House hears amendment to restrict state abortion funding

by Jessica Thompson

Abortion opponents packed a hearing room at the State Capitol on Monday, asking legislators to cease state funding of abortions.

“There’s absolutely no reason whatsoever why taxpayers who in general are struggling should be funding this multi-billion-dollar abortion industry,” said Bob Hindel, president of Neighbors for Life, a citizen action group devoted to ending tax funding of abortions.

Abortion-opposed activists have the support of some state legislators, who are proposing a constitutional amendment to restrict the use of state funds for abortion services.

The amendment would overturn the Minnesota Supreme Court’s 1995 decision in Doe vs. Gomez, which held that it is unconstitutional for the state to refuse to subsidize abortions if it pays for childbirth expenses.

Doe vs. Gomez struck down a 1978 law prohibiting the use of public funds for abortions except in cases of rape or incest, and in pregnancies that endangered the mother’s life.

The 1995 decision opened state-funded abortions to women suffering from a broad range of health problems, including stress, malnutrition, hypertension and diabetes.
Amendment opponents argued it would encourage an attack on constitutional rights.

“We’re setting down the stage to strike the right to abortion,” said Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Connie Perpich. “I see this amendment opening a can of worms Ö and reaching to all reproductive health care.”

But abortion opponents at the joint House Health and Human Services Policy and Civil Law committees said the Doe vs. Gomez decision opened the door for abuse of state funds.

“The court has introduced a social policy under the guise of health care,” said Jennifer Johnston of Neighbors for Life. “The people should not have to pay for something so ambiguously defined.”

“It’s inconceivable to me that Ö we would provide payment for something territorial Minnesotans considered illegal,” said Rep. Eric Lipman, R-Lake Elmo.

Rep. Betty Folliard, DFL-Hopkins, said she was concerned, citing reports that rape and incest victims often do not report the crime. Under the amendments, these women would not be eligible for state funds.

“As a woman who has been raped, I know there are women Ö who would never come forward,” Folliard said.

Marlene Reid, president of the Human Life Alliance, addressed the moral implications of the legislation, seeing legislators should “protect the unborn children.”

The constitutional amendment, authored by Rep. Eric Lipman, would specify that the Constitution does not require state funds for abortion services. It would also prohibit public funds from being used for abortions unless the Legislature authorizes their use.

Lipman said he hopes to introduce his amendment around the start of the legislative session, which begins Jan. 29.

Jessica Thompson welcomes comments at [email protected]