While abortions in Minnesota are at their lowest level in more than 35 years, taxpayers are still funding over 3,400 abortions annually and have funded over 69,000 abortions since 1995 when a court case, challenged the prohibition of state funds for abortion. In 1978 Minnesota passed a law which prohibited public funding of abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother. But in 1995 Doe vs. Gomez established a constitutional right to tax-funded elective abortion in Minnesota for “indigent women.”
Minnesota lawmakers are trying to change this. Rep Tama Theis- R-St Cloud, is the author of HF 607 which would end taxpayer funding of abortions in the state. The bill passed the House Health and Human Services committee in early March and has thirty-five sponsors, including five Democrats. The Senate companion bill, SF 683, is authored by Senate Majority Whip Lyle Koenen, D-Clara City, but no other Democrats have signed on.
Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a bill to ban taxpayer-funded abortions in 2011 and would be likely to do so again, but the issue remains important to many who carry the Pro-Life banner.
There were 9,903 abortions performed in Minnesota in 2013, 3,442 were paid for with taxpayer funds according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Currently seventeen states, including Minnesota, allow for complete abortion coverage under their Medicaid programs, meaning they’ll pay for abortion under any circumstance. Thirty-three states follow federal law and the Hyde Amendment which limits Medicaid funded abortions to the rare cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother. Minnesota chooses to use state tax money to supplement Medicaid in order to pay for elective abortions.
Medical Assistance is Minnesota’s Medicaid program, and was broadly expanded under Governor Dayton in 2013, adding 35,000 more people onto the rolls. Since the Department of Health’s abortion statistics referenced in this blog post only run through 2013, the effect of the expansion isn’t currently reflected in the data.
While the Minnesota Supreme Court and pro-abortion groups claim that the tax funding is needed for “indigent” women, currently a pregnant single woman can make up to $32,442 per year and qualify for Medical Assistance. A family of four can make up to $65,587 to qualify and the program has no asset test and coverage can be retroactive for up to three months.
Minnesota’s Obamacare exchange, MnSure, also allows for plans that cover abortion. In 2013 when Democrats had complete control of state government, they ensured abortion coverage in the exchange. Women on MnSure plans can also qualify for tax subsidies, meaning that more abortions will be paid for using tax dollars. Although President Obama via Executive Order dictated that Obamacare should not use tax subsidies to pay for abortion– except in the cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother—a 2014 Government Accountability Office report indicated that the majority of private plans sampled were including elective abortion coverage and not “segregating” the billing as promised by the Obama administration.
Governor Dayton is an ardent supporter of abortion rights and Minnesota taxpayer funding for abortion. It’s also unlikely that a bill to bring Minnesota in line with the majority of states that ban the practice can make it through the DFL controlled Senate, but some rural Democrats may feel compelled to vote in favor of the measure.
Another Pro-Life bill to watch this session is one lead by Rep Debra Kiel, R-Crookston. HF 606 would require abortion facilities to be licensed by the MN Department of Health and be subject to health and safety inspections by the agency. HF 606 has a companion bill SF 616, with one Democrat author, Sen LeRoy Stumpf, D-Plummer.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had a “D” behind Rep Debra Kiel’s name, Rep Kiel is a Republican. We regret the error.