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Abortion Bill Heads to Ventura
by Michael Khoo
April 10, 2000
Part of MPR's Session 2000 coverage
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The Minnesota Senate voted 37-30 in favor of so-called "Women's Right to Know" legislation. The bill establishes a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion. The measure has already passed the House and now heads to Governor Jesse Ventura'sdesk.


Iowa's bill has gone the farthest. It awaits only the signature of Gov. Tom Vilsack, a pro-choice Catholic Democrat who has said he is leaning toward vetoing the law.

The Alabama House approved a 24-hour waiting period on Thursday and sent the bill to the State Senate, where similar measures have died previously.

An Alaska bill passed the House Health, Education and Social Services Committee and has been referred to the House Judiciary committee. It has not been debated on the House floor.

Delaware has a waiting period bill stalled in a House committee.

Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, who backed a right-to-know bill in his state, was defeated when a Senate committee quashed the bill last month. A Virginia Senate panel killed a similar bill last year as well.

Colorado's House also killed its "Women's Right to Know Act" in committee.

GOVERNOR VENTURA has repeatedly said he opposes limits on abortion access. As recently as last week, he used his weekly radio show to object to abortion waiting periods in general, which is why many pro-choice lawmakers are confused about Ventura's silence on the specific legislation at hand. The bill requires a 24-hour wait before obtaining an abortion. During that time, the clinic must provide the patient with information on the risks of - and alternatives to - abortion. DFL Senator Deanna Weiner of Eagan stood outside the governor's office to urge a veto.

"Minnesotans who elected you as a pro-choice governor are counting on you to stay pro-choice," Weiner said. "This insulting bill implies that women don't take their choices seriously. That they are too stupid to think for themselves or get the information that they feel that they need."

Weiner says the legislation is a thinly-disguised attempt to shut down abortion providers with endless lawsuits. But supporters of the bill say it's a moderate provision designed to protect women facing an emotionally difficult decision.

"Any other type of medical procedure, people get information," countered Marice Rosenberg, who represents Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. "We have laws on the books for informed consent. And we just want to make sure that women are afforded the opportunity to have all the facts before they decide whether or not to undergo an abortion. It's pretty straightforward. It's a pro-woman bill."

Rosenberg says MCCL has not had direct talks with the governor's office regarding the abortion language, but House Republicans have. GOP leaders say the Ventura administration has already signed off on the "Right to Know" bill. And they say they fully expect the governor's signature.

Ventura spokesman John Wodele is warning both sides against making predictions. "There's a lot of interpretations going on out there," he said."And we'll let the insiders try to figure out just exactly what's going on here. And we'll take the bill and we'll look at it in a very serious way. This is an important public policy issue that the governor will be considering here. And he will to the best of his ability make a judgement and we will move forward."

Wodele refused to say when Ventura may make up his mind, leaving both sides of the question guessing.
"This is tragic. It is a step backward for women in this state."

- Roger Moe
Senate Majority Leader

The abortion controversy comes just as lawmakers are searching for agreement on the key tax and spending policies for the session. Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, who opposes the waiting period, says he hopes the budget discussions can remain separate from the abortion debate.

"I'm not going to link this with anything," Moe declared. "This is tragic, it's unfortunate. It is a step backward for, I think, for this state and certainly a step backward for women in this state. But I will certainly advise the governor to veto the legislation. But obviously I've got to move on and start to talk about the budget. And that's the next step that we'll work on."

Ventura is certain to step on somebody's toes regardless of his decision. Signing the bill would alienate the abortion rights supporters who have so far considered the governor an important ally. And lawmakers who favor abortion restrictions say they have firm committments of support from the governor's staff. They say a veto will be considered a promise broken.