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Abortion bill dons new garb, heads to the Senate
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Red-nosed clowns greeted lawmakers as they entered the House chamber for a vote to tack a bill requiring women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion to one deregulating circuses. (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) Red-nosed clowns greeted lawmakers as they entered the House chamber Monday for a vote to tack an abortion bill to one deregulating circuses.

The odd coupling, a bid to force the Senate to vote on the bill, was eventually passed 90-39 in the House late Monday night.

In addition to plenty of political-circus metaphors, supporters of abortion rights had used the format to talk about fair play and rules, saying they'd been tricked last week into allowing the two issues to be linked.

One prominent Republican abortion opponent joined them, saying the parliamentary slight-of-hand violated basic rules of fair play.

Essentially, the author of the circus bill, Republican Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall, obliquely told his colleagues he wanted to change his own bill and knew of no opposition to the idea.

In reality, his amendment changed the circus bill enough to allow the abortion bill to be attached, though an actual vote on the bill was delayed until Monday.

"As people are watching what we are doing, what on Earth must they be thinking?" Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, asked his colleagues. "Slickness and game playing and just playing political one-upmanship does not affirm their confidence in us."

The abortion bill requires women to wait 24 hours and receive certain information before getting an abortion. The circus bill repeals a regulation banning circuses from operating at the same time as the State Fair.

The House voted for the same abortion bill a week ago.

Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota, protested that the effort subverts the democratic process by not waiting for a Senate hearing on the bill.

Under the rules, the Senate is supposed to vote on whether or not to agree to the circus bill. If they agree, it goes to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's friendly desk.

Backers of the abortion bill believe they have the support of a majority in the Senate, but they don't have the support of the Senate's leaders. So the bill hasn't gotten a hearing.

Similar bills have made it twice to Gov. Jesse Ventura, who vetoed them.

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