Abortion debate reignites at Capitol

A bill that seeks to hinder abortions will have trouble passing Gov. Dayton.
March 10, 2011

The latest state bill in a surge of similar moves by Republican legislators seeks to ban abortions 20 weeks after fertilization.
Republicans regained majorities in the state Senate and House of Representatives in November’s election and have reignited the abortion debate since session opened in January.
Other bills in the House and Senate would limit funding for state-supported health programs used for abortions.
Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, introduced the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act on Monday to protect innocent lives, she said.
“The studies are showing that these babies can feel pain,” she said, though experts aren’t unanimous on the issue.
Minnesota law currently prohibits the abortion of a fetus that could survive outside the womb, which is left to a doctor’s judgment.
Hoffman’s bill would also set up a fund, supported by the Legislature and donations, to defend any lawsuits against the legislation if it is passed.
The bill and its partner in the House are awaiting their first hearings. Both are likely to remain on the back burner until the state’s budget woes are addressed, Hoffman said.
Last month, Gov. Mark Dayton promised a crowd of abortion-rights supporters that he would veto any attempt to remove “a Constitutional right.
“It will not happen here,” he said.
U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade legalized abortion throughout America in 1973.
There is little hope of overriding the governor’s veto in either legislative body, said David Schultz, a public policy professor at Hamline University. Enough Democrats won’t cross party lines to support the bill to make up the necessary two-thirds override vote, Schultz said.
“I pray that there’s bipartisan support, and I also pray that Gov. Dayton changes his views,” Hoffman said. “I hope that he does recognize that it is cruel.”
Jonathan Scrafford, president of Medical Students for Human Life at the University of Minnesota, said he supports the proposed ban because it reflects the growing idea that fetuses feel pain earlier in gestation.
Minnesota law requires physicians who perform an abortion to file a report with the Minnesota Department of Health for each procedure.
The state’s seven abortion clinics and 37 independent physicians performed 12,388 abortions in 2009, according to MDH.
Of those, less than 2 percent were performed 20 weeks or more after fertilization.
“An abortion that takes place after 20 weeks in a pregnancy is often necessary because of a serious medical condition,” Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Kathi Di Nicola said.
Hoffman’s bill provides an exception if the pregnancy poses a life-threatening emergency.
The University Pro-Choice Coalition is still concerned that there is no such exception for victims of rape and incest, group officer Sophia Leenay said.
Among male and female students at the University, 3.5 percent were involved in a pregnancy in 2010, according to Boynton Health Service’s annual survey.
Since 2007, the rate of unintended pregnancies on campus dropped from 51.4 percent of all pregnancies to 28.7 percent in 2010.
Of unintended pregnancies in 2010, 56 percent resulted in abortion — up roughly 10 percentage points from 2007, according to Boynton surveys for each year.
Both Leenay and Scrafford said the percentage of University students who chose to have an abortion was unsurprising.
Women between 20 and 29 years old accounted for 56.9 percent of abortions nationwide in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Pregnancy has one of the greatest impacts — no matter what the outcome is — on academics,” said Dave Golden, Boynton’s director of public health and marketing.
The average GPA of female students from 14 Minnesota colleges and universities dropped from 3.30 to 3.09 when faced with pregnancy, according to Boynton’s Health and Academic Performance survey from 2007.

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