Skip to Content

Support MinnPost

What’s really behind the abortion bills in Legislature?

Rep. Joyce Peppin

MinnPost photo by James Nord

"This bill is about women's health,'' said Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers.

Just when it appeared the state Legislature had more than enough to squabble about, abortion bills added fuel – and campaign fodder – to the fires.

The House passed two bills Wednesday surrounding the use of abortion pills (RU-486). One of the bills would require physicians to be physically present in prescribing use of the pill. A second, an even more restrictive measure, would require a doctor to be present when a woman ingested the pill. Both measures passed 80-48, meaning they had substantial DFL votes.

Meantime, the Senate was passing a bill that would require annual inspections of clinics which perform 10 or more abortions a year. But, opponents say, there are other far more extreme measures buried in the bill. “A trap bill,” is how it’s described by foes.

Additionally, in the Senate measure, clinics where abortions are performed would be required to pay a $3,712 license fee.

Gov. Mark Dayton has not yet said whether he’ll veto the measures should they pass both bodies. But most DFLers are confident that Dayton, who long has been strongly pro choice, will veto the bills.

Even if the bills don’t get past Dayton’s veto pen, they surely will be factors in some legislative elections.

For example, the newly drawn district maps pair seven-term Republican Rep. Larry Howes of Walker and Rep. John Persell, a two-term DFLer from Bemidji.  Howes is an abortion foe, Persell supports choice in a district that likely leans to the anti-abortion side of the issue.

Safety measure

Proponents of the measures requiring direct contact of physician and the woman using an abortion pill argued that it’s a safety measure.

“This bill is about women’s health,’’ said Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers. She cited statistics claiming that 14 women had died as a result of the pill and 612 had been hospitalized.

But pro-choice supporters argued that this was not about women’s health, rather it was an incremental restriction of a woman’s right to chose.

Linda Slocum, DFL-Richfield, noted that doctors need not be present when a woman is giving birth to a child.

And Persell added: “One of the most dangerous things a woman can do is go through childbirth. That’s way more dangerous than drugs you’re trying to protect them from.’’

Howes’ supporters quickly said that comment will be used in the coming campaign.

Use of the abortion pill has become increasingly common in the state.

In 2010, the state’s Department of Health reports, pills accounted for about 20 per cent of the 11,550 abortions.

The issue surrounding how the pills should be prescribed apparently arose from the fact that physicians out of Rochester’s Planned Parenthood Clinic are using video conference screens in dealing with patients.

DFLers, especially in the House, attempted to tie this into the national Democratic campaign theme that Republicans are anti-woman.

Viagra amendment

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, called for an amendment that would require a physician to be present each time a man ingested a Viagra. Her amendment failed, 95-28, with Peppin saying she wasn’t amused by Kahn bringing men and erectile dysfunction into the debate.

The Senate bill, requiring licensing and inspections, seems more benign, but there’s much below the surface that could make getting abortions in Minnesota more difficult.

Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, who is retiring at the end of the session, noted that the state already licenses such places as tattoo parlors. Why shouldn’t it license clinics where abortions are performed?

The response from those opposing the measure was that the state already licenses physicians and nurses. It does not, however, license clinics where out-patient surgeries are performed. Abortion clinics should not be treated differently, they said.

“On the surface, this doesn’t seem harmful,’’ said Linnea House of NARAL Prochoice Minnesota.  “But the licensure bill is a trap bill.’’

Trap bill?

Currently, for example, most abortions in Duluth are performed by physicians from the Twin Cities. Fine print in the bill could make it difficult in the future for those physicians to continue to practice, if there was a change in management of Duluth facilities.

It is complex. It seems small. But such rules, House said, were used to successfully shut down the only abortion clinic in Mississippi.

“It’s simply another way to harass women,’’ said House.

Beyond that, the licensing, the restrictions on prescriptions, all are unnecessary. Under current law, all abortions in Minnesota are reported back to the state. Minnesota has the lowest “complication rate’’ in the nation.

The House and Senate are expected to consider each other’s bills sometime this week.

Get MinnPost's top stories in your inbox

Related Tags:

About the Author:

Comments (15)


The GOP that claims to be for individual liberty and against government regulation strikes again.
At least this is a potential jobs bill as it will secure more licensing work and cushy state bureaucrat jobs that Republicans usually like to rail against. Individual Catholics may be conflicted as your headline article read yesterday, but their leadership has a firm hold on their own agenda and on the noses of 80 legislators in an even numbered calendar year.

Workin' hard to put

Workin' hard to put government into the bedroom.


Pro life until the child is born and requires health care.

Let's ask the baby

what he would have preferred.

Minnpost should...

... have some kind of logic test for commenters that would weed out anybody who doesn't see the gaping fallacy in that line of thinking.

But in the interest of contributing something, I'll give Mr. Tester a hand. Somebody that doesn't exist can't be angry about not existing, and an aborted fetus is no sadder about never having been born than someone whose parents thought about having a child but then changed their minds.

forcing a miscarriage

An abortion-inducing drug forces the body into a miscarriage, which involves bleeding. The patient should be in a situation where the bleeding can be brought into control if it's excessive. Viagra isn't similar at all to an abortion-inducing drug. Rep Kahn must think her fellow legislators are really stupid.


In the rare instances when there is excessive bleeding, then the woman can go to the hospital. Why burden the hospital and the doctors and clinics with one more job?
Rep. Kahn probably does think her fellow legislators are really stupid--the ones trying to keep women under their male control. This is a ridiculous argument.


Rep. Tina Liebling (Rochester) "countered that RU-486 is safer than many other types of medicine and safer than childbirth. The death rate from medically induced abortions is about one out of every 100,000 women who take RU-486, she said. By contrast, the death rate for Viagra is about 5 of every 100,000."

SO, Viagra stand a 5x greater chance for killing you, but it doesn't need the same oversight? I think we're seeing "faux science" used to further the usual stale government-all-up-in-your-business (literally!) agenda. Hypocrisy is never in short supply!

Coat Hangers

My guess is you don't remember how many women died using coat hangers and every other imaginable way of aborting. I applaud Rep. Kahn's bill with regard to Viagara. It is only recently that research has used women as its subject. Most research, in the past, was done on men. Fortunately that has changed. Many men use Viagra when they are young and don't need it. Perhaps we can say that men over a certain age can use it and only in the presence of a doctor. Sounds pretty stupid to me as does the issue of women and aborting. Bottom line, get the men out of women's business.

This bill does nothing to

This bill does nothing to address that. The requirement is that the doctor be present when the pill is administered, not when it takes effect.

If The Baby's Opinion Doesn't Count Until We Can "Ask the Baby"

Then some folks might even count infanticide as OK.

Regarding employment opportunities for inspectors, what makes any of us think our Republican friends would "grow government" by actually hiring inspectors? It's one of their favorite ploys to understaff and underfund state agencies and public schools, then complain about how "government doesn't work."

If clinics where abortions are provided require inspection but there are NO inspectors, those clinics are effectively closed, aren't they?

Include links to the bills under discussion.

Given the frequency with which MinnPost publishes articles on legislation, I'm surprised at how infrequently the writers provide the numbers of or links to the bills under discussion. At the very least, I would expect that the bill number be provided.

In this particular instance, three bills were introduced in the House on this subject, two of which went far beyond equiring a physician's presence by providing for criminal penalties (a felony) and creating a civil action on behalf of the involved woman, man and their parents, among other things. I have to assume that it was the more limited of the three bills, H.F. 1929, that passed.

Links to abortion-related bills offered in the House can be found here:

As for the merits of the bills: does anyone really want a legislative body dictating the details of medical practice? Dollas to donuts that the authors of these bills have exactly that complaint about what they undoubtedly refer to as Obamacare.

"Rep Kahn must think her fellow legislators are really stupid."

Sure Rosalind...almost as stupid as Rep. Pepin must think her constituents are when she claims this bill is about "women's health."

Still waiting for father responsibility

I have a great idea. Any children that are unwanted by the mother should become the father's responsibility whether he wants them or not.

Not very practical but I keep wondering why all the harassment through clinics or public support falls on the woman, you know she didn't do this alone. How about we lock up any man who fathers a child out of wedlock or mutually committed relationship for 9 months for children who are given up for adoption or raised by their fathers, or 5 years and 9 months for those that aren't.

Frankly I thought Rep. Kahn had a good point - lets just stop this before it starts.

still waiting

Here's another idea. All the legislators who voted for this can take their turn in adopting a child, providing in-home, full-time care, permanently for an unwanted child. They can rotate the job or perhaps go alphabetically in accepting this responsibility. This would be mandated.