House addresses informed consent, abortion laws

by Erin Ghere

Abortion was of high concern in the state House of Representatives on Thursday, as legislators debated three bills in the Health and Human Services Finance Committee.
The bills — which dealt with partial-birth abortions, informed consent and parental notification data collection — made it through several other committees before reaching the finance committee.
Although the merit of the bills was still being debated by the finance committee, the legislators ended the meeting with a vote deciding that the bills should possibly be added to the Health and Human Services omnibus bill.
The partial-birth abortion bill would make the controversial procedure illegal in Minnesota.
“It bans a procedure, not all abortions,” said Rep. Richard Mulder, R-Ivanhoe, the chief author of the bill.
Mulder went on to say he thinks the procedure is never medically necessary. Usually, he said, it occurs when a healthy mother who has three or fewer months until the expected birth date of her child makes the decision to have an abortion. The fetus is then partially delivered, and killed. Mulder called the procedure “barbaric.”
Supporters of the partial-birth abortion ban have debated it through three other committees, and did so again on Thursday morning.
“The abortion industry wants unrestricted, unfettered abortion through all nine months of pregnancy,” said Jackie Schwietz, the executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.
“This is not what Minnesotans want,” Schwietz said. “Somewhere a line has got to be drawn.”
A representative of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union disagreed, arguing that the bill is unconstitutional in four ways.
First, women choosing an abortion are put under undue burden by the bill. Second, the procedure might be necessary to protect women’s health. Third, the bill is vague and broad. And fourth, the bill requires unconstitutional spousal or parental consent.
“Even if this ban only prohibited the performance of a single, rarely-used abortion it would still be constitutionally infirm,” said Teresa Nelson, legal counsel for the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that a woman’s health may never be compromised in order to promote the safety and interest in fetal welfare.”
Two related bills were also debated in the committee. The first would require the woman’s informed consent before performance of an abortion.
The second bill was to require health professionals to report when they notify parents of a minor’s abortion. The bill would check the compliance rate of health professionals to the Minnesota Parental Notification law, which was passed by in 1981.
The Health and Human Services omnibus bill will be debated next Thursday and Friday and, if passed, will go to the House floor for approval.