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Abortion measure passes House easily
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Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, says the bill is a practical way to ensure that abortion providers are telling women about the possible side effects of abortion. (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)
The Minnesota House has passed a bill that would require abortion providers to give women seeking an abortion 24 hours before the procedure is done. Supporters say the measure will ensure that women have all of the available information before they have an abortion. Opponents say the bill is filled with bad information and is an attempt to restrict the procedure in the state.

St. Paul, Minn. — Both the House and Senate passed 24-hour-waiting period bills twice during Gov. Ventura's four-year term. Only Ventura's veto stopped the bill from becoming law. This year supporters are proceeding with more optimism, since Gov. Pawlenty says he'd sign the bill. The Minnesota House passed the bill on a 91-41 vote. Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, says the bill is a practical way to ensure that abortion providers are telling women about the possible side effects of abortion. She says if the state Health Department can have a brochure talking about the dangers of liposuction, it can provide information about the risks involving abortion.

"It sets a baseline of information that should be available to women should they want to explore the information. We live in a wonderful time with great technology and there is a wealth of information available about fetal development," Holberg says.

Supporters of legalized abortion say the Legislature shouldn't be considering the bill -- for a number of reasons. Some say the bill's price tag of $488,000 is inappropriate when they're making cutbacks to other state services.

Others argue that the bill is filled with "junk science." For example, the bill requires providers to tell women about abortion's possible link to breast cancer, a claim refuted by the American Cancer Society and the Minneota Breast Cancer Coalition.

Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, says the bill's supporters aren't requiring abortion providers to tell the whole truth.

"What is going on on this floor is not information, it is censorship. Because it is only certain information that we will give women. Not all information -- just certain information," Wagenius says.

Supporters of legalized abortion say they're concerned that this is the first of many anti-abortion measures that will make it to the House floor.

Maurice Rosenberg with the anti-abortion group, Minnesota Citizen's Concerned for Life, disputes those comments. She says her organization has been pushing the 24-hour waiting period for years. Rosenberg says voters signaled their support in the last election.

"The difference that you're seeing now is that people are now beginning to understand what the issue is all about. The tide has changed. People feel differently about the abortion issue and the related issues connected to it," says Rosenberg. The MCCL's other major policy initiative also received a hearing Monday night. The House Health and Human Services Policy committee approved a bill on a 12-5 vote that would restrict state family planning money from going to any organization that provides abortions or refers women to abortion providers.

Supporters say the bill will ensure that state funding does not pay for abortions. Opponents of the legislation say family planning agencies don't use state money to perform abortions.

Sarah Stoesz, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota, says her organization uses the money to prevent and treat sexually-transmitted diseases and to prevent teenage pregnancies. She says lawmakers who vote for the bill are interfering with the doctor-patient relationship.

"House File 436 puts each of you, and every single legislator, in the doctor's chair and directly interferes with the doctor-patient relationship," says Stoesz. "It forces health care providers to cover up the fact that safe and legal abortion is part of a continuum of reproductive options." Stoesz says her organization is considering lawsuits if one or both of the abortion-related bills become law.

Other supporters of legalized abortion say they will hold a 24-hour vigil outside of the governor's residence and at the Duluth Civic Center to demonstrate that 24 hours won't change anyone's mind about abortion. They say they're holding the protest on April Fool's Day to show Gov. Pawlenty that no one will be fooled by those who call the anti-abortion proposals "moderate."

Neither bill has received a hearing yet in the Senate. Abortion opponents believe they have the majority of the votes in the Senate.

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