In the Spotlight

News & Features
More from MPR
Your Voice
DocumentJoin the conversation with other MPR listeners in the News Forum.

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Abortion waiting period law goes into effect
Larger view
Abortion opponents and supporters rallied at the Capitol during the legislative session, on opposite sides of the 24-hour waiting period for abortions. The law became effective July 1. (MPR file photo)
The Minnesota Health Department reports Tuesday that the number of abortions performed in 2002 was the lowest since the department started collecting comprehensive annual data in 1998. The report comes on the same day that a new law that requires women to wait 24 hours before receiving an abortion goes into effect. As of today, abortion providers and family planning clinics are also required to provide women seeking an abortion with specific information about the potential risks and complications of the procedure.

St. Paul, Minn. — The Health Department says 14,186 abortions were performed in Minnesota last year. That's 646 fewer than in 2001.

Both supporters and opponents of legalized abortion cheer the new numbers, but disagree over the reasons for the drop. Supporters of legalized abortion say proper family planning is contributing to the decrease.

But Scott Fischbach, executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the most influential group opposing legal abortion, says more women are rejecting the abortion option. He says he also hopes the new Woman's Right to Know law will cause that number to drop even further. The MCCL has been pushing for passage of the law for about a decade.

It's state disrespect for the difficulty for any woman making a decision about terminating a pregnancy feels. People who have abortions don't make these decisions lightly.
- Sarah Stoesz, Planned Parenthood

"What we want to do is build a culture of life in Minnesota, where every unborn child is protected by law and welcomed in life," says Fishbach. "I think the first thing you need to do is inform people. There needs to be better further education about the development of the unborn child. We need to make sure that women understand that this is a living human being with a beating heart, who's developing and who's growing."

Sarah Stoesz with Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota says Planned Parenthood started providing the required information to women last Friday. She says the organization wanted to be in full compliance when the law took effect. Planned Parenthood opposes the requirments.

Stoesz says Planned Parenthood is giving women seeking an abortion certain information about the gestational age of the fetus and about possible risks and complications of abortion. She says women who have visited their clinics since Friday haven't been happy about the new requirement.

"They view it as a state intrusion into their right to privacy and their right to make decisions," says Stoesz. "It's state disrespect for the difficulty for any woman making a decision about terminating a pregnancy feels. People who have abortions don't make these decisions lightly."

Stoesz says she's pleased the Health Department pushed up its deadline for assembling the information abortion providers are required to tell women before they receive an abortion. Many providers said they didn't know the full requirements of the law.

Health Commissioner Dianne Mandernach says the department scrambled to get the information on its website before July 1. She also says the department hopes to change information on the site as more research is conducted.

One disagreement is over whether women who receive an abortion have a higher risk of breast cancer. Mandernach says her department will continue to update the site as it collects more information.

"When you're in the area of aspects like breast cancer and some of those areas, the law is very clear on making sure that we have current scientific medical information," says Mandernach. "So our due diligence and our charge now is to look at what that current medical information is and incorporate that."

Mandernach says the department will listen to concerns from both sides of the abortion issue before it starts printing brochures in September.

The MCCL's Fischbach says his organization will continue to push legislation next year that would forbid the state from providing family planning money to organizations that perform abortions or refer women to abortion providers.

Planned Parenthood's Stoesz says eliminating family planning money to abortion providers would cause the number of abortions in Minnesota to increase.

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects