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Attorney General Keith Ellison says he won't appeal ruling blocking Minnesota abortion restrictions

A St. Paul district court judge earlier this month said state restrictions on abortion were unconstitutional and blocked their enforcement. Attorney General Keith Ellison said he wouldn't appeal the ruling.

Keith Ellison
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, right, and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, left, speak with reporters outside the Maplewood Library on Monday, July 11, 2022.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Thursday, July 28, announced that he would not appeal a circuit court ruling deeming several state restrictions on abortion unconstitutional.

Ellison's decision comes weeks after a St. Paul District Court judge blocked state laws that required a 24-hour waiting period to obtain an abortion, consent from both parents of a minor seeking an abortion and mandated that only physicians can perform the procedures.

The first-term attorney general on Thursday said he'd opted not to appeal the ruling after weighing the potential benefit to the state. His office fought to defend the state law for more than three years as it moved through the court process.

"In my estimation, we are unlikely to obtain a different result through an appeal," Ellison, a Democrat, said in a release.

Ellison also said that the restrictions didn't seem to have a significant impact on driving down abortion rates in the state, as they'd intended when the Legislature passed them.

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And an appeal could pull his office's focus attention from other cases and cost taxpayers, he said.

"It is also the right choice for Minnesota taxpayers and all Minnesotans who need the finality of knowing that they can make intimate decisions about their own bodies free of undue interference by the government," Ellison said, noting that he opposed the restrictions from a personal perspective.

A Ramsey County judge ruled many of Minnesota’s abortion regulations violate the state constitution, including a 24-hour wait period and a requirement minors notify both parents before getting an abortion.

Pro-abortion access groups cheered Ellison's decision on Thursday, while anti-abortion groups said it went against the will of the Legislature.

"As the largest abortion provider in the state, Planned Parenthood now has the finality and legal certainty required for us to continue to provide our patients with high-quality abortion care free of undue government interference," said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States.

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Executive Director Scott Fischbach said the anti-abortion advocacy group was "deeply disappointed" in the move.

"These longstanding and woman-empowering laws have been struck down, and the attorney general has decided to stop defending them," Fischbach said.

The court's decision — and debate about what should come next — has been a central theme in the race for attorney general.

Republican candidates Jim Schultz and Doug Wardlow have pressed Ellison to appeal the case and have said they would do so if elected.

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Schultz on Thursday said Ellison's decision not to appeal was politically motivated.

"These bi-partisan statutes are clearly constitutional and Minnesota deserves an Attorney General who will stand up to activist judges," Schultz said on Twitter.

On Wednesday, Wardlow aimed to position himself as the most anti-abortion candidate in the field, saying he would prosecute abortion providers that break the law and push back on the state court decision protecting access to abortion.

"As attorney general, I will fight to overturn the ruling in Doe v. Minnesota," Wardlow said in a news release. "I will not allow one judge to erase pro-life protections for all Minnesotans.”

Schultz and Wardlow are set to square off in the GOP primary on Aug. 9. The winner is expected to face Ellison in the general election.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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