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Minnesota governor signs bill enshrining abortion

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed legislation Tuesday enshrining abortion as a fundamental right in the state. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz/Facebook
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed legislation Tuesday enshrining abortion as a fundamental right in the state. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz/Facebook

Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has signed legislation enshrining abortion as a "fundamental right" in the state.

Walz signed the Protect Reproductive Options Act into law on Tuesday, after the state's House and Senate -- both of which are controlled by the Democratic Party -- passed the legislation less than a month after taking office in January.

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It also makes Minnesota the first state to enact such abortion-protecting legislation this year.

The Democratic governor described the state's Congress during a press conference as the "first pro-choice majority" in Minnesota's history and said that the passing of the bill tells residents that "your rights are protected in this state."

"You have the right to make your own decisions about your health, your family and your life," he said.

The state's Supreme Court had ruled in 1995 that abortion was protected by the Minnesota Constitution, but Democratic lawmakers moved to enshrine the medical practice after its federal protections were revoked in late June when the conservative-leaning Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling.

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The bill specifically states that every person has a fundamental right to make decisions about their own reproductive health, "including the fundamental right to use or refuse reproductive healthcare," and that every person who becomes pregnant "has a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give brith, or obtain an abortion."

"Minnesotans, know your access to reproductive health and your right to make your own healthcare decisions are preserved and protected, and because of this law that won't change with the political winds or the makeup of the Supreme Court," Walz said.

"This is a bill for minnesotans today and all future generations."

Walz, a Democrat who won a second term in November, signed the bill a day after Republican state opposition leaders, Sen. Mark Johnson and Rep. Lisa Demuth, called on him to veto the PRO Act while describing it as an "extreme law."

"As the PRO Act was being rushed through the legislature, Republicans offered reasonable amendments with guardrails to protect women and children," the GOP pair said in a letter. "Sadly, each of these amendments were struck down by a Democrat majority."

David Hann, chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, similarly chastised the bill for not including protections for infants born during botched abortions.

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"Make no mistake, this extreme bill provides for taxpayer-funded abortion, on demand, up until and even after birth," he said in a statement.

Proponents of the law, however, celebrated its passing but described it as the first step in their legislative fight.

"Next up: repealing the restrictions on the books and ensuring providers who see patients traveling from states where abortion is criminalized are shielded from legal action," UnRestrict Minnesota, an abortion advocacy organization in the state, said in a tweet.

The passing was also heralded by the White House, which said, "Americans overwhelmingly support a woman's right to make her own healthcare decisions."

"While Congressional Republicans continue their support for extreme policies, including a national abortion ban, the president and vice president are calling on Congress to restore the protections of Roe in federal law," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement after Walz signed the bill. "Until then, the Biden-Harris administration will continue its work to protect access to abortion and support state leaders in codifying reproductive rights."

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Abortion opponents celebrate after the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade, ending federal abortion protection in Washington on Friday. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

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