Abortion measure added to circus bill

Protesters from both sides of the abortion debate, including some dressed as clowns, stood outside the House chamber.

Emily Johns

Protesters dressed as clowns gathered at the State Capitol on Monday to protest the addition of the “Women’s Right to Know” amendment to a bill legalizing circuses around Minnesota State Fair time.

The original bill, House file 94, repeals an obsolete law making it illegal to hold circuses within 18 days of the State Fair.

The amendment would require women seeking abortions to wait 24 hours before receiving them. It would also require doctors to tell women about the procedure in words chosen by the state.

The House adjourned Monday evening without a vote.

“We want to bring attention to the fact that they’re playing circus games with abortion rights,” said Tamera Tesky, executive director of the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus Education Council.

Tesky protested outside the main entrance to House chambers before the House convened at 3 p.m. Monday.

Signs warning legislators to not play “circus games” with women’s rights greeted legislators walking into the chamber.

Protesters from the other side of the aisle were also present, with signs reading, “Abortion Hurts Women: Pass A Women’s Right to Know.”

They declined to comment on their feelings about the issue.

“I think anybody considering abortion has thought about its consequences,” said Tishalla Bell of the Welfare Rights Committee.

“Abortion is something I couldn’t do, but it’s not my choice,” she said.

Kathleen Murphy, policy director of Midwest Health Center for Women, said the circus bill amendment was designed specifically to eventually overturn legalized abortions by bogging down doctors’ offices.

Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, who originally introduced the amendment, said the circus bill was being used as a quick way to pass controversial legislation.

“If we want to call this what it is, it is a vehicle. I will be the first to admit that,” Seifert said.

On the House floor, legislators debated the tactics used Wednesday to get the “Women’s Right to Know” bill into the circus bill.

The amendment was voted on before all the legislators had a copy of the bill in front of them.

“As one of the longest-serving members of this house, one of the most valuable things we have is trust in the process,” said DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn, who represents the University’s Minneapolis campus.

“The process that went on last week did not allow that faith to be maintained,” she said.

Republicans in the chamber offered no response to Kahn’s criticism.

Protesters said despite their efforts, they expected the bill to pass in the House.

“We’re just getting the public to pay attention that they’re pulling shenanigans,” Murphy said.

Abortion opponents are a majority in both houses of the Legislature.