The Minnesota Senate voted early Saturday to strengthen the right to an abortion in state law following about 15 hours of debate between Democrats who favored the measure and Republicans who oppose it.
Gov. Tim Walz supports the bill — known as the Protect Reproductive Options Act, or PRO Act for short — and is expected to sign it in the coming days. It represents a key priority of the DFL, newly in full control of state government, which moved quickly upon assuming power this month to firm up abortion rights in Minnesota.
The 34-33 vote, which came around 3 a.m., was party-line, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed. Republicans unsuccessfully offered multiple amendments aimed at carving out exceptions to full legality, including a bid to prohibit third-trimester abortions. The House previously passed the legislation 69-65, with all but one DFL member in favor and all Republicans opposed.
Abortion remained legal in the state following last summer's vote by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Roe v. Wade, but abortion rights supporters said it was important to strengthen those protections against possible future court challenges.
"This is a crucial first step in establishing rock-solid protections for everyone in Minnesota to make their own decisions about their reproductive destiny," Abena Abraham, campaign director for the advocacy group UnRestrict Minnesota, said in a statement after the Senate vote.
The law states that "every individual has a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about the individual's own reproductive health" including abortion and contraception. Legislative Democrats plan to make further changes in state abortion law this session, moving to restrict state grants for crisis pregnancy centers, which are nonprofits created by abortion opponents meant to dissuade women from ending pregnancies.
Another proposal aims to protect people and providers from legal threat if they travel to Minnesota for an abortion.