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Abortion rights supporters, critics mark Roe v. Wade anniversary
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Leaders of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, which sponsored a rally at the Capitol, call an anti-abortion bill their top priority. (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)
Anti-abortion activists and supporters of abortion rights held separate ceremonies at the Capitol on Wednesday. Both sides were commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal nationwide. Minnesotans who oppose legal abortions say they have their best chance in years to place restrictions on the procedure. Supporters of abortion rights agree they probably don't have the votes to defeat restrictions. They say, however, that they'll consider litigation if new limits pass.

St. Paul, Minn. — As temperatures hovered around zero, about 3.000 abortion opponents rallied on the steps of the Capitol. Some held signs calling for the repeal of abortion laws. Other signs asked Gov. Pawlenty to support a 24-hour waiting period for women who choose to have an abortion. That bill has been a major issue for the anti-abortion group, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. MCCL sponsored the Capitol event.

Executive director Scott Fischbach says he's hopeful a more friendly Legislature and governor will help pass the group's initiatives.

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Image Gov. Pawlenty

"Together thousands and thousands of MCCLers have ensured election victories for pro-life candidates on all levels of government. The election mandate of 2002 should be loud and clear. Minnesotans will not accept abortion on demand," he told the rally.

Fischbach says the MCCL also wants lawmakers to restrict state family planning money from going to any group that refers, promotes or provides abortions.

Gov. Pawlenty attended the event and waved to the crowd. He didn't speak. He said later "that the budget deficit is job one, two, three, and four." But he says he would sign the women's right-to-know bill if it reaches his desk.

The legislation has a good chance of reaching Pawlenty. Anti-abortion forces have a a majority in both the Senate and House.

"The citizens of the state have voted their trust," according to House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon. "We need to follow through with that trust that you have given us. And that trust will be followed through with."

While anti-abortion advocates are confident they have the votes for their proposals to become law, supporters of legalized abortion say they'll consider taking any new laws to the courts.

Tim Stanley, the Minnesota director of the National Abortion Reproductive Rights Action League, says they'll consider suing if the 24-hour waiting period becomes law.

"If it gets signed by the governor, it wouldn't surprise anybody. It has been a landmark request of the MCCL for nearly 20 years and then we will think if we want to litigate that case and take it to court. It's always an option to us. We're not certain whether we would, but it's something that we need to have on deck and think about," according to Stanley.

Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, a supporter of legalized abortion, says the Legislature may have the votes to pass bills that restrict abortions. She believes, however, that the general public doesn't support major changes to abortion laws. She also opposes restrictions on family planning grants.

Anderson says such restrictions could create further problems for the public. "If you try to get rid of agencies that provide family planning services -- and I'm talking about contraceptives, birth control pills -- those basic things that married women rely on to plan their families and to have the number of children that they want to have in advance. If you cut family planning services you're going to have more abortions in Minnesota."

Supporters of abortion rights held their own events around the city marking the Roe v. Wade anniversary. They included a speech by the lawyer who successfully argued the case.

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