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Session 2001: Abortion
By Tom Scheck
December 27, 2000
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Anti-abortion legislation is sure to come up in the Legislature in 2001 Both chambers in the Minnesota Legislature are controlled by legislators opposed to legalized abortion. The only question is where the legislation will appear.

Gov. Jesse Ventura - If he comes out early and says he won't sign any legislation that limits a woman's "right to choose," it may deter lawmakers from even attempting to forward any anti-abortion legislation since they don't have a veto proof majority on the issue.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum - He wants to satisfy the conservative members of the Republican Party who want legislation passed. He favors pushing the "Women's Right to Know" bill again.

Sen. Majority Leader Roger Moe - If he wants to keep anti-abortion legislation from coming up from a vote, he can round up the committee chairmen and women and instruct them to squash any anti-abortion legislation in committee.

Jackie Schweitz - The executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. The group is the most vocal opponent of abortion in the state and pushed for the "Women's Right to Know" bill, last year.

Tim Stanley - The executive director for the Minnesota chapter of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. He says abortion rights groups need to do a better job of mobilizing forces in support of legalized abortion during election years.
-Tom Scheck
THE MINNESOTA CHAPTER of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League says it always relied on the state Senate to block legislation that targets a woman's access to legal abortion. But now, Minnesota NARAL's Executive Director Tim Stanley says the political landscape has changed. For the first time in more than a decade, opponents of legal abortion have a majority in the state Senate.

"We're probably going to be in a defensive posture this year," says Stanley. "Right now we've got a situation where the momentum is in the going the anti-choice way. You've got elections that are going to anti-choice members. We are now in a down position in the Minnesota Senate, which we used to count on to defeat bills."

Stanley says the retirement of DFL Senate President Allan Spear is particularly distressing because he used his parliamentary power to defeat any abortion-related amendments before they came to a vote. Last year, only one abortion-related piece of legislation made it to the governor's desk: the so-called "Women's Right to Know Bill," a 24-hour waiting period for anyone who wants an abortion, was vetoed by Gov. Ventura. "The pro-choice position of the governor has never been bigger than it is today." says Stanley.

Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum says Ventura's stance probably won't stop legislators from introducing anti-abortion legislation.

"We can sit here right now and pretty well guess that some abortion legislation will and ought to come up," Sviggum acknowledges.

Sviggum says the "Waiting Period Bill" will likely be reintroduced this year.

"This is a piece of legislation that brings people together because it does talk about information, it does talk about facts and options available. It seems to me that everybody would want that given to individuals and be made aware of them."

Other opponents of legalized abortion in the Legislature have more ambitious goals. House DFLer Steve Wenzel will push for a ban on so-called partial-birth abortions, even though the U.S. Supreme Court decided a similar Nebraska law was unconstitutional last June.

"We've got to take a reading of what that court decision says and try to pass a bill that will either conform with the court decision or to make the way for changes in the event there are changes on the Supreme Court of the United States," says Wenzel.

A spokeswoman for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, says her organization is still developing a legislative strategy and wouldn't comment on their proposals.

Tom Scheck is Minnesota Public Radio's health reporter. Reach him via e-mail at