bill in 2018.  Only Iowa successfully passed such a bill, but it was struck down by the courts.[22] As of May 14, 2019, the state prohibited abortions after the fetus was viable, generally some point between week 24 and 28. This period uses a standard defined by the US Supreme Court in 1973 with the Roe v. Wade ruling.[22] On January 22, 2019, Tim Miller filed HF 271 in the Minnesota House of Representatives.[23]

Judicial history[edit]

In a 1894 case on abortion, the Minnesota Supreme Court said, "As a first impression, it may seem to be an unsound rule that one who solicits the commission of an offense, and willingly submits to its being committed upon her own person, should not be deemed an accomplice, while those whom she has thus solicited should be deemed principal criminals in the transaction.  But in cases of this kind the public welfare demands the application of this rule, and its exceptions from the general rule seems to be justified by the wisdom of experience.  The wife, then, in this case, was not, within the rules of the law, an accomplice.  She was the victim of the cruel act which resulted in her death.  Misguided by her own desires, and mistaken in her belief, she, by the advice of the defendant, submitted to his treatment, willing, it may be; but the desire of one, and the criminal act of the other, resulted in the death of one, and the imprisonment of the other."[17]

The US Supreme Court's decision in 1973's Roe v. Wade ruling meant the state could no longer regulate abortion in the first trimester.[17]

The 1990 US Supreme Court case Hodgson v. Minnesota said that parental consent can cause danger for minors seeking abortions if physical, emotional or sexual abuse is already present.[18][24] The case concerned a Minnesota law. The law required notice to both parents of a minor before she could undergo an abortion; it also contained a judicial bypass provision designed to take effect only if a court found one to be necessary.[25] Dr. Jane Hodgson, a Minneapolis gynecologist, challenged the law. The Eighth Circuit had ruled that the law would be unconstitutional without a judicial bypass, but that the bypass provision saved it.[25] While Justice Stevens delivered a majority opinion for one of the holdings, there were five votes for each of two holdings, with Justice O'Connor proving as the decisive vote for each.[25] Justices Stevens, Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun and O'Connor formed a majority holding that the two-parent notice requirement by itself was unconstitutional.[25] Justice O'Connor believed that the two-parent requirement entailed risk to a pregnant teenager; she also argued that the rule failed to meet even the lowest standard of judicial review, a rationality standard.[25] She joined the Court's more conservative Justices (Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices White, Scalia and Kennedy), to form a majority for the law being valid with the judicial bypass; Justice Kennedy had pointed out the usefulness of the bypass procedure, as judges granted all but a handful of requests to authorize abortions without parental notice.[25]

Clinic history[edit]

Number of abortion clinics in Minnesota by year.

Between 1982 and 1992, the number of abortion clinics in the state decreased by six, going from twenty in 1982 to fourteen in 1992.[26] In 2014, there were six abortion clinics in the state.[27] In 2014, 95% of the counties in the state did not have an abortion clinic. That year, 59% of women in the state aged 15 – 44 lived in a county without an abortion clinic.[28] In March 2016, there were eighteen Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.[29] In 2017, there were eighteen Planned Parenthood clinics in a state with a population of 1,227,431 women aged 15 – 49 of which one offered abortion services.[30]


In the period between 1972 and 1974, there were zero recorded illegal abortion death in the state.[31] In 1990, 529,000 women in the state faced the risk of an unintended pregnancy.[26] In 2013, among white women aged 15–19, there were  abortions 510, 260 abortions for black women aged 15–19, 80 abortions for Hispanic women aged 15–19, and 140 abortions for women of all other races.[32] In 2014, 52% of adults said in a poll by the Pew Research Center that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.[33] In 2017, the state had an infant mortality rate of 4.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.[9]

Number of reported abortions, abortion rate and percentage change in rate by geographic region and state in 1992, 1995 and 1996[34]
Census division and state Number Rate % change 1992 - 1996
1992 1995 1996 1992 1995 1996
West North Central 57,340 48,530 48,660 14.3 11.9 11.9 –16
Iowa 6,970 6,040 5,780 11.4 9.8 9.4 –17
Kansas 12,570 10,310 10,630 22.4 18.3 18.9 –16
Minnesota 16,180 14,910 14,660 15.6 14.2 13.9 –11
Missouri 13,510 10,540 10,810 11.6 8.9 9.1 –21
Nebraska 5,580 4,360 4,460 15.7 12.1 12.3 –22
North Dakota 1,490 1,330 1,290 10.7 9.6 9.4 –13
South Dakota 1,040 1,040 1,030 6.8 6.6 6.5 –4
Number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions, by reporting area of residence and occurrence and by percentage of abortions obtained by out-of-state residents
Location Residence Occurrence % obtained by

out-of-state residents

Year Ref
No. Rate Ratio No. Rate Ratio
Minnesota 15.6 1992 [34]
Minnesota 14,910 14.2 1995 [34]
Minnesota 14,660 13.9 1996 [34]
Minnesota 9,533 9.1 136 10,123 9.6 145 9.3 2014 [35]
Minnesota 9,234 8.8 132 9,861 9.4 141 9.8 2015 [36]

Criminal prosecutions of abortion[edit]

Between 1911 and 1930, there were 100 indictments and 30 convictions for women having abortions.[17] Dr. Jane Hodgson was convicted in 1970 of performing an illegal abortion on a 23-year-old woman in Minnesota. Hodgson was an abortion rights activist.[37]

Abortion financing[edit]

State Medicaid coverage of medically necessary abortion services.Navy blue: Medicaid covers medically necessary abortion for low-income women through legislationRoyal blue: Medicaid covers medically necessary abortions for low-income women under court order Gray: Medicaid denies abortion coverage for low-income women except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Seventeen states including this one use their own funds to cover all or most "medically necessary" abortions sought by low-income women under Medicaid, thirteen of which are required by State court orders to do so.[38] In 2010, the state had 3,941 publicly funded abortions, of which were sixteen federally funded and 3,925 were state funded.[39]

Abortion rights views and activities[edit]


Around 1981, when the doctors who ran abortion clinics in Grand Forks, North Dakota and Jamestown, North Dakota were getting close to an age where they wanted to retire, they reached out to Jane Bovard and asked her to open a clinic in Fargo.  Bovard had a history of supporting abortion rights in the state by assisting women in traveling to Minneapolis or cities in other states to get abortions.[40]

St. Paul, Minnesota, January 21, 2017. Over 30,000 people gathered in St. Paul and marched to the Minnesota capitol to protest Republican President Donald Trump. This protest was in solidarity with the national Women's March on Washington DC. The protesters spoke out against Trump's proposed policies and decried the rhetoric of the 2016 election for being insulting and threatening to women.


Women from the state participated in marches supporting abortion rights as part of a #StoptheBans movement in May 2019.[41] Protesters were at the State Capitol building, where they chanted, “Our bodies, our choice!”[42]

Anti-abortion views and activities[edit]


Minnesota Family Council (MFC), a Christian organization founded to work against the teaching in schools of tolerance for homosexuals and is also opposed to abortion, stating that: "human life is sacred from conception to natural death and must be protected by government".[43]


The Marriage Vow or "The Marriage Vow - A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family" is a political pledge created by Bob Vander Plaats, a former candidate for Iowa governor, and the Iowa-based conservative group; The Family Leader, a public advocacy organization affiliated with the Iowa Family Policy Center, that he heads.[44] The 2 most notable signatures came from Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann. Rick Santorum was the first presidential candidate to contact The Family Leader after the organization publicly announced the pledge. Michele Bachmann also contacted The Family Leader to sign the pledge, and became the first Candidate to send her signed document to the organization.[45] Although Newt Gingrich did not sign the pledge, he wrote a lengthy letter in which he upheld many of the principles of the pledge including personal fidelity to his wife, respecting the marital bonds of others, enforcing the defense of marriage act, to support a federal marriage amendment, and to oppose any definition of marriage outside of "one man and one woman." [46] The pledge was also signed by former Texas governor Rick Perry.[47]


In 1977, there were four arson attacks on abortion clinics.  These took place in Minnesota, Vermont, Nebraska and Ohio.  Combined, they caused over US$1.1 million in damage.[48] By 2000, an act of violence had taken place at an abortion clinic in Wing County, Minnesota.[48] On January 22, 2009, Matthew L. Derosia, 32, who was reported to have had a history of mental illness,[49] rammed an SUV into the front entrance of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Saint Paul, Minnesota,[49] causing between $2,500 and $5,000 in damage.[50] Derosia, who told police that Jesus told him to "stop the murderers," was ruled competent to stand trial. He pleaded guilty in March 2009 to one count of criminal damage to property.[50]


  1. ^ According to the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade:

    (a) For the stage prior to approximately the end of the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgement of the pregnant woman's attending physician. (b) For the stage subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester, the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health. (c) For the stage subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgement, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.

    Likewise, Black's Law Dictionary defines abortion as "knowing destruction" or "intentional expulsion or removal".


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