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Keith Ellison vows to protect out-of-state women seeking abortions in Minnesota

“No one who travels from another state to seek an abortion that’s legal in Minnesota is going to be prosecuted,” the attorney general said. “I will oppose extradition requests from other states for people who’ve engaged in legal conduct in Minnesota.”

Keith Ellison.jpg
After greeting door-knocking supporters at North Commons Park in Minneapolis, Keith Ellison answered questions from the media on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018.
Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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ST. PAUL — As the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, Minnesota's attorney general says women who travel to the state seeking an abortion will be protected from lawsuits and prosecution.

Addressing reporters in St. Paul Tuesday, June 21, Attorney General Keith Ellison said he will intervene in action by states where abortion is illegal against anyone seeking abortions in Minnesota. While no state currently has an abortion travel ban on the books, lawmakers in states with restrictive abortion laws have floated such restrictions. Already, a Texas abortion law that bans the procedure after the sixth week of pregnancy allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and individuals who get abortions.

“No one who travels from another state to seek an abortion that’s legal in Minnesota is going to be prosecuted,” he said. “I will oppose extradition requests from other states for people who’ve engaged in legal conduct in Minnesota.”

With a Supreme Court decision on abortion possible this week, the attorney general, joined by Planned Parenthood North Central States president and CEO Sarah Stoesz, as well as Hamline-Mitchell College of Law professor Michael Steenson, offered a brief on what a post-Roe Minnesota could look like.

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the question of abortion’s legality would be returned to the states, whose policies on the practice vary widely, Steenson explained. Minnesota is surrounded by states with more restrictive abortion laws and stands to become a regional destination for abortions. Stoesz said Planned Parenthood in Minnesota expects a 10% to 25% increase in patients when abortion is banned in surrounding states.

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“We are stepping up as fast as we can so that we are able to make appointments available to everyone that needs them,” Stoesz said. “Of course, staffing is a major challenge for all in health care and all employers generally.”

No one who travels from another state to seek an abortion that’s legal in Minnesota is going to be prosecuted. I will oppose extradition requests from other states for people who’ve engaged in legal conduct in Minnesota.
Keith Ellison, Minnesota attorney general

The future of U.S. abortion rights has been in question since the 6-3 conservative majority Supreme Court took up a case on the constitutionality of Mississippi’s ban on abortions past 15 weeks of pregnancy. A draft opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito leaked in May showed the court was poised to side with the state, overturning 50 years of judicial precedent protecting abortion rights on the federal level.

In anticipation of the high court’s decision, Planned Parenthood said it has already ceased performing abortions in South Dakota, where a so-called trigger law would make the procedure illegal the minute federal protections end. In North Dakota, providers would have one month to end procedures before that state’s law banning abortion goes into effect. Wisconsin also has an abortion ban that would go into effect should Roe be overturned.

Iowa’s Supreme Court last week overturned its precedent protecting abortion rights, clearing the path for restrictive legislation to pass should the state’s Republican governor and Republican-controlled Legislature decide to move forward with restrictions or an outright ban.

Even if federal abortion protections end, abortion rights in Minnesota are still protected under the 1995 state Supreme Court decision Doe v. Gomez. Taking note of the region’s circumstances and the potential threat to Roe, Planned Parenthood had started expanding its capacity in Minnesota several years ago, Stoesz said.

“If the federal protection falls, it is on us to make sure that we are good neighbors to those around us and that we are able to welcome women into our state so that they can be cared for as they need,” she said.

In addition to his pledge to protect abortion-seekers in Minnesota, Ellison’s office has also released new guidance to abortion providers on the potential post-Roe legal landscape.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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